"Regardless of whether or not you're a fan of the Warhammer 40,000 table-top game, Dawn of War is a strategy game that all RTS fans should play."

The Warhammer universe has been around for longer than a decade, and only until recently have I been a part of the Warhammer universe. If you've heard of Warhammer before, but have no idea what it is than I shall explain it to you. Warhammer is a medieval themed world that originated as turn based tabletop game (to the best of my knowledge). Warhammer eventually gave birth to the Warhammer 40,000 universe, which happens to take place in the year 40,000. Warhammer has spawned many games in the past ten years, but if you've never had the opportunity to get into it, Dawn of War is the perfect way to get acquainted with the series, regardless of your previous knowledge of the universe.

Story:
In the year 40,000 it seems as if war will never end. Four races fight fiercely against each other for control of the universe. During the campaign of Dawn of War, you will take control of one of the many Space Marine chapters' known as the Blood Ravens, lead by the Force Commander Gabriel. Gabriel suspects that the planet of Tartarus is tainted by the foulness of the Chaos Space Marines, which are essentially "evil" Space Marines. Ages ago, when the emperor came to lead mankind to salvation, some of the Space Marines believe him to be a false emperor. So, they betrayed their own brethren and formed their own faction, now known as the Chaos Space Marines. They are blessed by the Dark Gods, for embracing their insanity and evil. While Gabriel tries to find and destroy the evil plaguing Tartarus it appears that there is more happening on this planet than meets the eye, which involves the games other two races known as the Orks and the Eldar.

Gameplay:
Gameplay wise, Dawn of War is a refreshing change of pace from the seemingly endless horde of StarCraft rip-offs. And in some ways Dawn of War is the successor to StarCraft. Some StarCraft loyalists would most likely hunt me down for comparing Dawn of War to their beloved StarCraft, but besides the creatures in the universe Dawn of War and StarCraft have some glaring similarities.

In StarCraft one of the most common strategies is rushing, and in most online games the person who rushes is usually the victor, so long as he/she knows what they are doing. Dawn of War plays similarly, since if you decide to turtle up in your base you will go absolutely nowhere in Dawn of War. Dawn of War focuses largely on exploration and expansion since to obtain resources you must capture and hold strategic points placed all over the level. In most RTS games you must find new areas full of resources to establish a new base to continue your growth while you expand your tech tree. In Dawn of War creating a new base is not always necessary. Usually in most other RTS games, your main base will become almost useless to you after its resources are depleted. In Dawn of War this is not the case, as there are no resources to be "harvested" at your main HQ. The only real reason to make another base in Dawn of War is to establish a foothold on your enemy at a closer position.

Once you have captured a strategic point your requisition income will increase. Requisition is the game's main currency, which is used to build everything in the game. In order to heavily increase, and protect your requisition and strategic points, you must build listening posts on them. Listening posts defend your strategic points from being stolen from your enemies. For example, if you capture a strategic point and do not build a listening post on it, the moment your opponent comes into contact with your strategic point, you will lose it, although it takes time for your flag to be removed from the strategic point. Afterwards your opponent can capture the strategic point. Listening posts prevent this, as they mush be destroyed before your opponent can capture the point. Listening posts can also be upgraded with machine guns, and then later heavy machine guns, which help defend your base and themselves against infantry attacks. However, these machine guns are almost completely useless against tanks, which will force you to research anti-tank technology, such as rocket launchers.

Aside from requisition there is also power, which is your secondary resource which is used in large quantities to build units such as vehicles, including tanks and other more powerful infantry units. To obtain power you must build generators in your base, which suck power out of the earth. You can only have six generators per command building (HQ) that you have. If you are in desperate need of more power you can also find slag deposits, where you can build a giant power generator to suck large quantities of power out of the earth.

Like most RTS, Dawn of War consists of you starting with just a command building with one worker unit. You must proceed to build a barracks, which will grant you access to your bread and butter infantry unit. However unlike most RTS games, Dawn of War lets you build a lesser combat unit which is very weak, but provides early combat ability, so you aren't left helpless with your crappy builder units, some of which can't even attack. For the Space Marines the first unit you can build is the Scout Infantry Squad, which spawns as two Scouts and can later be upgraded to a maximum of four Scouts. These Scouts are great for scouting and can also later be cloaked and upgraded with sniper rifles.

