Review by kefka989

"In the dark future, there is only war"

Warhammer 40,000 is a tabletop game franchise that has been going on for over 20 years. Originally it started as a type of role play game that was augmented by a weekly magazine and called ‘rouge trader'. Eventually it would become an ever expanding universe of different races, armies, encounters, and wars that would grow until it was a massive franchise that has spawned various video games, books, and other forms of media. Other games have been rather large successes, such as Space Hulk and Epic 40k, but none never really saw great recognition, more left to the accolades of the hard core PC gamer that will praise games that most none of us have heard about. But this time we get a game that most everyone has heard of and luckily will get the chance to play; Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War.

The surrounding Warhammer 40k is dark and foreboding, which is very typical of the series. The story focuses on the Imperium of Man, a collection of billions of worlds under the control of humans. Their vast and expanding empire has been reduced to a dark and stagnating collection of planets that are constantly assailed from all sides from enemies without and enemies within. Originally they continued to expand and prosper due to the Emperor of Mankind, a towering figure that had attained the powers of a god and created 20 demi-god humans using his own DNA, who in turn used their own DNA to create massive armies of super humans called the Space Marines that expanded the Empire further and further. Eventually half his children would turn on him and he would be struck down and confined to a machine that keeps him… kind of alive called the Golden Throne, the rest of the Space Marines broken into chapters of no more then 1000 marines each to prevent such a revolt from happening again. The game opens with the Space Marine chapter, the Blood Ravens, arriving on a planet to assist the Empire's defense force, the Imperial Guard, against a wave of alien invaders called the Orks. Orks are somewhat like orcs from other games, such as Warcraft, only much larger, violent, and infinitely larger in number. As the Ravens arrive the Orks have already washed over much of the planet and it's resistance like a green tide. As the Ravens continue to fight, the discover a growing plot as they uncover the Eldar, a dying race of a once elegant empire reduced to living on giant ships and slowly withering away, and suspect the involvement of Chaos Space Marines, the remnants of the Space Marines that rose up against the Emperor and have since been corrupted by chaos to the point that they are all deformed and misshapen with twisted and mad power.

The game play is a straight forward RTS, consisting of you building encampments that allow you to build various units and perform research to upgrade your weapons, units, equipment and vehicles. Some upgrades involve your units on the field, such as once you research special weapons at your base, you can start upgrading your troops with some specialized weapon soldiers, such as one soldier wielding a flame thrower for attacking enemies in cover and destroying their moral, or using a rocket launcher to knock enemies around or take out vehicles. This also allows for customization for your troops, as you can have balanced squads or have one squad for anti-infantry backed up with a anti-vehicle squad for dealing with any vehicles they come across. The chore of gathering resources has been simplified to two different resources; Strategic points which you gain by capturing special hubs on the map and fortifying them, and energy points which you gain from building generators. Units range in strength and number depending on the race you happen to be playing; The Space Marines strong with ranged units and sporting heavy armor, the Orks charging into bloody melee combat and using sheer numbers to overwhelm enemies, the Chaos using special demon units that can prove devastating with good tactics, and the Eldar who use many different specialized units that each excel at various tasks and tactics.

What sets this game apart from other RTS's is its simplicity. It's very easy to pick up and play, but the races require extremely different styles of play. Mastering one race means having to learn to deal with each other race and being able to master other races is not as easy as it looks. The Space Marines do good at range and can take lots of damage but they are slow and come in small squads, not to mention their melee combat is lacking. Eldar try to fill in their weak points by having specialized units for each setting (melee, anti-vehicle, etc.) and specialize in hit and run, with their ability to cloak themselves and sneak about, but they really lack any lasting power in a firefight and are the poorest melee fighters. Orks have massive troop sizes compared to other races and can dish out some of the highest damage in close combat, but their armor and health is so low that they tend to go down fast and their ranged attack can be strong with some units, but most usually they can hardly hit anything. Chaos play a lot like the Space Marines but have special demon troops that can provide extra anti-vehicle fire and close combat specialty, but they lack the special weapons of the marines and cannot take as much punishment. Another strong point is the graphics, the units all have an extremely high amount of detail, and you can zoom in close during a battle to see heavy firefights and see units fight each other in cinematic movements, such as watching a space marine dreadnought grab a chaos marine, crush his body, spin him, and then toss him 50 yards away. The story is by far the biggest draw. Playing the one player campaign is fun and draws you in quickly, making you want to continue not to beat the game, but to see what comes next.

The game excels but it's not without flaws. For one as good and as involving as the single player campaign is, it's far too short. I hate it when games do this, having such a good involving story that ends up having you wanting more when it ends all too soon. It also seems unfair to people who enjoy the other playable races that there is only one campaign mode that only has you playing the Space Marines and playing the other races is confined to skirmish mode games or online play. Speaking of which, the Space Marines do seem a little unfairly overpowered. Their ability to put hurt on enemies at range and soak damage, not to mention their easily adapting squads and limitless access to Terminator Squads (special Space Marines that sport even more armor and heavier weapons) once they get a relic means they can become unstoppable. Also with just 4 races to play you cannot help but want more.

These little things aside it is still an amazing game. It is also the first of many expansions that increased the playability of the game. Once you get tired with the single player campaign you can always grab one of the expansions and continue the experience. Definitely a great game for someone who is tired of the conventional and generic space or WW2 RTS's out there.


Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 02/26/09

Game Release: Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War (US, 09/20/04)


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