"There is no such thing as innocence, only degrees of guilt."

Written December 19th, 2004

Most people know about the games Warhammer and Warhammer 40,000. Table-top games involving a lot of miniatures, with two gigantic armies clashing. Eventually, someone said “hey, why don't we make a video game out of that?” After a few failures, Relic Entertainment (the makers of Homeworld) attempted to make a real time strategy game. And they succeeded. Although, at the moment, it's not quite as popular as Starcraft and Warcraft III (currently the two most popular real time strategy games for the PC), I anticipate that this will change shortly.

Gameplay — 9/10
Controls — 8/10
Fun Factor — 10/10
Multiplayer — 10/10
Singleplayer — 7/10

If your philosophy on video games is “I don't care what it looks or sounds like, as long as it's fun, I'm happy”, then you'll have no problems with this game. There are four races, or armies in this game. Space Marines, genetically enhanced humans with bold technology. Orks, stupid but strong aliens that throw masses and masses against the enemy. Chaos, Space Marines with demonic cults and spells And Eldar, physically weak but geniuses with the most advanced technology in the universe. Each race is completely different, too -- the Space Marines are well balanced, the Orks outnumber the enemy, the Chaos have less armor and weaker guns, but make up for it with magic spells and abilities, and the Eldar are speedy, tricky and can outsmart the enemy. Don't mistake this for Warcraft III -- dominating this game is not about slaughtering your enemy. It's about using strategy. You will get no where by throwing out a more powerful army.

It's not like Warcraft III where you will build one unit and then he will run around and fight. Units are built in squads -- usually starting in groups of four or five, but can be upgraded to 10 units. You can give them plasma rifles or rocket launchers, too, and there'll be a sergeant with special abilities such as rallying the squad if their morale breaks, or having a special energy sword that's better at cutting through armor. Because units are controlled by squads and not individually, it is more important to have better squads than it is to control them in battle (don't get me wrong -- that's important too, it's just less important). The game is geared around two resources -- requisition and power. Power can be earned simply by building power generators in your base. But, requisition is earned by controlling strategic points on the map. Meaning that by holding the entire map, you will have plenty of cash, but by sitting on your ass and waiting for a fight, you'll be short. Imagine a player where his army is destroyed every time it clashes with the enemy, but wins in the end by spreading out and capturing all of the strategic points on the map, and choking the enemy to death. Or, imagine an Ork player with thousands of soldiers and spreads them out so that the enemy cannot take any strategic points. It is these gameplay elements that molds Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War into such an excellent game.

Unfortunately, Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War is built for multiplayer. The singleplayer campaign was an afterthought. While buying the game just for the singleplayer isn't crazy, the multiplayer is just more fun. The campaign features 11 missions, each about 30 minutes long. You only play as Space Marines, but you also control a few Imperial Guard units (see the Story section). You'll face Orks, Eldar and Chaos in the campaign about equally, though, and you are taught how to play and each of the units for the Space Marines, so it's not bad. It's above average, not great, but good. However, the multiplayer is insanely fun. You can play against AI controlled armies, or play with your friends online or on a LAN. There's no way to describe it other than saying it's awesome. Non-stop fun. The controls take awhile to get used to, but they're fine. There's hotkeys, which means you can activate a special ability or command with just one button, but they're kinda hard to remember. Rather, I find it easy to just remember the most important ones and play with lots of clicks and buttons. Oh, by the way, this game is easily moddable, so you'll see many, many, many new features as time goes by.

Graphics — 10/10
Animations — 10/10
Visuals — 10/10

If you haven't already, watch the trailer for this game. Look at a few screenshots. The eye candy that this game feeds you is magnificent. At any time, you can look around and you'll see characters looking around, managing their equipment, crouching down. It actually feels like you're in a world, and not just a level. Every single piece of the game is doing something at all times, whether it be defense turrets scanning the area or sorcerers looking into the future. During a battle, you'll see each and every unit doing something different. Eldar ninjas doing kung fu, soldiers impaling each other with chainsaws, or even a giant demon drinking a dead man's blood. It's all fantastic. The graphics are easily the game's strongest point. But I can't even scratch the level of detail.

