Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War II - Retribution - game review

Author: Adrian Werner
Date: 2011-03-10 14:01:00
The review was based on the PC version.

The Warhammer 40,000 universe, created for the needs of the miniatures battle game by British Games Workshop, has been entertaining us for twenty-four years, and nineteen springs have passed since it first appeared on computer screens in Space Crusade . During this long time, we have had many titles based on this license, but - although they could not complain about the lack of popularity - Dawn of War , released in 2004, turned out to be a real hit. The second part introduced drastic changes, which - although in line with the spirit of the license - did not quite appeal to the fans of the first edition. The Canadians from Relic Entertainment, however, consistently developed their vision and now we probably have the last expansion pack for Dawn of War II .

Retribution begins ten years after the events of Chaos Rising . Defeating the Black Legion and the demon Ulkair did not end the fighting. The Aurelia sector is still regularly attacked by the Tyranids, plundered by the Orcs and devastated by internal conflict within the Blood Ravens. The Eldar, led to this part of the galaxy by rumors of a world ship lost centuries ago, are also involved in all of this. As a result, for the last decade, the soil of the surrounding planets was soaked daily with the blood of the fallen. The situation was supposed to be calmed down by the arrival of numerous Imperial Guard troops, but their progress was slow and success rare. Eventually, the Empire lost its patience and began to prepare for the Exterminatus, the final solution that would burn all life on all of Aurelia's planets. It will drown everyone in a sea of fire - both heretics and alien races as well as innocent individuals who were unlucky enough to inhabit this corner of the universe. A race against time begins. The only thing that can convince the Inquisition to give up its plans for mass extermination is to stop the Chaos-tainted Grand Master Kyras.

The biggest novelty introduced by the add-on is, of course, the presence of a new faction in the form of the Imperial Guard. While the Space Marines are called the Emperor's Fist and are a kind of elite special forces, the Guards are called the Hammer because they are the core of humanity's armies. They do not have any superpowers and they lose their lives extremely easily, but they make up for the weakness of individual soldiers with numbers. As a result, playing with this army is significantly different from the experience of commanding the rest. Dawn of War II got us used to taking care of individual characters. Each of them was so valuable that when it fell we had the impression (rightly so) that we made some serious mistakes in the game. The Imperial Guardsmen are completely different. In the Warhammer world they die by the millions, and so is Retribution. By choosing this faction, we take control of the fanatics, who are happy to be torn apart by all the monstrosities living in this dark universe. And we, as their generals, smile and let them do so, knowing full well that we can easily replace them with more reinforcements. While managing other armies, we take care of the least possible losses, while controlling the Guardians, we sacrifice their lives every now and then to implement our own plans.

The gameplay structure itself has not changed much. It's still a small-scale tactical RTS with strong RPG elements. Again, the use of field covers and special abilities of characters play a huge role. After completing each level, we get the opportunity to buy new units and develop the existing ones. In Retribution, the experience system has been given a favorable facelift. The previous editions forced you to invest your points from time to time without immediate profits. Simply put, to get to the desired character enhancements, we first had to purchase an empty space on the development track. In RTS it was simply annoying and the developers rightly decided to do something about it. As a result, now spending each point earns you a new skill. Another novelty is the appearance of buildings on the maps, allowing you to summon new troops. This is not a typical base management (Relic made it clear that there is no room for it in this game), but only a way to strengthen your own armies. The aim of the authors was to extend the fun and this solution works well.

The authors have prepared a total of sixteen missions, six of which are optional, although without them we will not be able to develop our army to the maximum. The previous two chapters of Dawn of War II were the stories of the Order of the Bloodcrows. Retribution, on the other hand, allows you to play the campaign with each of the six available races. So there are Eldar, Tyranids, Orcs, Space Marines, Chaos, and the Imperial Guard. Whichever army we lead, we'll get the same missions. Of course, the dialogue lines have been adjusted and the cutscenes have been slightly reworked, but in fact, these are the same levels. This creates some plot problems. The specter of the impending Exterminatus gives everyone a strong motivation to act, but the lack of differentiation between missions depending on the race sometimes leads to hard-to-explain clashes within one faction. Despite these complaints, playing the game is a lot of fun, which, combined with the fact that the sides of the conflict are very different, makes it a pleasure to revisit the same maps. Only real fans of the series will decide to complete the whole story six times, but also ordinary players will not get bored with the single player mode until they complete it at least two or even three times.

Unfortunately, the campaign lacks consistency in Chaos Rising. By playing the previous expansion, I was more involved with the events on the screen. Of course, it wasn't a fictional masterpiece, but the whole story was told better, and the idea of finding a traitor in your own ranks worked perfectly. The introduction of as many as six races to the solo mode prevented the authors of Retribution from developing the plot and mission planning as carefully as in the previous expansion. There is also a lack of comparably interesting heroes. Instead, greed has been made the player's motivation. The game offers a tremendous amount of interesting powers, deadly weapons and powerful items, making us want more and more all the time. All this, combined with the fact that there are as many as six sides to the conflict, creates a massive game and although Chaos Rising is still the top achievement of the cycle in terms of single mode, the Retribution campaign is nothing to be ashamed of and is definitely a strong point of the expansion.

Apart from the new units, little has changed in multiplayer skirmishes. Before the match, we choose the army, one of the three available heroes, the map and modify the rules of the game. If we are competing with the computer or starting the game ourselves, we can choose whether its goal will be to fight for points (Control mode) or to destroy the opponent's base (Annihilation). However, after using the matchmaking option, the battlefield is selected randomly and we always play Control. The cooperative mode of Last Line of Defense has also been expanded, where players work together to repel waves of enemies. Retribution adds a hero in the form of the General of the Guards and one new map, which is clearly more difficult than the previous one.

The biggest change apart from the Imperial Guard is the abandonment of the hated Games for Windows Live service to Steamworks. Relic risked quite a bit of this move. After all, fans over the last two years have got used to Microsoft's solutions. However, the truth is that it was definitely a good decision. The system developed by Valve is more stable and definitely more popular, and the latter makes it easier to create an active community. Searching for partners for the game works efficiently and can choose rivals with a similar level of skills. One can only fault the fact that the process often takes a little too long. However, praise should be given for providing the option to import online statistics from Dawn of War II and Chaos Rising , thanks to which you should not regret abandoning GFWL.