Besides your most basic, basic infantry there is your basic infantry. For the Space Marines, this is the (drum roll) Space Marine squad! You have probably been wondering what exactly I mean by "squad". In Dawn of War most units are not controlled individually. All units are created as a squad. For example Space Marines start off with a certain number of Space Marines in the Squad (5 I believe) you can slowly, but surely reinforce this squad by clicking the reinforce squad button when the squad is selected. This obviously costs requisition, but it greatly enhances the power of the squad by adding more Space Marines. Each unit squad can only be upgraded to a certain number of a maximum of units. The great thing about Dawn of War is even if your squad is destroyed to just two or even one unit you can retreat this squad and reinforce it back to full strength without having to make a new squad. This is extremely helpful when attacking your enemies, since if one of your squads is losing men, you simply retreat them from the front line, reinforce them, and then send them back into the fray.

Vehicles play a large factor in Dawn of War. Each race has certain vehicles that either excels at destroying infantry or other vehicles and buildings. Usually infantry units are extremely weak against vehicles and can be mowed down by only a few tanks. Thankfully races like the Space Marines and Chaos Space Marines have upgrades that can be given to each individual squad. The most flexible of said squads being the Space Marine squad and the Chaos Space Marine squads. There are a total of four heavy weapon upgrades for these squads, consisting of heavy bolters, flamethrowers, rocket launchers and plasma guns. Rocket launchers are extremely effective at taking out vehicles and buildings but are ineffective at taking out infantry units. Infantry units are best left to heavy bolters and flamethrowers, while heavy infantry is best left to plasma guns.

You might be getting a headache from all this information, but unfortunately there is still more to learn. Aside from hit points, each squad also has moral points. Every weapon deals a certain amount of damage to a units hit points, but each weapon also does a certain amount of damage to a squads morale. If you are uncertain of what "morale" is, it is your squads will to fight. If your squad has no more will to fight then they become separated and do significantly less damage and also die much faster. A broken squad is basically completely ineffective in battle and their morale must be restored as soon as possible if you want them to fight effectively. The best way to restore a broken squad is the use of your squad leaders rallying abilities (depends on the race), which will make your squad leader let out a war cry that influences courage in your units for them to fight harder. Weapons that case heavy morale damage include flamethrowers, sniper rifles, artillery and melee specialized units.

Morale can be enhanced a number of ways. Once you get to a certain point in your tech tree you can add a squad leader to the majority of your infantry squads. A squad leader is basically a "mini-hero" that will increase the morale of the entire squad and is also a better melee fighter than all your other units, but he has a weaker ranged attack. Yes, I haven't mentioned it yet but almost every single infantry unit in Dawn of War has a melee attack and a ranged attack. The perfect example would be Space Marine squads. Space Marines are equipped with assault rifle type weapons, but also have large swords, which they use when the enemy gets to close. Most units by default are set to a preferred range choice. Space Marines, for example prefer ranged combat by default but will use their swords when needed. However you can switch their preference by clicking on one of the icons on your HUD that will change your units from "ranged stance" to "assault stance". Assault stance is basically the opposite of range stance, whereas your units will use their ranged weapons while they close in on their opponent, once they are close enough to use their swords they will change to melee mode.

Perhaps one of the coolest features of Dawn of War is that all your units can attack with their ranged weapons while running, so you can even attack while retreating or running past your enemies. Besides squad leaders you can also build commander units, which are sort of like heroes but are still very much like regular units. Unlike WarCraft III a "hero" in Dawn of War can completely decimate your enemies army all by himself (thank god), but instead he/she will provide a very powerful melee unit to your army. All of these commander units have ranged and melee weaponry but for the most part they have extremely powerful melee weapons and prefer this method of fighting. Most commander units can also be attached to squads, and play a similar role of the squad leader. The only difference is squad leaders cannot be removed from a squad. A commander unit can be attached and removed from squads at your will. When a commander unit is attached to a squad they greatly enhance the strength and morale of the squad, on top of the enhancements already made by the squad leader.

Some races have additional attachable units; such as the Space Marines have a unit called the "Apothecary", which is a medic that can be attached to a squad. Unfortunately each squad can only have one attachable unit attached at any given time. So if you already have a commander unit attached to a squad you will have to attach your Apothecary to a different squad.

