Warhammer 40,000 : Dawn of War II is the second RTS I’ve reviewed in two weeks and luckily, once again, it seems this one has removed some of the hardcore elements which put me off RTS games in the first place. Developers Relic have been very brave and scrapped base building entirely. Whilst I applauded Halo Wars for simplifying it, Dawn of War II dispenses with it entirely. Once you’ve selected your squads and payload, you’re dumped into the action and put into situations where you control your squads from above in lots of mini battles as you progress across the compact, well-designed maps.
In the single player campaign, you play as the Space Marines as you battle Orcs, Elders and Tyranids in the 41st Millennium. What this boils down to is pointing and clicking your way through the maps as your marines take cover behind buildings and terrain. All your squads have their heroes and different abilities which you can change as you upgrade your squads with experience points gained in battle. For example, you can lay down suppressing fire as you send one of your heroes to charge into battle and mop up with everyone else. Or you can send your invisible scouts right behind enemy lines and surprise them with some handy explosives.
Although you don’t build bases, you can capture relays and buildings which you can use to your advantage along the way, and there are some boss fights to survive through. These usually end up with you just piling everything you’ve got into the enemy but everything in the story missions is fantastically presented and the personalities of your marines and enemies shine out with some great audio and speech.
If you truly want to be all-powerful when you get to the end of the game you’re going to have to play some side missions. Unfortunately these can get a bit samey after a while but you can pick up some truly great weapons and make your Blood Ravens super tough if you take the time to trudge through them. You can also take the fight online and play in co-op mode, although only the host will collect XP – so if you’re going to play, make sure you’re the host or you’ll be wasting your time if you’re trying to level up. You can also play in skirmish mode and play up to three vs three as any of the four races.
The game also uses Windows Live which means you can see all your mates on their PC or Xbox 360 and you get achievement points. If you don’t have an Xbox you won’t be too bothered – if you do, you’ll know how important and satisfying these are to collect. Dawn of War II does take some risks by playing almost like an action RPG at times rather than an RTS, but I think it’s a breath of fresh air, particularly for people who aren’t into hardcore RTS games.
If you liked the first game and you also liked World War 2 RTS Company of Heroes, this one will definitely appeal to you. Warhammer Dawn of War 2 gets an excellent 8 out of 10.
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