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2 Gamers Review one Game

Friday, November 18, 2005

Dawn of War - Review


Dawn of War – Review – PC – PickyPants

I like RTS games, but I would never normally play one from a company that isn’t Blizzard. I have forced Harshly to play DS games for me, so this one is his pick. It’s really tough to review any RTS without thinking of the originals. The Crafts, and the Conquers. From just looking at the box, I was filled with memories of late night StarCraft matches against Noobs on Big Game Hunters, (or BGH for the l33t) Begging me to draw matches so they didn’t lose another point. I would argue that having 5 wins and 284 losses didn’t look any better than 5 wins and 283 losses, but that’s beside the point.

Dawn of War is a futuristic RTS set after the Warhammer 40,000 universe from Games Workshop. My only experience with Warhammer 40k was losing miserably to Harshly in college on a small card table with cups upturned on the map for “cover.” From what I gather, life in 40,000 AD sucks ass and everyone hates each other. And they fight a lot.

For me, an RTS needs to have an engaging single-player campaign as well as a balanced and engaging multiplayer experience. Dawn of War has both. Kind of…

Like I said earlier, it’s really hard to get the taste of Blizzard out of your mouth when playing a new RTS. Especially StarCraft. This game “looks” like a graphical update to StarCraft. The races look similar, the tech tree looks the same, and just like StarCraft, you start with a human campaign. I know technically StarCraft stole everything from Warhammer 40k, (as well as Aliens, Starship Troopers, Predator, and so on.) but that does not negate the fact that StarCraft the RTS has been around longer, and has (in most opinions) solidified itself as the most playable RTS on the market.

The single player campaign opens with a really, really manly general and his really, really manly friend, the Librarian (snicker). You learn the ropes of the game, and have a great time. The units are really nice and varied, and after playing for about an hour, you totally lose the feeling that you are playing a StarCraft clone. The single player game is so fun, in fact, you get slapped in the face with the realization that the other races do not have their own single player campaign. That’s really tough. By introducing new units slowly but surely throughout a campaign, you really get to know when certain things are useful, and when you need to “tech up” to produce different units. If you were to play as another of the races, you would just get a bunch of units you don’t know anything about.

Some people won’t care about that. After all, most RTS fans don’t even play the single player campaign. I do, so I would have liked to see more.

The game is played in typical RTS style. You must gather resources, build units, build buildings, upgrade buildings, upgrade units, explore and expand, and, of course, fight battles. What makes Dawn of War different are a few things. You gather resources by capturing nodes on the map. Like a control map, you must capture and hold resource nodes. No workers going in and out. It’s actually very refreshing, and adds to the “wartime” feeling of it all.

Your units also have more importance to you. You can spend so much time and money upgrading only one squad of Space Marines, for example. You can increase their numbers, (while moving or fighting even) upgrade their weapons to one of four different (and effective in their own way) types, assign commanders or librarians (snicker), and give them optional abilities on timers. This reduces the amount of “zerging” in the game, and allows awesome firefights to take place without a screen full of crap.

There are also special capture points on the map called “Relics.” By capturing and holding relics you gain no increase in resources, but they allow you to tech up to each race’s ultimate super units. Which are impressive to behold.

The multiplayer version of Dawn of War should have a separate subtitle. It should read: Dawn of War: Getting your Ass Kicked 101. Reviewing a game that has been out for a year is hard. The people who play this game are really, really good. And unfortunately, there is no way to start out slowly. (unless you skirmish against a computer, which has really bad AI) This coupled with the lack of single-player modes for the other races can make getting online a frustrating endeavor.

When it’s all said and done though, this game manages to accomplish something great. To innovate an incredibly rigid and often tired genre with fresh, new ideas. If you can get past the multiplayer thrashing arena for long enough, you might get some really solid enjoyment out of this title. For die-hard RTS fans, get it. (if you haven’t already) For the rest of us, it’s the only option until StarCraft 2 and I, for one, am waiting.

(Edit: Harshly's review is so much better than mine. Make sure you read it)

-PickyPants 11/16/2005

Dawn of War - Review - PC - Harshly_Von_Smokenstein

Finally, I got to choose a game. Maybe I can pawn off my DS and buy cigarettes. Decided to dip into a genre that we haven't covered yet in our exhaustive store of reviews. The Real Time Strategy.

Dawn of War, exclusive to the PC at the moment, is based on the Warhammer 40K universe made popular by the tabletop game produced by Games Workshop. No longer do fat 40 year old military geeks have to hunch over a TV tray and paint figurines. They can hunch over a keyboard and choose color schemes.

At the time I'm writing this, I haven't purchased the expansion yet. The content of Winter isn't going to be covered, so keep that in mind. In the original, four armies are available for you to micromanage your way to victory with in Multi-Player. Chaos Marines, Space Marines, Eldar, and Orks.

A quick note about RTS games in general. They are made for multi-player. There is always some staple single player mission type gameplay available, but all this serves to do is familiarize yourself with control and the trees of one or more armies. That said, I was pissed that you could only start a single-player mission as Space Marines. Warcraft III allowed the various armies to be unlocked as you progress.

