Review by Sir Garland
"The 40,000th "solid" RTS released this year..."
Real Time Strategy and Turn-Based Strategy have long been possibly my two favorite genres. Unfortunately, due to the recent barrage of "decent" strategy games I find myself looking for RPGs instead, or even action games. Those two genres usually have something new and interesting in them, at least. Something that makes them really unique - Nippon Ichi's series of games where you can reach level 9999 and dramatically improve your weapons and armor, the newish Castlevania action/rpg where you have a bunch of familiars and can create weapons from material dropped by fallen enemies, Star Ocean 3's interesting 3d combat field... But the RTS and TBS genres just seem to be the same old thing dressed up in increasingly shinier and graphically improved clothes. This is not to say that only certain death awaits the strategy genres - Age of Empires III had a very interesting experience system and Rise of Nations was so different in its resource gathering that it was a really fresh experience.
Sadly, Warhammer 40K: Dawn of War is neither terribly innovative nor really very interesting. The basic concepts in the game is from some other game made a long time ago. I definitely understand the need to re-use old ideas (if it ain't broke, don't fix it), but it would be really great if they would, y'know, add important game concepts once in a while.
Here's how the basic gameplay works - You pick one of four races. You have a HQ building that trains workers (a concept that is at the very least 12 years old, found in the original Warcraft: Orcs and Humans), make your builders construct Listening Posts on captured strategic points to generate a constant flow of requisition (8 years old, StarCraft), build power generators that create a constant supply of power (9 years old, Total Annihilation), figure out what kind of units your enemy is building and use your requisition and power to build specific units to counter those units (11 years old, Command & Conquer), and climb the tech tree to unlock more powerful units (12 years old, Warcraft). This game also uses a "totally new and innovative" resource model. A resource model that was totally new and innovative in Steel Soldiers, which was released five years ago.
It's not that any of these features are bad, they're just... getting a bit old. If they changed more of the fundamentals of the basic RTS then maybe it really would be a really fun and interesting game, but it's basically just more of the same.
There is are two features that I think deserves some credit, however. Instead of building three squads of infantry and two squads of rocket troops, you build four squads of infantry and upgrade one of them to rocket launchers after it is built. It's not enough to make this an entirely new experience, but it really does improve the experience. For some reason the upgrade/build que for every unit and structure only has six spaces, but you can just right click on the "reinforce" button to handle reinforcements automatically and assign heavy weapons manually.
Reinforce? What's that? Build stuff on the other side of the map and wait half an hour for them to get to where they need to be? Not here! You have to train squads from your barracks-type building, but once a squad is on the field you can increase it's number of troops by reinforcing them - you click on the button, pay some money, wait a short bit, and another soldier pops out in the middle of your squad. This may not sound like it but it is really handy - in most RTS games you have a big battle and you usually have a clear winner, who goes on to destroy the enemy base. Because of the inclusion of a morale system (units suck at fighting when their morale gets too low due to being shot in the face or set on fire or whatever), it is often in your best interest to retreat and regroup. The thing is, your squad will be able to rebuild itself and regain it's morale while the enemy who is beating your main army will be wounded - you can then return in full force. It isn't a huge feature but it really is a cool little feature.
But what about the campaign? Sadly, more of the same. Well, there is one major difference - instead of having separate campaigns for each faction, the single campaign in this game puts you in control of the Space Marines through the whole thing. The campaign can't even compare to ten year old games like Command & Conquer or Warcraft! Probably about half the missions in the campaign go something like this - The enemy is over there. You build whatever troops you want and tell them to move over where your objective is. They get halfway there and die. Make another squad and send them. They make it, you win! The other half of the campaign missions require you to build a couple of defense turrets at the one place the abysmal AI always attacks your base from and then just send wave after wave of troops in the direction of your mission objective. The campaign requires some patience and basically no skill or strategizing at all.
In summary - This game is... Solid. Not extraordinary, but definitely not something to shy away from if you somehow need -another- standard RTS to play.
Reviewer's Rating: 3.5 - Good
Originally Posted: 03/06/06, Updated 03/07/06
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