Units interact with their terrain. You'll see rocket craters and units ducking down behind trees. You'll see an Ork stabbing a marine in the back. You'll see men trying to avoid dirt and shrapnel being thrown everywhere. You'll see a commander hop on top of a demon and smash his skull in with a hammer. You'll see Orks running away while on fire and screaming while flailing their arms. You'll see androids fall apart after being hit by missiles. You'll have hundreds of units on the screen at a time, with thousands of bullets and rockets flying around. While the game is violent, the physics are realistic. In a sentence, the graphics are absolutely amazing. You're also able to customize your own armies, so it's possible that there could be an Eldar free-for-all match, but every army will reflect the players.

Audio — 8/10
Music — 8/10
Sounds — 9/10
Voice Acting — 6/10

It's okay. Nothing fantastic. The soundtrack is decent, and the battle sounds are extremely well done, but the voice acting is below average. The Orks sound funny with their ghetto accent, but sometimes, you can tell that the voice actors didn't put any effort into it. The main Chaos and Space Marine characters slur their voice to sound like they're nobles or something, but it just ends up sounding corny. For example, when one of the villains, a Chaos Lord named Bale, says “unpredictable aliens”, he sort of makes a hard “k” sound which makes him sound weird. However, it's not game-ruining. And it's certainly not like Resident Evil; Space Marines do NOT almost become Jill sandwiches.

The music is kind of classical and light rock -- not really memorable, but it fits the mood. I mean, it's not like you'll hear Twinkle Twinkle Little Star while demons are tearing the heads off of Eldar. If you're retreating from a lost battle and over half of your men are dead, you'll hear this failure-type music. What's there to say about the other sounds? There's nothing awkward, everything is in place and all. If a gun is shot, it sounds like a gun shot. If there is a sword clash, it sounds like swords clashing.

Story — 7/10
Plot — 7/10
Presentation — 8/10

While the plot is decent when you take into consideration that the singleplayer campaign involves are four races, it's only average in the long run. It takes the basic Warhammer 40,000 background. The year is 40,000, and there are several powers struggling for absolute control. In the end, it can be summed up into two groups: the “good” side, the Imperial Space Marines and the Eldar, and the “evil” side, the Orks (while they aren't particularly evil, they'll invade planets for the sole purpose of having a good battle -- they are vicious) and the Chaos Space Marines. The actual table-top game has six more races, however. The Eldar once ruled the universe, but in their quest to amplify their pleasure, they created an evil god. This god, Slaanesh, tempted half of the humans, until they split into two sides: the Space Marines, the forces who still serve their Emperor, and the Chaos Space Marines, cults and heretics devoted to pleasing the demon gods of Chaos.

The actual game takes place on a planet called Tartarus. A branch of the Space Marines, the Blood Ravens, led by the force commander Angelos Gabriel, are called to assist the Imperial Guard (humans with advanced technology -- they outnumber the Space Marines, but have less equipment; you can use a few of their units, but are not playable otherwise). Tartarus was invaded by the Orks, in their want for a good fight with the Space Marines. As I said before, you face the other three playable races in the singleplayer. You must stop the Orks from overrunning the planet, the Eldar become hostile over a misunderstanding, and the Chaos are working behind the scenes to uncover something hidden. The story is presented nicely -- not too fast, not too slow -- the actual plot is pretty average.

Final Score — 9/10
If you've played games like Starcraft or Warcraft III before, and you know that you're sure you love real time strategy games, buy Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War. If the genre of video games is new to you, I would suggest that you download the demo first and give it a try. But, the bottom line is that it's a fantastic game that is amazingly fun. It's the best real time strategy game ever -- you do not want to miss out on it!

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 12/20/04

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