Waaaaagh!!

Relic Entertainment recently released the beta of Dawn Of War 2, the wildly anticipated sequel to Dawn of War to those who purchased the Soulstorm expansion. As a huge fan of the original game, it’s expansions and recently Warhammer 40000 in general, how could I not check it out ? If you’re keen to check it out yourself but don’t own Soulstorm, don’t worry: Relic intends to open up the beta to everyone on the 28th of January.

One thing that I’ve been asking myself ever since Relic announced DOW 2 is how much of the original DOW-style gameplay would remain and how much of Company Of Heroes (Relic’s other hit franchise) would seep in. Well, quite a lot as it turns out. The traditional DOW gameplay is largely gone. The days of charging across the battlefield with a hundred heavily armed and armoured space marines backed by a small army of dreadnoughts and landspeeders are over. DOW2 puts a lot more emphasis on small squads of well specialised soldiers, even more so than COH did. You also have more options for squad customisation. Base building is (mostly) gone. Occasionally you’ll get to deploy a turret or a rally point but that’s about it. You have one central stronghold that produces all units, researches all technologies and if you lose it, it’s game over. The Tyrannids, DOW2’s new race, are really cool and bizarre. They’re very Zerg like (although technically Blizzard copied Warhammer and not the other way around). They utilise burrowing techniques, sneak attacks, poison and psychic powers and have some very nasty advanced units.

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Graphically the game is stunning. The Essence 2.0 engine is a marvel, the terrain looks great and the detail on the units is even higher than in Company Of Heroes. The physics system is still there, making sure that debris flies around realistically. The unit animations, the much lauded feature of the original Dawn Of War still look great with added detail and better movements. The sound departement has also been well catered too. Unit sounds are great, the explosions sound realistic. The heavy bolter guns sound a bit like German MG42’s, but you can hardly blame Relic for that now can you ?

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Despite all these changes, it still feels like a really solid game. Relic seems to have merged the gameplay of DOW with COH while staying faithful to the Warhammer 40000 universe. The multiplayer options will please a lot of people and I personally can’t wait for the full singleplayer campaign, which seems to carry on from Dark Crusade with captain Davian Thule, scarred by the Necron Lord of Kronus, in a central role. I’m a bit miffed that neither the Tau or Chaos Space Marines make an appearance, but if I know Relic, they already have several expansions in the pipeline.

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If you loved Dawn Of War, Company of Heroes or you’re a Warhammer fanatic, you owe it to yourself to check this beta out. It features online play as well as skirmish against AI’s on 2 and 6 player maps. As I mentioned, Soulstorm owners can get it now (through Steam), others will have to wait until the 28th while the full game should be out on PC on February 19 (North America) and February 20 (EU)

The Waaaaagh!! is coming people, don’t miss it.