Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War II Review (PC)

The harsh landscape of 40,000 years in the future of the Warhammer realm is captured once again as team Relic plunge the proud and unrelenting space marines into all out chaos against their hated foes.

Much has changed since the days of just sending waves upon waves of squads to their noble deaths in the vain hope they’ll break the defensive lines of your enemies base. Relic take a page from one of their other hot RTS creations – Company of Heroes – with Dawn of War II playing huge emphasis on the squads themselves, with each feeling critical to success. To this end maps are littered with cover spots everywhere bringing the intensity of battles to new highs as you literally throw everything you have to gun, grenade and charge your way through. To help keep the relentless tug of war going on the fields of battle, units are better equipped with talents and abilities which don’t feel over bearing or cheaply tacked on; in a tight spot they can turn the tide quickly.

Outfit your squads and choose their specialization in the campaign.
You decide when and where to defend the galaxy from invaders.

As squads knock off more bad guys they’ll gain experience, but now managing them juggles the responsibility of prioritising what traits and attributes to chase as well as combing through levels to pick up as much wargear as you can to better equip them. You collect upgraded or even unique weapons and armour for your guys, and depending on what class they are will decide what loot they can apply. These aren’t minor little bonus objects either as they deliver some powerful punches if you pay attention and take the time to look them over. As you increase your troops levels you’ll start to unlock passive or selectable traits and combat abilities, like for example the space marine scouts can stay in stealth mode and will not won't drain any energy if they stay still giving you a great way to spy on enemy lines; another adds permanent range to weaponry or boosts the impact of a heroic charge attack and so on.

Gameplay has its focus pulled, if not ripped away from base building and reinvested completely on the thrill of frontline action, forcing you to think and plan your way forward with little room for screw-ups. Buildings themselves mostly stand empty but can be garrisoned to provide cover for you and deadly encounters for nosey and clumsy opponents. The whole situation focuses the player on upfront and gritty close-quarter exchanges instead of distracting you with managing a base. The idea is sound as when you step into the campaigns you feel liberated from having to grind your way up to building a fully operational base before churning out the squads endlessly to go beat your opponent with, now you just get to the arse kicking part straight away. The same almost applies with multiplayer matches but you do have a primary building to look after that builds your army.

In Dawn of War II you won’t be plopping down power cores or anything, instead you’ll need to be proactive in taking strategic points throughout the maps to secure resource income which can be upgraded to output more. These fuel your war machine and let you upgrade your headquarters and enlist more deadly units. The design of the buildings and units are strikingly detailed thanks to the new graphics engine, which surpasses the works of the original and its expansions by far. The bug-like Tyranids call an organic and squelching abomination their HQ with each squad looking as if they’ve just been given birth to, gross but cool.

The campaign follows a non-linear fashion as it lets you choose what regions to advance to next. You’ll notice also that each level can have special structures that help you in future battles, but to keep things from going your way too quickly you’re limited to being able to capture just one of these special strategic buildings at a time. If you want the chance to nab the other then you’ll need to be dragged into conflict there again, which ties in with the personal ranking you have attached to the Commander you created, awarding them defence and offensive ranks. To help massage your ego or even laugh and point at your lacking of tactical manhood, the game will also keep track of numerous stats through play and ‘promote’ your Commander in two separate categories; Savior and Warrior.

Always watch for drops of loot, or ‘wargear’ as it’s called.
Bosses slap your guys around the place, and even use special moves.

Completing a level brings up a small summary that shows you what, if anything, you’ve earned from the battle and how well you scored. The scoring takes the form of award stars that cover factors like the percentage of enemy forces vanquished, keeping your own team numbers high and how fast you blazed to victory. As you would expect some missions are far easier than others in the campaign, but those that prove more challenging are usually playing home to a boss for you to defeat. These are tough mean mothers who won’t go down easy and play out more like a major encounter from World of Warcraft than what RTS players are used to. The fights themselves are great fun and are filled with banter and special moves you need to keep aware of and it’s these showdowns that will have you clicking like a mad man as you reposition your squads and fire off their special talents. You can tell if the battle is going well or not with the huge boss health bar slowly running down at the top.

One thing that can’t be faulted is the audio that accompanies you on the field. Hearing chainsaw noises as your force commander chops and slices through ork bands is greatly satisfying. All the effects Relic have put in sit perfectly in place as guns fire and grenades explode and the clashing of armies is a symphony of carnage. The voice-over’s and narration aren’t as grin-inducing but the obligatory violent intro movie sequence gets you in the mood for Warhammer style blood lusting.

