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Rapid Review: Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War 2

Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War II is the latest real-time strategy game for the PC based upon the very successful Games Workship tabletop wargame franchise.

Hot in the footsteps of Company of Heroes, Dawn of War II utilizes an upgraded version of Relic Entertainment's Essence Engine. Unfortunately, one of the first things many gamers will notice immediately is that it suffers from an identity crisis in both the single-player campaign and multiplayer modes.  So different, in fact, that switching from one to the other feels like an entirely different experience.

Of course, this is not to say that either mode suffers from poor quality, as both are actually well done. However, the "identity crisis" issue is that the single player campaign focuses entirely on the Space Marines with no option to play as the Orks, Eldar or Tyranids.  While the campaign is interesting and well done, the limitations may disappoint some fans. Additionally, the single player campaign plays almost like an RPG/RTS which simply does not carry over into multiplayer at all.  

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In the end, however, the main campaign offers some very fun battles and a solid enough story.  Players should enjoy each and every mission, and there are always great incentives to traveling between star systems, especially when hunting for the next best piece of gear.  Boss battles always find a way to stay interesting, and watching characters level up shares much of the same excitement that is typically only seen in MMORPG titles.  Even better, the main campaign is more in line with the origins of the franchise than that of the original Dawn of War PC title.

As for the multiplayer offering in Dawn of War II, this portion of the game does allow users to play as any of the four sides using a variety of units and heroes. However, the initial problem with multiplayer is the learning curve faced when using the new sides. Why? Because players will have had no experience playing as the Eldar, Orks and Tyranids thanks to the limitations of the single-player campaign.

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Even with that learning curve in mind, multiplayer is still a real treat.  The frantic nature of base building is replaced with the intense nature of point control.  Players wishing to succeed online must make the most of their armies and hero in order to control the map.  Whoever controls the map controls the resources, and as such can support larger armies.  Victory point gameplay from Company of Heroes and the original Dawn of War also make a return in ranked matches, which ultimately decides who comes out on top at the end of the match. Thankfully, the Essence Engine does an excellent job bringing every aspect to life visually.

Visually, the graphics in Dawn of War II are definitely rock solid in both presentation and performance, with a very colorful and even bloody world to play in.  Destructable terrain, buildings, and objects are scattered about each of the maps.  Cinematics are top notch, and the sound effects and music also scream of a job well done.  It should be noted however that Relic Entertainment has rarely if ever disappointed when it comes to the senses. 

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The Multiplayer backend is managed through Games for Windows Live which has improved in quality and reliability by leaps and bounds over the years.  With the partnership, users are also able to earn achievements as seen in Xbox 360 titles in both single player and multiplayer.  Standard one versus one and three versus three matches are available in ranked play, with other options available while playing custom multiplayer games. 

The only question that remains is why Relic chose to develop Dawn of War II with such a drastic difference between the Space Marine limited single player campaign, and the more robust multiplayer.  Chances are, we will never know the full story, but despite that, Dawn of War II is an exceptionally solid PC title worth checking out.

Final Score: 8.5 out of 10

  • spanner_razor
    Is this a regular interest now, I thought the closure of Tom's Games reviews meant that this was be strictly hardware oriented. Also the article wasn't exactly breaking new ground stylistically.
    Reply
  • exfileme
    spanner_razorIs this a regular interest now, I thought the closure of Tom's Games reviews meant that this was be strictly hardware oriented. Also the article wasn't exactly breaking new ground stylistically.It's a test run
    Reply
  • NuclearShadow
    I think this was a good review and would like to thank you for writing this. I hope to see more come and hopefully see its own section again someday.
    Reply
  • ryanlord
    Spanner, what sort of new ground would you like us to explore? We'd like to continue to bring you some reviews - possibly PC only depending on how this goes.

    Keep in mind that we're not working within the same sort of template that we had with Tom's Games. This is a unique venture in game reviews, with a style that is a lot more simple and quick to read.
    Reply
  • Master Exon
    The article probably should have mentioned that the game (or atleast the beta) were built and balanced around 3v3s, not 1v1s. A major difference from the previous game.
    Reply
  • n3ard3ath
    ryanlordSpanner, what sort of new ground would you like us to explore? We'd like to continue to bring you some reviews - possibly PC only depending on how this goes. Keep in mind that we're not working within the same sort of template that we had with Tom's Games. This is a unique venture in game reviews, with a style that is a lot more simple and quick to read.
    A ground I would like you to re-explore is a video game show. I would still miss Rob Wright and his partner, but if the new guy or guys are as entertaining, and tend to do different than the mainstream videogame review media, like gamespot, I would really enjoy that.

    If money was the reason why the original show was canceled in the first place, an option to make donation like 3dGameMan does would be a good idea, as long as the show is worth it. A show that tends to look biased over certain type of game or developpers-publishers like some (most)reviewers seems to be is an exemple of what does'nt deserve donations.

    There is already too much typical analytic game reviews on the web, something with a more personal flavor would be more enjoyable to me. Like a guy who don't fear to admit he himself find Halo 3, for exemple, to be pure shit or just overrated, backded with reasons, even though it's a A+ title on every other review media there is. That's a personal thought of myself, but this could be anything. I don't mind if the guy bash a game I love, I like honesty, as long as the guy backs that with valid points.

    Just my 2 cents.
    Reply
  • Guys im pretty sure the other campaigns will be released as dlc. They have been pressing the media with there take on drm to reward buyers rather than restrict them. I for one love the idea.
    Reply
  • ryanlord
    Nuclear - no problem, glad to hear that you enjoyed it.

    Master Exon - Why do you think it was balanced for team more than 1v1? In the beta, I primarily played teams but in retail the majority of my online games were 1v1 since release. I felt that the game was very well balanced for both modes. If you look at the ranked ladder distribution, it's pretty even amongst the top ranks in terms of side used, win/loss ratio, etc.

    N3ard3ath - I believe Rob was trying to keep the video shows going, but I'm not sure where things stand. I am from Tom's Games though, Kevin and Devin are still around as well. In terms of going against the grain, we don't want to do that unless it's a real opinion. Trust me though, if there's something worth complaining about we have no problem doing so. We just don't want to be angry gamer reviewers without a valid reason. :)

    Mow - I'm thinking the same thing but we haven't heard any sort of confirmation yet. It just makes me think though that perhaps the days of multi-side campaigns in RTS are over. Starcraft 2 is also going to have just one marine related campaign at launch as well according to Blizzard.
    Reply
  • tenor77
    Glad to see continued video game coverage.

    I agree with Mow on the single player. Halo Wars is the same way. Methinks this leaves room for expansion packs as well and I have a feeling this approach is going to continue to help avoid piracy. Plus it allows a dev and publisher to make sure it is popular before committing extra resources.
    Reply
  • crockdaddy
    Just bring second take back ... that would make many of us happy immediately. For the last year I came to Toms mostly to see Second Take updates. Tom's games written reviews were always less formulaic and off beat, something which I appreciated.
    Reply