Being a little late to the game, I’ve never had the chance to play Dawn of War or Dawn of War II. What makes this important? It’s important as the Warhammer 40,000 Dawn of War II collection which contains the original Dawn of War II, it’s direct follow up Chaos Rising, and the stand alone Retribution has just recently been released for the Mac OS. For all those that do not have a PC running Windows or the option to dual-boot, Dawn of War 2 is now available for some hardcore Warhammer explosions and epic musical scores.
One thing to be noted is that while Dawn of War II and Chaos Rising play out in the same manner and can be launched from the same “game title” in your Steam library, the stand alone Retribution is separately launched and has a few tweaks making it different while still keeping the core of what makes Dawn of War II tick. The following fairly well covers the three but I’ll get into Retribution specific further below.
Dawn of War II is a Real Time Strategy that does away with the resource management and instead puts you into the driver's seat of selected squads in order to get the job done. This personally was a drastic change from most of the RTS experiences that I’ve experienced over the years. Doing away with the resources and instead concentrating on either the attacking or defending strategic points has allowed for some very interesting and intense combat scenarios that feel much more engaging than waiting for more minerals to be mined.
From the onset, the system seemed simple enough with up to four squads that could be controlled and taken into battle. Not having to deal with resource management and only four squads? This should be easy! This also couldn’t have been further from the truth in which is where so much of the system shines. Not only does each squad that can be taken into battle has their own speciality from stealth to demolitions or sheer overpowering firepower at the cost of speed and maneuverability, but there are somewhat destructible environments and cover to be taken into consideration.
Cover works both ways which is something that I approved of from the very beginning. It’s not just there for you but also your enemy to spice things up a bit. In certain cases I think they used it more than I did which is where the different units skills come in which further shows off the system. Your main unit in the core Dawn of War II for example has the ability to charge forward in a thruster inspired bullrush. This particular maneuver can not only scatter the enemy but also destroy some of the barricades that they are hiding behind. This could be something simple like rubble or an actual wall which is what makes gameplay so much fun. You can hide, but sometimes not for long as both side also have grenades, rocket launchers, and crazy psychos that can blast through walls.
As you acquire your various squads and then figure out who makes the final cut, they are essentially thrown into losing situations. Why have the best of the best if you’re not going to use them right? Skills and cover can only go so far and it will happen in which some of the squad leaders will lose a troop or two. Because there is no resource management, losing troops can be costly as that squad leader will have to retreat to any captured strategic points to bring in reinforcements. While that generally does not take very long, it can result in some serious backtracking or having to take over a whole new communications array.
If a squad leader themselves fall then it’s either time to hike it back and reform a new strategy or try to get them back on their feet by standing beside them for a revival process. If all four fall then the mission ends in obvious failure. Healing items also work but it’s the squad leaders falling that make you have to wonder, if this is really working. All of these features boil down to having to use strategy as normally brunt force tactics will result in failure. Hiding in buildings or making use of anti-vehicle weapons and grenades are important.
Cover is more than simply a few barricades in the streets or walls against a hill. If your team is really in trouble them hiding in buildings to let it take the fire for you is just as possible and honestly quite well thought out as not all firefights have to be done on the ground. This is especially where the grenades come in handy as the enemy can also hide out in buildings. This can all go according to plan however as one well placed grenade will clear the whole thing out if the enemy has run into it instead of you. What out for demolitionists though. Unlike those with access to grenades, these guys don’t mess around and they also don’t waste time blasting people out of the cover of a building. Instead they destroy the building and any of those not fortunate enough to have high enough hit points.
Blowing people out of buildings or simply blowing the whole building up is just another layer to make things interesting. All of these little things from skills and items to literally destroying cover or using it to your advantage makes Dawn of War II not just another RTS. This is furthered by the last piece of its genius with the ability to suppress the enemy. Suppressing fire essentially will halt any progress that they can do and slow down their attacks as they are trying to not be hit. There are ways around being suppressed but the inclusion of this feature was an added layer of strategy to an already well constructed experience.
With combat being as intensive as it is both because of the gameplay and the amazing musical score to support it, it’ll all be for naught if you aren’t properly prepared. Your squads on top of having their own specialties can be further customized with new equipment that can be found and stats points that can be allocated upon leveling up. This means that my Devastator Squad will be different than your depending on how I decided to level them up. This extra layer only added to what could be thought of tactically because of the new abilities and items that could be equipped.
A lot of the above covers all three instances to Dawn of War II. Where things get a little bit different in Retribution is that instead of following a specific set of Space Marines known as the Blood Ravens, you instead get to pick one of six different factions from the Blood Ravens over to some of the others that you’ve fought over the course of the campaigns.
One of the biggest changes is that instead of having squad leaders that bring in reinforcements, some resource management will be required in order to bring in new troops that don’t particularly have a super unit with a name at their head. These units are useful and can receive some upgrades within the mission but aside from that they exist in a per mission basis and can fall fairly easily. Thankfully they aren’t expensive to buy!
Heroes will still level up however they do so slightly differently gaining skills per point instead of one skill per xth amount of points invested. Also in regards to some of the changes is that hero can buy upgrades that are useful for the mission but will disappear once it ends. What took me by surprise is that if a Hero unit falls it can’t be resurrected on the ground by another but instead has to either be paid for to immediately get them back or wait out the counter for a smaller cost but having to be paid for regardless. With resources being very limited this could be frustrating at times especially when you wanted to buy another squad.
Overall they all more or less play out the same but Retribution takes a bit of learning especially when coming direction from the previous titles since it relies more on constructed troops and finding the money out in the field to buy them. Thankfully you can just buy them and have them run over to support your push forward.
One thing that annoyed me at times was that the character squad AI could sometimes leave a bit to be desired. Unless being directly fired at, if enemies were just slightly outside of range then your units wouldn’t march just that few steps forward in order to attack. This happened often enough to be annoying especially if the squad right next to them was under fire. It would have been nice to have them step up and into combat.
The Dawn of War II Collection is a very well designed package. Each title plays just a little bit differently than the other which makes it worth going through all three. Sure the AI can leave a bit to be desired at times but maybe it’s because of the implants or too much stimulants in their bloodstreams.
Relic Entertainment (PC)
Provided by Publisher
Article by Pierre-Yves