Besides all the gameplay features, there is a campaign mode which I have left you all in the dark waiting to hear what the campaign is all about. One of the most disappointing factors of Dawn of War is that it does not take advantage of its four races in the campaign, to some extent. You play as the Blood Raven's, one of the strongest chapters of the Space Marines. But unfortunately this is the only race you can play as besides using several units from the "Imperial Guard" race, which are not a full-fledged race in Dawn of War. (They are in the Winter Assault expansion). They are kind of neat to use, but their infantry is much weaker than that of the almighty Space Marines.

All four (five) races are present in the campaign (five if you include the Imperial Guard, which are allies with the Space Marines) and they all have a large contribution to the story but the story really revolves mostly around Gabriel and his Blood Ravens. Dawn of War does have quite the meaty campaign however, which will keep you occupied for about 15 hours, which would increase depending on the skill and difficulty. (I played it on the regular setting). It also has a very interesting story, if I might add.

Overall, there is so much depth in the gameplay mechanics of Dawn of War I could go on for ever describing every single gameplay feature and unit of every single race, but I will leave it at this and let you discover the gameplay world of Dawn of War for yourself.

Graphics:
Dawn of War is a technically impressive RTS game in the graphics department. All of the units and maps are greatly detailed and look really cool. One of the biggest downfalls though is that the characters mouths when they are talking in the cut scenes are not motion captured, and don't match up as well with what they are saying as you probably would have hoped for, but the graphics are great nonetheless. Another minor issue is that all of the player models have animations that they play out when they are inactive (just standing in place) and in the cut scenes when the units are talking to each other and standing still they play these animations and it sometimes creates some awkward cut scenes since people normally wouldn't be doing these things when they were having a conversation.

Otherwise, minor things aside Dawn of War is a great looking game with some really spectacular looking special effects and greatly detailed units. And with the camera that lets you pan around the playing field every direction and also lets you zoom in you can get a great look at all of the action.

Sound:
This is probably my least favourite aspect of Dawn of War, but only for one of the races. All of the races have some pretty good voice acting, and some of them have really cool voices. But the Chaos Marines have some of the most annoying voice acting I've ever heard in a video game. The Chaos Space Marines main builder unit and weak-infantry units have the most irritating voices. For example the Cultist Squads are extremely annoying and have drawn out acknowledgments to you. I don't understand how the people at Relic didn't get irritated with these voices and remove them, but it doesn't detract from the rest of the good music and sound effects.

The Space Marines would definitely have the best voice acting in the game. Next would belong to the Orks, and the Orks are really the comic relief team in terms of dialog. They refer to you as boss and have extremely bad grammar and use very poor English. For example their primary ranged units are called "Shoota Boyz" and their primary melee units are called "Choppa Boyz", and so forth. One of the best Orks names would be their re-naming of the Rocket Launcher to "Rokkit Launcha". Chaos and Eldar would have to be a tie in terms of voice acting since, the Eldar have decent voice work but their overall appeal is not very good. They have this neat robotic effect behind all their voices but they happen to be very monotone, and say some pretty weird things. The Chaos heroes have some of the best voice acting in the game. Especially Scott McNeil's performance for the Chaos Lord leader unit, which sounds disturbingly familiar to his performance he did for Dino Bot from Beast Wars.

Music selection is nothing particularly memorable but it adds an immersive feel to the war torn appearance of the game. It helps make you feel like your really there in this destroyed helpless universe.

Value:
Dawn of War most likely has an extreme appeal to those who are fans of the table top game, but don't be turned off if your someone who thinks this game will suck because of it's origins. I for one believe that this game's origins are what make it so amazing. Dawn of War features a lengthy campaign and a nice online mode. Online mode thankfully hasn't befallen to the "FASTEST MAP EVER" craze that has plagued online games like StarCraft, where a regular melee match up is almost impossible to find. Having a campaign editor would have been an AMAZING addition to Dawn of War, but in some regards it's probably better it's not here so the online portion of the game stays how it was intended to be.

The variety of races and depth to be found in each team is the greatest strength in Dawn of War's staying power and it will definitely give you an estimated 20 hours with the campaign, and an additional undeterminable amount of hours spent in the skirmish and online modes of the game.

Score:
Gameplay: 9
Graphics: 9
Sound: 8
Value: 8
Tilt: 10

Overall: 9.1
If your looking for a refreshing change of pace from all the cloned RTS games out there and want something really new and interesting, that doesn't rely heavily on annoying resource micromanagement (in the sense of managing harvester units) and you want to dive into fast paced battles and a meaty campaign, then Dawn of War is definitely your game. Give this game a go if you like RTS, you most likely will not regret this purchase.


Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 01/30/06


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