As you play more levels you begin to work out the best tactics you like to use. I myself prefer getting heavy gunners behind some thick cover hopefully near a tight corridor or pass and then using another to lure the enemy into a spray of death. You can suppress enemy squads so they dramatically lose advantage and make good easy targets for a grenade or satchel toss. If this ever happens to your own side you can issue an order to retreat which will get your guys to run their legs off for a short while with their tails between their legs to the nearest rally point. If you lose some squad members during the campaign trail then you need only capture a relay, which will call down reinforcements when an undermanned squad gets near it. These are usually well guarded at first and it’s always a good idea to punch through and grab as many as you can, luckily the enemy as a general rule has limited numbers.

The campaign only follows the space marines, not the other three races.
Cover is your new best friend, neglect it and pay sooner than you'd like.

The game is tied with the Games For Windows Live program which means you can earn achievements but also at any time you can invite a friend to co-operatively play through a campaign – a feature that’s becoming all the rage recently. This means you’ll also be using it to setup multiplayer matches but you can also host your own local area network games. Once again you have the army painting tools at your disposal to give your team a more unique look if the standard themes aren't working for you. The one thing that was lacking I felt was a tutorial; in fact there isn’t one at all really. Instead you’re given helpful tooltips at the side of the screen but these can be a little too distracting when starting out, luckily the game has a fast learning curve.

Relic Entertainment has taken a great step forward as the team shirk off the weaker fragments of the previous iterations and embrace more of what Warhammer 40,000 is really about; the intense carnage. In pursuit of that they’ve ditch the more traditional aspects of the RTS, like base building, and instead offer a more streamlined approach to getting your war on. Team Relic has pulled off a tremendous job of managing to prune away a lot from the first game and yet given gamers so much more to experience in Dawn of War II. Any strategy gamer worth their salt should grab it with both hands and lovingly choke the life out of it.

Top Game Moment: You just can’t beat the entertainment of a good mash up as space marines and orks collide; it’s almost like ballet, with guns.

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By JamieSI (SI Core) on Feb 20, 2009
I'll be playing this online tonight, can't wait to finally give it a go :)
By Lujka83 (SI Newbie) on Feb 20, 2009
Relic makes very good rts games, love the warhammer and company of heroes serials...
By Kres (SI Elite) on Feb 20, 2009
I've been feeling skeptical about it as usual. Expecting the worst... But I am glad to see I've been wrong! 9.3! Wohooo. We got a new perl to play. Can't wait.
By YouriRevenn (SI Veteran Member) on Feb 20, 2009
The older parts were much better. they make a nice game with nice graphics, the game's history is good too, but the implementation is the worsest ever.
We don't creat huge armies or great battles. This is only a tactical game, not strategy.. :( We have a few units and a very small unit cap. only 1000points
1 dreadnought is about 250point. No deffens tower.. And we only play with 4 species.
Space marine, eldar, orks and tyranids.
By Praetorian (SI Core) on Feb 20, 2009
I just got it , and its an alright game online very fun :)
By BlitzKrieg (SI Veteran Member) on Feb 20, 2009
very nice game, the online action is even better than the original set, im impreseed!
By FoolWolf (SI Elite) on Feb 21, 2009
I guess that once you get it running it might be fun, but after a days of woes and problems with STEAM and Live, I felt utterly bored out of my skull. When I finally after seven tries also got my pre-order code to work, I was so sick with this game so that once I fired up only a close MP map, I found out that the game felt a bit... small. Tactical but damn hard to kill anything and as above posters mentioned, probably a lot more fun with real players either in CO-op or with human resistance...

Hopefully this game will prove a lot more interesting once installed and my frustration have settled...
By JustCommunication (SI Core) on Feb 21, 2009
I have to say, I'll probably be with Revenn on this one. Whilst I have no doubt this will be a supurb title, I'm slightly dissapointed that they had to fall back to a more tactical setting.

The whole point of Warhammer is to wield vast armies over entire continents, although I suppose it's the next best thing. I won't miss the base-building, I just wish they could have kept the same scale.

Wouldn't mind seeing a Total War style game based on the 40k universe.
By Keef (SI Veteran Newbie) on Feb 21, 2009
At first the campaing is really fun. After you get all your heros to level 20 it gets repetitive and theres nothing else to see. Its a big dissapointment that Gabriel Angelos's voice isnt the one from DoW. I dont like the MP :(. DoW2 its nothing i expected. I give it a 7.1
By herodotus (SI Herodotus) on Feb 21, 2009
This a great game. Just remember it is not much a RTS as an Action RPG. Bloody great graphics too!
By JamieSI (SI Core) on Feb 22, 2009
I'm enjoying it so far, will comment more when I have done a few more missions, as I noticed above that you feel it gets a bit boring once you get to level 20.

