Warhammer 40,000 - Dawn of War II: RetributionESRB:
Category: Real Time Strategy
Dawn of War II: Retribution is the latest installment in the well-established Warhammer 40,000, Dawn of War series, making this the seventh game in the series from Relic Entertainment. I have been playing Warhammer and associated games since Warhammer 40,000 2 edition table top and was really looking forward to this expansion, since hearing it would open up more playable races in single player. This was similar to my anticipation of Dark Crusade, the third expansion for Dawn of War. Taking on the role of the “Xeons,” as the Imperials call them, I enjoyed playing through the campaign as the Eldar.
As with the last expansion, this game is a lateral move in both graphics and sound production. Like the previous Dawn of War games, the gameplay centers on controlling small tight-knit squads and the graphics complement this concept. Visually, you are unable to zoom in too far but the individual characters are modeled wonderfully and you can zoom right into the middle of the action to see them in their entire splendor. Running the game on a mid-high to high quality video card allows you to play smoothly on high settings.
The characters may look stunning but on their own they are only part of the whole picture. The worlds being as masterfully crafted as they are provide a stunning backdrop to the game. From lush jungle, to arctic outpost, to a sprawling capitol city, the graphics portray the environments nicely. The terrain not only looks great but most of it is destructible. This adds a good game play mechanic allowing you to blow away enemy cover in fiery explosions.
The game has a variety of both full animated shorts and in-game animated cut-scenes. The in-game cut-scenes consisting mostly of character models moving around and various emote actions have the same graphic quality of the rest of the game, so overall they look pretty good. The fully animated movie scenes are fairly well done and though they don’t quite measure up to the original trailer for Dawn of War II, they still add to the storyline nicely.
The action sounds and atmosphere give you a good sense of the environment that the designers were trying to portray. The crisp and clear sound effects and background sounds are a nice distraction from the mildly robotic sounding character voice-overs. Although the dialog and weighting of the voice work is good, the actual recording seems robotic and has no inter-character flow.
I found the music to be especially well done. The music is powerful and fitting to the battles, yet is able to blend into the background where it does not overpower the action (a personal dislike of mine). In some cases you will hardly notice the music at all, however, the game would be lacking greatly without it.
A nice inclusion in this expansion over the previous versions is that the campaign allows you to choose from six playable races (Space Marine, Chaos, Imperial guard, Orks, Eldar, Tyranid) with their own storylines to follow. Each race has a 16 level campaign and although on the surface they seem distinct they are all based around the same storyline including similar missions. This expansion also introduces a single Super Heavy unit for each race.
The campaign is fairly linear with a few side missions providing some minor diversions. Each mission offers a choice of rewards upon completion and a chance to obtain loot drops while in the mission. The side missions allow you the opportunity to gain more war gear for your heroes and to unlock more unit options. This then allows you to choose what units, upgrades or war gear you will fight with.
The core of your single player army is your four heroes. Relic continued to improve on their hero system streamlining it to make it easier to follow. Heroes can still be equipped with a variety of war gear that you accumulate as you go through the missions. They have also reduced the progression paths to three, focusing on attack, defense and skills. Within the storyline missions you must use your primary hero but you can then substitute out your secondary heroes for their honor guard instead of the actual hero. In some cases, I found the honor guard to be more useful than the individual hero, offering some stronger units earlier in the game.
There were only a few things that I found detrimental to the overall experience of the game and these were the menus and loading screens. A lot of times after clicking to enter a mission the screen would “hang” for a few seconds then enter the mission. Also, some of the post mission loading screens just sat there with no way of knowing if the game was actually loading. A loading bar or rotating wheel would have been a welcome addition and would have improved these screens. The menus in-game are well designed and easy to use but the tooltip popups come up too fast and completely block other sections of the menu that you may want to look at. A good example of this is trying to flip through units in a group to see if any need reinforcing. The popup for the name of the squad covers the unit strength indicator requiring you to move your mouse off of the list of units to see this value. Otherwise, the menus are easy to understand and maintain a minimalist look, leaving lots of your screen for the actual battle.
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