But Dawn Of War II can’t really decide if it wants to be a serious, resource-gathering RTS game, or a point and click roleplaying game, and Relic Entertainment has dipped into the style bag of both genres in bringing the latest game based around Games Workshop’s perennially popular Warhammer 40K franchise to market.
It uses concepts such as loot dropped on the field of battle - both temporal health and ammo replenishments as well as more permanent armour and weapon stats upgrades - with only scant regard paid to resource gathering or point capture. It could have made for a distinctly unimpressive game, but Dawn Of War II pulls it off, if you’re a fan of the source material. Space Marines are gruff, Tyranids are scary, and Orks are just plain awesome. We won’t hear otherwise.
The game feels properly dropped into the Warhammer universe, with Marines loyal to Emperor unto death, Orks with plenty of groan-worthy lines, and lots of in-battle death. This might be a small squad strategy title, but the body count is impressive. About the only thing off-chord is the fact that your squad leaders have a bit too much personality. Like every other miniature we’ve ever toppled over, they’re meant to be grunts, not extras on Days Of Our Lives. The character-heavy nature does play into Dawn Of War II’s biggest tip o’ the hat towards RPG status, however. Your squad leaders gain experience, stats and armament upgrades as you play through.
Dawn Of War II’s strategy is distinctly light - in the single player campaign it’s certainly possible to romp through the first few missions essentially just spamming the Stimulant pack healing abilities of one of your squad leaders and blasting at anything that doesn’t look much like you.
That strategy-light approach rears its orkish head in multiplayer battles as well. Because there’s no base building or much in the way of resource management beyond timing your squad leader’s special abilities, Dawn Of War II is less Real Time Strategy and more Real Time All Out Combat. Somehow, we doubt that RTAOC is going to take off as an acronym, but it’s arguably a good representation of how actual Warhammer 40K battles are meant to take place. That being said, its also one of the game’s biggest drawbacks. It’s initially a lot of fun, especially for genre fans, but it’s so light in application that it’s not a title you’re likely to return to for any great length of time.