I loved Warhammer 40,000: Dawn Of War II, but sadly I have to admit that the game frequently kicked my ass. The bosses were extremely difficult and I died more often than I would care to admit. It looks however as if the designers Relic have made the latest expansion ‘Retribution’ slightly more approachable for those people, like myself, without cyborg implants.
Those who have already played Dawn Of War 2 will know that the game removed all the base building elements, focusing more on the strategic real time combat aspect of the RTS genre. It wasn’t entirely a move that everyone warmed to, especially those who love to build giant bases with fortifications and defenses. It played more like X-Com, rather than Starcraft.
Retribution takes a slightly different approach, as you can now capture bases that already exist on the maps. By capturing the bases you can produce units and use the resources to become victorious. You still start the missions with some units at hand, mainly superpowered heroes – exploring the terrain, trying to complete the objectives set out beforehand. Flanking and combat tactics are still the order of the day and any gathered resources you find can be used to upgrade your hero units.
The slight change in game direction makes for a more fun experience because you aren’t forced to grind the units as much to improve their abilities. It also offers more variety to the player, especially based around the key hero characters, who are extremely powerful in this latest expansion pack. Kayleth, for example is such a powerful character than if you level her up, even a little at the start of the game, her abilities become hard for the computer AI to handle. It was enjoyable for me to watch her take on whole armies, and become victorious, without even a scratch.
Warhammer 40k has always appealed to me, the fantasy style universe is so vibrant, dark and entertaining. The multiple factions are all loaded with personality and realistic (well as much as a fantasy world can be). The subplots and voice acting are always well handled and the presentation is as hoped, first class. You aren’t often able to follow the scripting dynamics in fantasy games, but Relic are master storytellers and it shows.
The engine has received a few enhancements since the last title was released, and at top settings it can actually prove quite a handful for even modern hardware. If you have a quad core and a GTX460 you can maximise everything at a high resolution, but if you are running with older hardware then a few compromises will need to be met for smooth frame rates.
As a standalone expansion pack, Retribution is a fantastic purchase, they have opted to slightly adjust the gameplay strategy while offering people new ideas and a more varied game play experience, which has been based on user feedback. Relic can certainly make a great game, and the fact that they are listening to their gamer base and adding features to appease the audience shows that they are easily one of the finest software developers on the planet.
Fans of Dawn Of War II will love this, and if you haven’t yet checked out this series, I see no better time to take the plunge. Just be aware that base building is no longer a key element of this franchise.