Dawn of War II
Reviewed on PC
Eamon Ward / Thu 16th Mar 2017
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OVERVIEW Following the success of Relic's other strategy franchise, Company of Heroes, Dawn of War II took a different approach to warfare in the 41st millennium. It's smaller, more concentrated. A more personal, more visceral approach and something that's very, very different from its predecessor.
While one might expect a smaller campaign from a game with a tighter focus on all aspects, one couldn't be further from the truth. Like some magical melding of Dawn of War's narrative-based campaign and Dark Crusade's approach to more open-ended storytelling, Dawn of War II features both planet hopping and character focused missions.
Taking up the mantle of a captain of the franchises own Blood Ravens, you must command four squads of space marines, each with their own abilities, and face down the Orks, Eldar and newcomers to the franchise, the Tyranids.
Once again featuring top notch voice acting and some truly memorable characters, the narrative component is easily the best it's ever been. Between stomping through Ork hordes, levelling characters and equipping new armour, weapons and abilities, Dawn of War II is a new experience and one wholly worth playing.
Dawn of War II steps away from the more traditional RTS staples, instead of becoming a different beast entirely. Gone are the days of base building, instead replaced by a sole command structure from which all units are built. Each unit can acquire it's own weapons, allowing them to focus on specific areas such as area control, anti-infantry or anti-vehicle. These changes are nothing major and while they help to streamline matches, they also hold back on the scale.
Six, maybe eight squads at any given time, ranging in size from three to six units. And that's if you want infantry. Want to blast your way around the battle with vehicles? Well, you're out of luck. They're available but it's almost impossible to establish a good mix of infantry and armour. While Dawn of War had separate population pools for both factors of an army, Dawn of War II has a shared one.
The worst part is that the individual races don't differ as much as they did, the smaller unit pool having a stronger focus on counter units. This means that the strategy for every race is pretty much the same. Rush early with cheap units or hold out until you have some hard hitters. The Space Marines are still solid all-rounders, the Eldar are still fragile in melee though much less so now, and Orks are still meat shields with big axes. The new race, the Tyranids, play like Starcraft's Zerg, relying either on massed melee units or a small number of more powerful organic weapons. Unfortunately, outside of design, everyone is pretty much the same.
Warhammer 40000 has never looked this good. As troops stomp across the landscape they kick up dust, plasma bolts fizzle and spark as they fly between armies, Tyranid spores explode in grotesque clouds of acrid gas and jump packs flare as Assault Marines descend upon their enemies.
The units are incredibly detailed, especially for a strategy. Space Marines are covered in holy sigils, the Tyranids' bio-mechanical nature is beautiful and everything else looks just as good. Dawn of War II might just be the most detailed RTS on the market.
AUDIO Dawn of War II goes above and beyond the audio of its predecessor. The voice acting is better, the sound effects are great and the score is excellent. I have nothing but praise for how Dawn of War II sounds. It doesn't hurt that it has one of the best soundtracks of all time either.
VERDICT Dawn of War II is a good game but it fails to exceed beyond the lofty heights set by the original. While it's undeniably enjoyable and the campaign itself is one of the best, the battles aren't as grand and enjoyable as they once were. It looks good, it sounds great and it's fun enough but in this case, the good old days really were better.