Granted, I didn't complete all the missions, so it is very well possible that the other armies become available, but I did put about 20 man hours into the single player SM missions and didn't see a lick of experience offered concerning the other races.

I'm not being paid to do this. No favors. If I were, I would be one of those jerk-face reviewers that gets paid to game. But I believe it is in our mission statement here at 2Gamers...We are average folks. Run of the mill gamers. Not everyone has a perk to our job headed by "Mountain Dew and Dorito Budget".

So I learn a few hotkeys, generic control mechanisms such as troop movement and attack. Shit that is the same for each race. Then I dive into multiplayer. Yesss.

This is where the game shines. There are a variety of RTS games out there. You'll have your Civ-esque themed games where you herd a bunch of hide wearing, spear chucking mouth-breathers to take out some Egyptians or some shit. You'll have your Command and Conquer strategists who get sneaky with engineers.

Then you have StarCraft. Perhaps the best RTS ever. Carefully balanced, a variety of play styles to take advantage of. Zerg rush? Cannon raid? Zealot drop? Air assault? Tank bunkers...the list goes on and on. StarCraft made micro management a viable skill to make money on. If you live in Korea. Hotkeys were mandatory. You had to be PRECISE.

Dawn of War differs from all of these. Its just plain brutal. That is what I love about it.

Somehow, it seems to capture the essence of futuristic warfare. You can plan a variety of strategies but they can come apart in a second.

I can't claim it is more "real". I don't know what fucking warfare will be like in the year 40,000.

But when you read historical texts of past wars, watch footage on the History Channel, you always hear the old adage that the best laid plan can, and probably will, fall around your ears.

Stay on your toes.

This plays out in spades with Dawn of War. When it comes down to it, most battles will be pitched with both sides feverishly throwing all they have into a choke point. Constantly clicking upgrades, adding units, arming them with a flamer if shit gets too close. Vehicles roll in and totally change the conflict. You toss your vehicles into the fray.

Its intense.

Now, the graphics and sound. They only add to this bloody melee feeling. Weapons have tracers so during a conflict both sides are flinging barrages of noticeable firepower. Missiles careen past targets or explode. Bodies are tossed in the air. Troops scream war cries and death rallies as they muster back together. Ambient sounds constantly whisper harsh gunfire in the background, explosions.

Play in the dark, and you'll be glancing around. Its fantastic.

Then there are those units, those last tier units that cost a fortune in resources and will rarely appear on the field of battle. But when they do...fuck man. The Avatar for War for Eldar. The Demon Prince for Chaos. The Squiggadon for Ork. Planetary strikes and Terminator squads for Space Marines. Each are perhaps hard to avoid, hard to kill, and can wreak massive destruction before they fall. Individual one-shot kill graphics will make you stop what you are doing just to watch.

Now, what is wrong with the game. Probably everything I've mentioned. A more clinical RTS fan will detest this game. Its difficult to really rush someone and catch them with their pants down. Shock troops aren't that shocking. (Troops that can bypass difficult terrain) The skill lays in reacting to the unpredictable. Not in being the most efficient in hitting a series of hotkeys.

A few words about the races.

The Eldar are basically space elves. Their troop and vehicles are more streamlined, hover around, and the troop sets are tailored to specifically counter or offer various threats. The most surgical of the races, playing the Eldar requires a lot of patience as sometimes you'll find yourself unable to counter a threat simply because you didn't anticipate it. These situations cripple the Eldar the most. On the other hand, should you guess or plan correctly...you'll obliterate that threat.

The Orks are the opposite. Vast numbers are the key to Ork armies. They can have an assload of troops in a single detachment, have an assload of variousupgrades. This army is for that player who wants to swarm the battlefield with screaming grunts and rely on mass firepower.
Not too much specialization offered, some, but not much.

The Chaos Marines have solid troop selection. The marines themselves can learn to cloak, which can be pretty irritating for your opponent. They have goodweapon selection and the Sorcerer’s abilities when upgraded make him a good threat. Vehicle selection is better than ork or Eldar, in my opinion. Defiler long range assaults are very fun.

The Space Marines somewhat mirror their chaotic counterparts. I would say their vehicle selection is a touch better because they don't have any late gamewinner troops like the Avatar or Demon. What they do have is a planetary assault feature your commander can utilize that will fuck up any choke point or base you can target with it. Expensive, but squeal worthy destruction. Marines are more defensive than any other army, but I hear that changes with the introduction of Imperial Guard in the expansion.

Background sounds might confuse you into thinking some shit is going down when its not. All the tracers, missiles, laser fire, screaming, and general cock chaos going on might intimidate the more clinical gamer.

In conclusion, if you seek a game that is bloody, chaotic, and visceral...you'll enjoy the shit out of this game.

If you seek an RTS where you can micromanage without too much distraction and know that your plans will probably devastate your opponent 3 minutes, 42 seconds into the game before it even starts...You may not like it.

The expansion is definitely on my "To Purchase" list.

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