Game review

As I mentioned the other day I’ve been off playing the new Dawn of War game recently. Way back in my teen years my brother and I used to play some of the Games Workshop games. Ah, fond memories of me spending an hour planning a cunning tactical battle only to see my army crumble before the might of his lucky dice throws.

Not bitter at all…

So whilst I grew out of the tabletop games quite a while back, I have indulged in some of the computer versions that have been out. From the turn based Final Liberation and Chaos Gate through to several of the recent Dawn of War games. The Dawn of War series was great in terms of graphics and fun but there were a couple of things I didn’t much like about them.

1. Base building and resorces. Loads of RTS games have these things are they are pretty pointless. You spend the first 15 minutes trying to carefully balance building enough troops to see of the inevitable computer assault within minutes of starting, with capturing or building up your base. After that 15 minutes, you usually have enough of everything to see you through the rest of the battle without ever having to look at your resources.

2. Unit reinforcement. Every unit in DoW could be reinforced in the field simply by clicking a button. Winning battles came down to whether you could click the ‘add’ button faster than your opponent could kill your troops. And when the battle was over, you’d be back to full strength within moments. It had all the tactical subtlety of a WWI british general on the front line trying to bury the enemy in corpses.

You had no sense of affection for your troops, you just piled them forward to die only to be relaced from the neverending reserves. Which in itself felt wrong for some of the units you could play. The Eldar – an ancient race on the brink of extinction. The Space Marines – whole chapters only consist of 1000 troops in total. And yet here you are killing them off by the hundreds in the space of twenty minutes.

Dawn of War 2 tries to fix some of that and is a merging of Chaos Gate and the first DoW in some ways. Gone is base building. Now you can only reinforce units at certain points on the map (or using certain special abilities) which causes you to be much more carefull as to how you throw your units into battle. A ‘loot’ and experience system has been introduced so that you can customize the units to do different jobs and you feel more connected to them as you watch them grow and unlock new abilites after each battle. The terrain is now destructable to some extent so you can have fun choices like do you try and capture that building to use as a defensive point or just blow it (and it’s occupants) up and be done with it. Add to that improved graphics and a nice campaign that also has optional side missions for loot gathering (not tried the skirmish mode yet) and you have a game I really like.

There are still things I’d change. Like how does that small slithering spider thing drop a full suit of ancient combat armour when you kill it? Why can I only take 4 units (well technically 3 and a commander) at a time and not more? Would having more units to start with allow them to remove the need to revive ‘dead’ characters again and again (and again…)? Other than occasionally missing out on some loot, where is the downside of losing a battle?

My biggest gripe however – having to be online to play! And have a Steam account. Bad move that, bad move…

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