I haven't had a chance to try out Multi yet, will soon :)
By DarkStalker (SI Veteran Newbie) on Feb 22, 2009
Guys, has any of you got problems with running the game in vista 32bit? i cant set details to ultra(for textures and effects details)??????
By V4ndall (SI Veteran Member) on Feb 23, 2009
Multiplayer is quite fun except there are only 9 maps (3 1v1 and 6 3v3), but single player campaign has a major flaw - bossfights in every mission. For instance - I have to withstand a wave of orks - I set up my team in positions and plan the defence. After 3 minutes all orks are dead except the boss. Another 10 minues are spent on hectic running around the boss and firing special abilities until he drops. I seriously fail to see fun in that, and it rendered the campaign unplayable for me. Also below the highest difficulty level enemy squads present almost no real threat to your men.
By V4ndall (SI Veteran Member) on Feb 23, 2009
DarkStalker you have to run the game with –disable32bitcheck parameter on 32bit vista.
By herodotus (SI Herodotus) on Feb 24, 2009
The map limit is initially disappointing, but I expect there will be many more. THQ also offers a redeemable code on their site when you register the game, giving several new items of wargear. They've already released a patch fixing some memory dumping issues, but the game is still a beast to run on most machines. This one can only improve with age.
By Nakerman (SI Veteran Newbie) on Feb 24, 2009
I'm hopefully going to get a decent PC soon so I can play this.
By V4ndall (SI Veteran Member) on Feb 25, 2009
The question is whether the new maps will be free and will come with another patches, or a paid DLC.
By FoolWolf (SI Elite) on Feb 25, 2009
That sign-ip should have already been full I guess, and I can't understand why they would need yet another online activity for this damned game? Isn't STEAM and LIVE enough? Tiresome if you ask me. They should offer the bonus to everyone as good faith for those that finally makes it through all the hoops to get the game running.. at least thats my opinion.
By ironmike71 (SI Veteran Newbie) on Mar 01, 2009
very average game. barely any vehicles. poor maps. can't build anything. average animation and FX. and i got bored of it quickly.

short shelf life.
By Wowerine (SI Elite) on Mar 02, 2009
Average is the right word. I never really liked those W40k games. :|
By FoolWolf (SI Elite) on Mar 02, 2009
Well I am starting to get into this one, still I have to say thatt he game experience is not that great. It has a lot of potentials, but few of them seems to have been taken full advantege of. The graphics are nice, Tyranids and cutscenes are also good. Story wise it is as most FPS - fairly good these days. Sure beats many of them FPS's out there. However, the single player gameplays is still in the form factor of four it seems. Four units equals four easy buttons to press to take command over on the console. Why not 8, or 10, or five? RPG:ish implementation is fun, but you have too little control over the units, should be better if a unit got to different staus and the "heroes" had been attachable to different squads.

My main grief is that the constant boss battles are not only tedious, they are damn tedious and drawn out. Takes forever and nothing ever bloody well dies!

One keep firing and firing and nothing happens. This is also apparant so far in MP (only tried a few MP gmaes vs computer to try so I'm far from an expert here) that the tactical advantage of using different high grounds and coverage is not all that good. I had one game on easy where I had all the different tactical locations of the map except two, and still couldn't crush my enemy even though I built up a barrage of units outside his main base. Took forever to annihilate it and I couldn't realise how the heck he could produce so many new units, and why it takes several minutes worth of seven squads to fire upon the base until it finally dies.

In this, the old Dawn of War makes for a more strategy game but also tactical. You could make a sneak up force to deal a devestating blow to the enemy, here you sneak up and shoots someone inthe ass with a pea shooter and then you get visible and they stand there for a few "minutes" firing upon each other until the computer runs home and spawns new troops...

Does this change with the difficulty levels?

I really like the Warhammer genre and the games from it, but mostly I have to admit is because I like the concept more then the games. Dawn of war was the first game that I really found to be great. Final Liberation was fun, but far from great.

