Good, but not as revolutionary as DOW
If I had to name one developer to be inducted into a Hall of Fame, it would be Relic Entertainment from Canada. One look down the list of their games is a look into the evolution of RTS’s. Homeworld brought controlling units in full 3d, Dawn of War brought in cover and capturing control points and Company of Heroes introduced full cover and intelligent troops. So what does Dawn of War 2 bring to the table as where RTSes are heading?
DOW 2’s big idea is no base building. None at all. Occasionally you place a turret or a remote mine and that's it. No elaborate defence works or spamming of factories. This does totally change the games pacing as all the focus is on the frontline rather than planning an economy. The other main idea is to have two totally different modes. In singleplayer, the game is closer to the RPG missions in Warcraft 3. The campaign (from the Space Marines perspective) limits you to 4 units at a time (out of 6) and loads them up with a case full of abilities and alternative wargear. In fact, the singleplayer is more action RPG than RTS. Even the wargear is colour coded WoW style. To make it even better the entire thing can be played in co op. The mission structure is much superior to DOW’s or COH’s but isn’t quite as nonlinear as it first appears. In the actual missions themselves, the gameplay is so small scale. Using only four units means you have to use them all together in a combined arms setup. Your sniper eliminates the leader, the devastators open up on the infantry, your tactical squad lays down cover as the assault marines and your force commander jump in to finish them off. The thrill of doing this is brilliant.
But there is one flaw. The missions are either kill a leader, kill a leader, defend a satellite dish, kill a leader, kill a leader, get some plot exposition and then kill a leader. Can anyone see a flaw in this? Its so bloody repetitive. After a while, the player has no desire to play several missions after each other and so you get bored of the campaign and then DOW 2 disappears into obscurity. In multiplayer, out goes the unit limit. Instead of close quarters cleverly planned battles, incomes large units our to capture the resources including Victory Points like in COH. Marines, Orks, Eldar and Tyranids are all available with a number of units available for each side. It functions and works well. But its soulless compared to multiplayer in past games or even the singleplayer. Once again Games for Windows Live rears its head and it actually works quite well this time, much better than in the beta apart from trying to connect for co op. Additionally the achievements seem to be a good mix of easy and WTF.
Graphics wise, its easy to see that the COH engine has been improved for this. Humans have a more realistic set of animation, whilst the ‘nids look like a swarm of reptiles when they move. The close combat has the over the top look of DOW 1 with sync kills featuring orks propelling themselves into the air by firing a pistol repeatedly downwards. Similarly, the ranged combat is brutal with the heavy weapon teams literally ripping through opponents (yes rip cages are exposed). Its a load of fun to just beat dudes up despite its repetition. The sound is also pretty sharp. Weapons sound punchy, with bolter fire sounding better than in any other game. Another element that sounds good is the voices of the squad leaders. Relic have managed to find a set of voice actors that can do RTS voices really well. They all match up with their characters attitudes well and also sound good when shouted over the din of battle. Of particular note is the voice of Cyrus, the scout leader, who also voiced the American announcer from COH. He comes out with some classic lines and a lot of the mystery moments come from him.
Dawn of War 2 is a good game. It has some flaws but as an overall product it is very enjoyable. But unlike the other Relic it lacks a certain something that makes the entire package brilliant. However, it does capture the Warhammer 40,000 universe perfectly and the singleplayer is enjoyable enough to make up for the multiplayer.
To conclude I give Warhammer 40,000 Dawn of War 2 82% and I recommend everyone to at least try it.