" ...While there's little new or unique for the genre, it is a solid example of doing the standard right... "
Title: Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War by THQ
Format: PC Real Time Strategy
Reviewing Monkey: Mojo Jojo
The Hype: For those of you who cross the line between video and table top gaming, you already know that Warhammer 40,000 is the most played strategy game in the hobby industry. For those of you who don't, Warhammer basically takes the work of Tolkien (The Lord of the Rings) and puts them in a space opera. But whether you've heard of the table top game or not, one thing that just about everyone knows is that the history for video games made from this franchise is dire at best. Featuring games that range from "OK" to "Craptastic Piles of Dung", it has been a long time since any reputable reviewer recommended that someone pick up a Warhammer video game. THQ hopes to change that history with their new real time strategy game, but is over a decade of disappointment too much to overcome? Read on, my monkeys, and find out.
What This Monkey Thought...
Graphics: We have a lot of catch phrases that we use to describe games around here. "Lush", "Vibrant", and "Brilliant", are all frequent refrains in our write-ups. So, you can understand that I'm a little hesitant to jump into the same old diatribe when we find something very unique. In the case of Dawn of War (DoW) it's worth noting that the first time I laid eyes on it I thought it was a first person shooter. It was at an E3 demo and the totally versatile 3D camera was rolled all the way in to witness a conflict and it, seriously, looked like respectable fps graphics. That quality is reflected all the way through the game, with units, landscapes, buildings, and vehicles all gorgeous and full of life. But just in case that's not enough for you, Dawn of War also includes some of the best "scripted combat" I've ever seen. That means that each time your units engage another unit they will enter into several cut-scene-esque combat animations that look more like two units fighting than two units simply making random and effectless attacks at each other. It's quite impressive and is definitely the most fun I've ever had watching a rts. 5 out of 5
Playability: At its heart Dawn of War
follows a very familiar formula for a resource mining, tech tree researching,
mass army developing strategy game. At one point probably accurately referred
to as "Starcraft 2" during a LAN session by one of the monkeys, gameplay-wise
DoW does fairly little to enhance the genre from what's already been done dozens
of times already. You begin with a home base and a building drone, you must
then gather resources and build as fast as possible, so that you can assault
your enemy's disjointed horde with your disjointed hoard. Sadly, though a few
intriguing enhancements exist: such as being able to actively reinforce a unit
just by clicking on it and customizing units post development, in the majority
the skeleton of the action remains stolidly the same. It still lacks the unit
formation or precision controls that have been missing from these games since
1983, it still has major object relation issues, and it still suffers from many
of the seemingly insurmountable annoyances the genre always has, including:
bad path finding, poor unit behavior, inexplicable response bugs, and an adversarial
AI that jumps from way too easy to impossibly hard.
That said, playing Dawn of War is remarkably entertaining. Though it doesn't break the mold, it is the best depiction of the old favorite we've seen in years. Filled with some very intriguing unit types, wonderfully balanced trump cards, and 4 notably different races, DoW managed to grab me by the short n' curlies and hang on like no game has in a good, long while. Mostly, this is due to the solid diversity of army options, which allow you to employ a number of different strategies when making both your assaults and defenses. Sure, in essence, they all boil down to en masse tactics, but how you go en masse is pleasantly refreshing. Rather than just having a single "top power" in your race that you must deploy, each has a nice variety of assets including foot soldiers, tanks, cyborgs called dreadnoughts, and unique uber-powerful deities. 3.75 out of 5
Oh and, in a sort of unorthodox p.s., I don't think I'd be let out in public again if I didn't touch on the game vs. tabletop relationship (especially since the vast majority of you monkeys reading this play both table top and video games). Though I didn't think it would be fair to either reward or punish the game for its relationship, I must say I was very impressed with the way they balanced out a multi-level miniatures dynamic with the demands of a real time strategy game. The army dynamics remain mostly intact, the building and developmental system is spot on, the incorporation of unit options and morale are really sweet, and, best of all, the drama of watching a squad of Terminator Marines marching down on a Chaos Bloodthirster is every bit as enthralling as it should be. This is, unquestionably, the best Warhammer game to date and fans of the minis game won't be disappointed.
Story and Drama: Though the graphics are unquestionably appealing, sadly, aside from an intro movie that you will watch at least 10 times, all of the story is conveyed with the in game engine. And, as history has taught us over and over again, the vast majority of the time these things are a bummer to watch. That said, the story is intriguing and unquestionably written for the Warhammer faithful, which means those uninformed of the franchise will be a bit lost-but should still enjoy the overall theme and fairly obvious motivations. The story, told through a campaign mode, is also shockingly short and only based around one of the races, which definitely leaves you feeling like you've been short changed when you realize it's all over. 3 out of 5
Multiplayer and Replayability: Multiplayer via LAN or internet lets you deathmatch with up to 8 or team up against the AI in all the standard ways you'd expect, and a skirmish mode lets you play with yourself all day long…if you're into that sort of thing. That said, I have been refreshingly surprised by the lack of boredom we've experienced in game after game of army crushing goodness. The only major gripe I have is the lack of a map editor. That, combined with the very scant amount of maps included with the game, will unquestionably leave you longing after the first few hours of play. 4 out of 5
|All in all, Dawn of War is a good rts and a great use of the Warhammer license. And while there's little new or unique for the genre, it is a solid example of doing the standard right and should please all but the most demanding of rts fans.|
The Good: Incredible graphics and some really fun unit designs.
The Bad: More, more, and more of the same old rts faire.
The Overall Ugly: You owe it to yourself to watch a Marine Dreadnought square off with an Ork Boyz squad.
What it's Worth: Market.