Nope, i want either total war:esuq style Warhammer 40 k, or back to turnbased mega bonanza buying armies etc. :)
By herodotus (SI Herodotus) on Mar 02, 2009
Anyone else feel like they're playing on Maps that resemble Diablo III screenshots, or is it just me?
By V4ndall (SI Veteran Member) on Mar 02, 2009
Nah, even on highest level AI is pretty lame. And Annihilation is absurd ATM because the turrets are just too badass. I like CoH way more (nested MGs, epic barrages, the difference of how map looks before and after the battle, and generally the realistic map design). Though I waited for this one like hell I must sadly admit it's an awfully overrated game.
By herodotus (SI Herodotus) on Mar 02, 2009
Gotta admit to being disappointed with this as well. The fun I am getting out of it is far more forced than it should be. Then again, I didn't really warm up to the first one for quite some time so I'll hold out hope. I have to admit, it is better than Winter Assault and SoulStorm and they were virtually near the price of full-fledged game on release themselves. I think GW had too much to do with the design on this one...and they haven't made a good video game since the '90's. Seems to be the way of new releases much promise, so much disappointment.
By FoolWolf (SI Elite) on Mar 03, 2009
Yeah, hopefully there will be a "true" sequal to Dawn of War soon. If I am not totally misstaken this was from the beginning announced as something a bit different and not a real follow up on DOW's concept. However, I think that the guys still can make something out of this game, just start litening to the crowd of PC gamers (sorry console gamers only for my coloured view, but RTS are for the desktop generals, not the couch lieutanants...) and get the changes going. Some tweaking here and there would make this one a damn lot better. I can guess that the game is actually fun to play on console though, because it seems to target that audience a lot, but it misses out when you spread the game thin over PC and consoles... :S
By Benadeto (SI Veteran Member) on Mar 03, 2009
great game. ill give it a 9.0 Mobile Infantry Medals.
Nick ( Benadeto )
By benny180 (SI Core) on Mar 05, 2009
I love this game,i used to build the models when i was younger,brilliant!
By Wowerine (SI Elite) on Mar 06, 2009
The Orc-Machinegun just doesn't do it for me. :|
By crawlroman (SI Core) on Mar 10, 2009
I find this game interesting^.^
NO regrets for playing it=D
The good old warhammer feeling
By nobuargaoda (SI Core Veteran) on Mar 13, 2009
I bought it this morning and played it this noon...... this game rocks! Our disappointment due to the soulstorm is covered with this series of DOW!
By Wowerine (SI Elite) on Mar 13, 2009
OK, at the end you guys will make me buy it. I'll get the demo and tell you my impressions. :)
By herodotus (SI Herodotus) on Mar 16, 2009
This is a truly good game, Zerk. From the first mission it has you enthralled in the story (a bit), but also in the care and upgrading of your squads. The Essence 2.0 engine looks fantastic and the RPG elements are well implemented. A fantastic game that's better than the first (plus expansions).
By herodotus (SI Herodotus) on Mar 17, 2009
There are some original DoW die-hards that refuse to let go of that series (same ones who liked Soulstorm...ughh!). Time to move on people, a new Dawn has, well, dawned.
By FoolWolf (SI Elite) on Mar 21, 2009
Well, IMO DOW is still fun and a totally different game so I will continue play both at least. Hopes that another game will pick up the gameplay of the first DOW though.
By RockPaperNuke (SI Newbie) on Mar 22, 2009
I'm not toally sure I like the RPG aspects of this game all that much. I guess it's NOT the traditional RTS I was expecting, and that's both good (innovation in a static genre) and bad (sucks donkey dick).
By herodotus (SI Herodotus) on Mar 30, 2009
That is one thing Relic was open with at the outset. DoW II isn't meant to replace DoW, but sit alongside it. Two different beasts, best enjoyed together (I have all the releases and love em all...except Soulstorm).
By slaythat (SI Veteran Member) on Apr 14, 2009
Extraordinary online play makes it easy to overlook this strategy sequel's less-impressive single-player campaign.

The Good:
Fun, exciting online play will keep you under its spell Fantastic production values The loot collecting is fun and addictive Co-op play lets a buddy join your campaign in progress.
The Bad:
Campaign doesn't feature much strategy Few multiplayer maps Only 1 vs 1 and 3 vs 3 matches.
By PCfreak22 (SI Newbie) on Jul 17, 2010
Great game...played the original and expansion part, the story is so awesome! tho i don't prefer games in which you had a few squads and then you had to do shit just using them...i like the DoW RTS games where you had buildings and all sorts of units, also all those cool (Tau especially) races. hope the new Warhammer 40k Dark Millennium has all of the races and cool gameplay. :D