14 Reviews

Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War II

Burning the RTS rulebook

Dawn of War II is a very different game to the original. Gone are the base building and resource gathering conventions of RTS past, and in their place is a Company of Heroes-style cover system, endlessly-detailed RPG stats and a unit count that barely grows into double figures. It's a bold change, but is it one for the better?

In the single-player game you lead the Empire's Space Marines as commander as they defend their home world in a non-linear battle across three worlds against Orks, the Eldar and - new for the sequel - the bug-like Tyranids.

In a drastic shift to the small-scale unit-count, you'll control at most four squads (with six to choose from), each with their own unique abilities and strengths. That's right - no resource management, no base building and no endlessly pumping out soldiers and sending them into the grinder. Just your laser gun and chainsword-toting band of brothers.


Securing capture points and killing key enemies is still the order of the day, but overall it's a more personal, character-based take on Relic's RTS formula, where how you manage your infrastructure is succeeded by how you manage your units and their combat abilities - more like an action/strategy game.

Your cronies consist of Avitus and his Devastator marine squad, carrying big guns and perfect for leading any assault. Cyrus and his sniper-ready scout squad are ready to cloak into stealth mode and sneak behind enemy lines, while a jumpjet-enabled Assault squad, grenade-toting tactical marines and you, the hard as nuts commander make up the rest of the troop.

Micromanaging your small band of heroes - who automatically hold bundles more character than Dawn of War 1's faceless marines - and putting them in the right places is vital to succeeding. The bulky Devastator squad for example is useful for barricading in buildings and laying down devastating suppressing fire, while scouts stealth ahead to demo-charge any enemy blockades unharmed and the near-invincible commander jumps in head-first with his chainsword to attract all the damage.

At its height this is a satisfying and certainly more strategic experience than the first game. You can of course approach missions with the traditional run and gun Command & Conquer approach - and you'll probably win eventually - but 'select all, kill' doesn't work anywhere near as effectively as being clever about your skirmishes. Part of the reason for this is the cover system, which works and feels similar to Relic's previous hit, Company of Heroes.


Moving your mouse pointer behind a barricade or wall will display a selection of coloured dots depending on how sufficient the protection is. Green dots mean heavy cover, yellow shows medium protection and white indicates none at all. It's not flawless; often on-screen cover menu item won't assign protection to the entire squad, and you'll have one man standing on his own by the side of a wall like a lemon, but most of the time it works well.

Multiplayer aficionados will of course ignore single-player altogether, but even that's had its fair share of changes.

Resources are back, working in exactly the same fashion as Company of Heroes with captured power nodes and others bringing in the goods. Base building has also returned but at its most barebones, i.e. there is a base and you can train blokes in it.

This leaves the focus once again squarely on combat, which makes for a much faster-paced, visually-spectacular but ultimately, short lived experience compared to the first game.

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