Dawn of War II – Review (Campaign)


I’ve finally managed to get in some good play time with the game where it wasn’t crashing because of that memory dump issue – which now appears to be fix with a very recent patch. Go get it off Steam!

I’m not 100% sure if it is fixed because I did turn two graphic settings down from High to Medium. I don’t really notice a difference in the graphics just yet so I might just leave it there for the time being.

Single Player

WARNING: This game will cause you to suffer from “just one more…” syndrome. If you found yourself playing games like X-COM, Civilizations and other games that are somewhat turn based into the early hours of the morning – you may experience that with this game. While this is not turn based, it does give you that feel for doing missions.

I found myself falling into the trap of, “Oh, just one more mission… oh cool! That opened up. I’ll just try it…”. Be warned that you cannot save in the middle of a mission,  at least I didn’t see an option for that.

I suspect they did that because the award Gamer Points (or what ever they’re called) for doing X number of missions in a row without failure. It’d be hard to preserve the integrity of that if you could save right before a tough spot and reload if you failed or started to fail.

Plot

There are some spoilers ahead.

The single player campaign takes place in the backyard of the Blood Ravens. The system where they recruit from and let their initiates run around learning the hard way in. It has come under attack by Orks and these Orks are attacking some pretty smart targets. Clearly that means they are being directed towards these targets by someone, but who?

That’s quickly revealed to be the Eldar. Wait a second, didn’t that do that sort of thing in the first Dawn of War? Yeah, they did and they are at it again. Sneaky Space Elves, always manipulating people and not explaining anything.

So the Eldar are pushing the Orks to try to take over the system. Why? Because the Tyranids are coming and the Eldar know this. The Orks’ numbers and brutal nature are likely the only thing that can delay the Tyranids long enough… but long enough for what?

I haven’t gotten far enough to spoil that for you, though there was a hint about turning the worlds into ash and one of the squad leaders noted that Tyranids don’t burn things, they consume everything, no campfires required. That means the Eldar are working on something that will torch the worlds; Caldera, Typhon and Merdian.

That’s it for the spoilers.

Squads

You start off in charge of two squads. One of them is a the Force Commander which you will name before you start. The second is a Marine Squad led by Tarkus.

Every squad tends to have a leader and the leaders are pretty vocal, except the Force Commander, because if he was, he’d probably tell the others to shut up. There was one bit of chatter about respect that seemed a little too touchy feely for my liking but I couldn’t find the ‘smack squad leaders around a little’ button to get them to stop (ESC might have skipped it).

Each squad has a level. As you level, you get skill points which you can assign to four different attributes which I’ll call Health (Green), Ranged Combat (Orange), Melee Combat (Yellow) and Mental Stuff (Purple). I think they’re actually called something like Stamina, Accuracy, Strength and Energy but don’t quote me. Leveling also opens up more wargear options and has a base increase to the squad attributes.

Each squad has a cap in each attribute, often different, for each of these attributes. As you invest in this attributes, you increase the potency of the squad in that area and you might open up a trait or ability. Putting points into Green will increase the squad Health, Orange will get you better ranged damage, yellow gets you more melee damage and Purple gets you more energy.

Abilities and traits come at different points. Traits are passive modifications while Abilities are something you have to activate. For example, putting points into Green for Tarkus will give that squad the Taunt ability (do I need to explain what Taunt does?). For others it will let them carry more accessories (a trait) or sprint for a short time (an ability).

Aside from Attributes, Traits and Abilities, squads also get Wargear. This is simply gear that you can equip to the squad leader. These come as Accessories, Weapons, Armor and Command Items. Accessories show up for the squad in the same place as Abilities, in most cases, and they can be triggered from there (things like turrets, mines, grenades, medical kits are all Accessories). Weapons impact the damage and type of damage done. There are single handed and two handed weapons available. Armor should be pretty self explanatory – it’s armor. Command Items are specific only to the Force Commander (so far).

Wargear has requirements. Some are level specific, some are limited to specific squad leaders and others require the squad leader have a specific trait available. Wargear also has a con system. There is plain white stuff, green stuff (wargear with bonuses) and blue stuff (wargear with some pretty nice bonuses). I’m not sure if it goes higher than that yet.

Wargear that you don’t want or can’t use can be recycled for XP (drag unwanted gear down to the bar at the bottom and you’ll get some XP for it).

Each squad also has a class. I have the Force Commander, Space Marines, Scout, Assault Squad (these guys rock!) and Heavy Weapons Marines. The classes appear to define what attributes go how far and what abilities they have access to (i.e. you won’t ever have the Assault Squad’s jump ability or the Scout Squad’s Infiltration ability on a regular Space Marine Squad).

All in all, the squad system in the campaign is pretty neat. Advancement requires XP and is skill based. There is some customization but also limits on it due to classes.

Missions

I’ve done a number of missions in both my attempts at the campaign (I got pretty far in then deleted my saved game thinking the issue I had was a corrupted save game – it wasn’t) and so far I’ve seen two types of missions; offensive and defensive.

Offensive missions usually have objectives you need to meet. These tend to be kill so-and-so or destroy all the enemy Webway Gates. You’re usually planted on one side of the map and your main objective is on the other side. And there is usually a lot of stuff preventing you from getting there.

Defensive missions appear to work under a certain timer where you will see a number of waves attack you. It seems they tend to come form one direction, rather than several. You also get some bonus turrets and mines you can place before (or during) the attack. You might want to swap Accessories for your squads so you can bring extra turrets, maybe extra grenades and possibly more fire power. I wouldn’t drop some of your melee squads, though. Most Defensive missions end with facing a boss.

