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Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War - Game of the Year (Windows)

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100 point score based on reviews from various critics.
4.1
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Written by  :  Viktor Kovacs (15)
Written on  :  May 10, 2006
Rating  :  4.71 Stars4.71 Stars4.71 Stars4.71 Stars4.71 Stars

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Summary

Spiritual successor to Starcraft

The Good

Warhammer 40k: Dawn of War is a breath of fresh air to the RTS community. It sports various strong points like the squad system and weapon upgrades. To veteran RTS players like myself I found something I've always wanted but never had in an RTS: focus on infantry combat. In other RTS games (C&C for example) infantry is only useful in the first 10 or 15 minutes of a battle, once the tanks start rolling infantry soon become cannon fodder for the most part. In DOW, however, vehicles are expensive and take long to build and you aren't able to have very many, but they're worth every penny when the metal meets the meat. This means that the bulk of your forces will be infantry, and a lot of 'em. In DOW you build squads, not individual men. After a squad is built you have various options on how to upgrade them (adding heavier weapons, a squad leader and additional men). Once the fighting starts it's not just a "whoever has more men, wins" scenario. DOW has the cover system, when your men are behind cover (craters, trees, shrubs) your men take damage far slower and do more damage to the enemy in return. So theoretically a squad of men taking cover in a crater can hold their own against overwhelming odds. There are three different kinds of cover: light, heavy and negative. Negative cover does the opposite to your men and in addition it slows them down. These are places like thick growth that bogs your men down or a hill with no cover that leaves your men exposed. Then of course, there are the little things. When men are trained and vehicles are built, they don't just magically come out of a building that seemingly has an infinite maximum occupancy. For the space marines, for example, the barracks has a landing pad and when you choose to train a new squad a pod will come down and drop them off. Same goes for buildings, they're dropped in from space, retro rockets firing, and your builder prepares the building. In combat, your men can get blown several feet by an explosion, pick themselves up, get their bearings and rejoin the fray. Certain vehicles can pick up men with there mechanical hands, smash them into the ground and fling them away like so much garbage. Couple this with the fact that dead bodies don't disappear or rot away, the option to make your army ANY color you want (why would soldiers wear big red armor in the forest?) and more weapons than you can shake your warhammer at, you got yourself one heck of a game. Finally there are the super weapons. Now these aren't the Ion Cannons, SCUD Storms, Cluster Missiles and Nukes of yesteryear. In DOW, super weapons come in the form of a single super unit. These units range in form, from war gods reincarnate to giant demons to what can only be described as a giant war elephant. The one that really drops your jaw is the awesome Banesblade tank of the Imperial Guard (Winter Assault expansion pack), sporting 11 barrels of death ranging from machine guns to lasers to a giant cannon on the turret.

The Bad

The game touts its morale system as innovative and an awesome element of battle. However it can become nothing more than a frustration at times. When a squad loses morale it essentially becomes combat ineffective, it does almost no damage. Now this does, however, add an interesting element to combat really putting the "strategy" into real time strategy. The only problem is it can really go overboard sometimes, like when a squad COULD easily win a skirmish IF it didn't lose it morale. Some people could find this appealing, others might not. Another thing is the pace of the game. Now I've been playing RTS games since their conception and this seems the evolution of the real time strategy game. However, more old fashion gamers like me might find this game too fast paced. Resources, or requisition, are gathered by capturing "strategic points" around the map. So if you were to hang back in your base and gather your forces, your opponent will capture the whole map and will gather resources much faster thus building an army much larger leading to your defeat. Again this may not be a bad thing, newer players don't seem to mind the fast pace. In my case, I tend to fortify my base, gather forces, send air strikes and small infantry strikes via helicopter/drop ship, then send in the main force. That way battles can potentially last hours equaling hours of fun. In DOW, even with 8 players, from the time I built my first squad to mopping up the remnant of my final opponent, the battle has rarely lasted over 30 minutes. Which brings me to there air units. There aren't any. This is yet another thing that might not be considered bad. Between all the different infantry types and trying to control the vehicles to support them, perhaps air units would be less than necessary, or perhaps not.

The Bottom Line

There is a good reason this was RTS of the year. It feels like this is what Starcraft 2 would've been had been made. It indeed does have several new and innovative features that it boasts. In the absolute worst case scenario you won't be able to put this game down for a couple weeks. After that, it depends on whether you're the kind of gamer who enjoys fast paced, gigantic infantry battles, or the kind that likes long drawn out battles with huge variations of units from all vectors. Me, I still pick it up every once in a while if I'm in the mood for a quick combat scenario, but if I want my long struggle to reach the top I stick to Command and Conquer: Generals: Zero Hour which, in my eyes, is still the king of the RTS mountain.