by Ryan Phillip Hardesty
previewed on PC
A Piece Long Missing
The sequel to Relicís Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War seemed a bit lonely didnít it? Yes, the action was frantic, the tactical gameplay smart and the monstrous Tyranid faction a fanís desire finally quenched but there was most definitely a blood-drenched puzzle piece lying around somewhere that left the game feeling rather incomplete. Now, however, Dawn of War II is one step closer to finishing that puzzle with the introduction of the unholy badasses that are the Chaos Space Marines in the gameís first stand-alone expansion, Chaos Rising.
The original Dawn of War II took the real-time strategy genre in a new direction, replacing the once-staunch aspect of base-building and large armies with small squads and tighter action that required more micromanagement than the RTSs before it. The game, like Company of Heroes before it, laid down a new path for strategists to follow. With the expansion, Relic will be extending that path with new gear, some fresh environments and a few tweaks here and there to the original game.
The Blood Ravens March On
Taking place one year after the ending of Dawn of War II, Chaos Rising will continue the storyline of the Blood Ravens, a fearsome chapter of the Space Marine faction and the center of the storyline since the original Dawn of War back in 2004. The expansion will pit the Blood Ravens in a showdown with their mortal enemy, the Chaos Space Marines, on the planet Aurelia. Once a massive and powerful planet home to billions, Aurelia disappeared a thousand years ago into the Warp, a nightmarish alternate universe and home to the Chaos Space Marines. The planet suddenly reappears completely encased in ice and a shell of its former self. The forces of Chaos launch an attack from there and you and your Space Marines are once again called into action.
Arriving at the Blood Ravensí side amongst the news of Aurelia is Jonah the Librarian. While the original game had some pretty intimidating hero units, the developers will be upping the ante with this wizard-in-battle-armor. Jonah will bring a multitude of enhancements to your squadrons in the form of powerful psychic attacks, heals, buffs and debuffs. Jonah will gain access to focus items, objects that will tinker with the spells he uses (similar to glyphs in World of Warcraft). For example, instead of simply hurling a massive fireball at an enemy, the addition of a focus item for that spell will now cause the Librarianís fireball to produce splash damage should it kill the target.
The Librarian character will also play into the new Librarium feature of the game, a place where unwanted gear will be sent. Instead of tossing useless or obsolete items and weapons away youíll now have the option to donate it to the Librarium which will, in turn, grant you experience points or new sets of gear for your squadrons to reward you for the donations, adding yet another bit of careful thinking.
New Choices, New Views
As soon as you begin the game youíll have the option to import your other characters from Dawn of War II but there have been several changes to your characterís layout. The original gameís skill trees have been modified and extended for each factionís three heroes and the developers have stated youíll most likely have the option to re-spec. The level cap has also been changed from 20 to 30, allowing you to further specialize your hero or dabble in other skill trees, but there is one modification that will force you to work a little harder: gear. Most of the gear you acquired from the first game has been lost, meaning youíll have to foray into enemy territory to find new goodies. If you havenít bought Dawn of War II, though, donít worry, as youíll be provided with the appropriate level and items to get you going.