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Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War Review
developer: Relic Entertainment
PIII 1000, 256MB RAM, 32MB video card with T&L support
|ESRB rating: M
release date: Sep 20, 04 (released)
|» All About Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War on ActionTrip|
September was an absolutely hectic month for computer games. And, it's not even over yet! One can safely say that it's been the busiest month for gaming this year. You could also say that one only needs to take a quick glance at the November release schedule to realize that we ain't seen nothing yet. Actually, I'm lying, we've seen plenty already: Rome: Total War, Silent Hill 4, The Sims 2, SW: Battlefront, Full Spectrum Warrior and of course, Relic's latest strategy game set in the Warhammer universe, Warhammer 40k: Dawn of War.
Now, with the impaling upon one's sword the most important thing is definitely the thrust.
Wait, I think I've lost some of my body parts on the field and some of them may be vital!
We've already covered the game's basics, including a comprehensive list of features in our previous coverage, so I'll try to skim over that part and just concentrate on the meat of the review.
Essentially, Relic, the makers of Homeworld and other great strategy games, promised us a story-driven tactics-based RTS, which will make the characters and beasts in the Warhammer universe come to life.
The good news is that they've for the most part delivered on that promise - Dawn of War is a great example of how a story-driven RTS should work. Warhammer fans will be pleased to hear that the writers managed to do justice to this particular fantasy setting by creating a plausible plot with nice character development and genuinely engaging dialogue. All of the factions in the game (Space Marines, The Eldar, Forces of Chaos and the Orks) have been painted with great literary skill and they are all very unique and mostly ambivalent when it comes to their moral codex. All apart from the Forces of Chaos that is, and well, that's because they don't have one. What this does is create a rich and immersive backdrop and it plays on the strong side of the popular franchise, its rich and enthralling lore.
Helping a great deal in those regards are the seamless and well directed cut-scenes that beautifully tie the story together, as well as some of the most expressive and professional voice acting I've heard in a long time. I would have NO problems with sitting through an animated movie that had been voiced by the actors that were used in Dawn of War.
In terms of story progression, it's obvious that Relic has taken a few pointers from Blizzard, but they have done so with style and poise so that the result is just as spectacular.
Going hand in hand with the sound effects, epic soundtrack and great voice acting are the incredible visuals. Relic wasn't kidding when they said they would bring the Warhammer characters to life. Dawn of War features some of the most amazing combat animations I've seen in a strategy game. Scenes of massive battles truly are spectacular, as often identical units will fight their foes in a different fashion, creating a scene of true chaos and mayhem worthy of the bloody conflicts in the Warhammer universe. Things get especially fun when huge boss units enter the fray, mauling, tossing and impaling smaller units that are swarming all around them.
Besides the awesome unit design, the settings have been done with great care and attention to detail so that they generate the right kind of ambience for the grim events that transpire in game.
In terms of game play, what Relic said about the focus on the actual combat rather than resource gathering holds true. Though there will be no classical resource gathering (you gain points by capturing strategic points and building power generators), the game won't entirely revolve around combat. Relic has struck a decent balance between the two, so you'll never feel like you're getting a completely new game play experience, but a slight abbreviation of the standard one. Possibly one of the most enjoyable bits about the way this one plays is that you can reinforce your squads (you control squads rather than individual units) on the fly, which allows for rather dynamic and fast-paced mission structure, if you indeed decide to pursue that particular style of play.
One thing to note here about the campaign is that even moderately experienced strategy gamers should play it on the 'hard' level of difficulty. There are three levels of difficulty altogether ('normal' being the easiest of the three), though that one plays exactly as 'easy' mode should. So bear that in mind when you're choosing campaign difficulty.
My particular gripe with the single-player campaign is that the mission design, in the area of mission goals, is pretty mundane and remains standard throughout much of the campaign. In other words, you'll usually do just fine if you annihilate everything on the map. This ties in to the fact that I unfortunately chose the 'normal' mode of difficulty, which made the missions a little less fun than they should've been. Just don't make the same mistake that I did and you'll do fine. With the proper difficulty setting, the battles will get huge, massive and fun as hell and the story is good enough to drive the player forward until the very last mission.
8.4 Very Good
Phenomenal combat, soundtrack, voice acting, story, reinforcement system, multiplayer mode;
Some derivative mission objectives, short single-player, you can only play as one faction in the single-player, huge memory hog.