The final objective for most missions tends to involve a boss (though sometimes it involves destroying structures). Bosses are extra tough units of a given type. They tend to have vulnerabilities which can be revealed before you take the mission on the Deployment screen. These tips, and the number that appear, depend on you having captured Communications Arrays (mentioned below). Keep an eye on these tips and adjust your squads and their load outs accordingly!

Bosses are pretty tough and require a lot of micromanaging of your squads. Pay attention to the on screen queues (markers showing up around your squads, bosses having a marker appear and it pointing at a squad, etc.) and what your squads yell out. They give you a lot of clues of what is coming. Don’t forget to make liberal use of your medical kits (I like to give it to someone that will be in the middle of everyone else so they all get healed) and you might want to save your Tarantula Bolter Turrets to be deployed here.

NOTE: In one mission I rushed to the boss and he wouldn’t appear. I’m not sure if that was due to me missing some beacons or previous objectives. I’m pretty sure there were no prior objectives. I went back and captured the beacons then went back and the boss showed up.

Each mission takes up a ‘deployment’ for that day. You start off with only one deployment per day. This can increase if your mission that day is a big success.

At the end of each mission you get a results screen that shows how Furious, Resilient and Fast you were. These rank from 1-5 and the higher your rankings the more extra XP you get. If you fill the bar you get an extra deployment for that day. If you have Foundries (mentioned below) these bar further expands based on how many Foundries you have. This makes it easier to get an extra deployment. If you have a lot of Foundries, you might even been rewarded with two extra deployments.

Deploying several times in a day is a good thing. Each day, things occur. Generally this will be the Tyranid Infestation level on each of the planets increasing, reduced by the number of Shrines you have (mentioned below) but sometimes this includes bonus missions which you have a certain number of days to do.

During missions you want to capture Beacons because you can use them to reinforce your squad (replace lost members of the squad). There are other structures you can capture if you want to take a side route. The resources are Shrines, Foundries and Arrays. You can capture one of these resources per deployments (you can capture as many beacons as you want) but you will find you get opportunities to deploy to the same location more than once – that’s a good opportunity to go get the other resource for that area. Do it!

Shrines reward you with an Accessory that lets you trigger temporary invulnerability – each shrine held appears to give you a charge of this per deployment. I believe these are also supposed to help reduce the amount of Tyranid Infestation that occurs daily.

Foundries give you the Tarantula Bolter Turret Accessory which you can plant somewhere and it will act as an automatic turret. You appear to get one per Foundry you control. (I like to save them up and use them on the bosses for missions.) These also help you earn multiple deployments in a single day – always a good thing when the Tyranid Infestation increases daily.

Communication Arrays get you an Accessory that lets you call in an air strike on a given area. Like the others, the more Arrays you hold, the more times per deployment you can do this. Also, these appear to give you access to tips on what to expect in the mission, like Boss vulnerabilities or recommending you pick fast moving squads for the mission.

As if there wasn’t enough things to advance or measuring your success in Campaign Mode, there is one more measurement. At the top of the main screen (where you pick squads, adjust load outs and pick planets/missions), is a title. The title changes as you advance through the Campaign. It also tracks a bunch of other things like kills and which races you’ve killed. Nifty, but it doesn’t seem to have any impact on the game.

Combat

Combat is pretty straight forward. You’ve got melee and ranged combat. Each has its own rating per squad which is impacted by their skill with that weapon class (melee/ranged) and the weapons in use as well.

On top of the typical autoattack are some special abilities like Focus Fire, Rocket Jump, Charge and so on. Each of these abilities are native to a given class type or by training. This doesn’t differ much from the first DoW, however, you do not get to load up all members of the squad with certain weapons. You do get to load out the squad leader though.

Reinforcing a squad works differently too since you don’t build a squad at a building and just add more people to it like in DoW. In DoW2, you pick up squads as you go through various missions. Don’t worry, you won’t miss any. Squads do have numbers of members which can die off. If you lose a squad member, you will need to head to a controlled point and hang out to reinforce your squad. Missing members sort of beam down to you (not really).

These controlled points are Beacons or Resources you’ve captured or your starting point. I believe the tutorial suggests only the Beacons, but you can reinforce squads at the starting point or capture resource areas!

If your squad completely dies off, you lose all members and the squad leader lies down where they last were. You have to send another squad over to pick up the fallen member. When they revive, they’re alone and pretty low so you should probably secure the area before reviving them.

If you lose all your squads the mission fails and you’re returned to the orbiting space cruiser. I haven’t had this happen to me yet so I’m not sure what happens when you fail a mission.

Like in DoW, cover plays a pretty big role in keeping your squads alive. It’s really important! They’ve given you indicators to let you see where your men will be placed and set up their facing. The color of the indicator tells you how much cover they have; white is no cover, yellow is some cover and green is good cover. Some cover can be destroyed – including buildings, which you can have squads enter.

Squads without cover are more prone to become suppressed. Suppressed squads will drop to their bellies and crawl about slowly. They’re at a huge disadvantage at this point so you’ll want to get them out of there or bail them out by taking out the enemy squad that is suppressing them. You can get them out by selecting one of the commands for the squad – its the yellow one all the way to the right (I think it’s called “Fall back!”). This button will make the survivors of your squad get up and run away as fast as they can. They can still be killed, but they’re more likely to get out of the line of fire before they do. They will run back to the nearest beacon or the starting location (I don’t use it so I’m not sure). Some squads, like the Space Marine squad, gets an ability that lets them shrug off being suppressed so they can move to more cover at a slower rate. There are also items that help reduce the chance of becoming suppressed. There are also abilities that cause suppression.

I think that about covers it for combat – at least as far as I have gone.

Some of these mechanics will be familiar to those who have played Company of Heroes that should come as no surprise!

I did manage to try a Multiplayer Game against the CPU controlled opponent but only one. The mechanics change quite a bit, but I’ll post about that another time.

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