by Andrew Hallam
reviewed on PC
The Dawn Of Yet Another War...
For years now Relic Entertainment has been bringing gamers some of the best RTS games available. From the illustrious Homeworld 2 to the mighty Company of Heroes, Relic just seem to know how to push all the right buttons when it comes to the RTS genre. And then, there's the Dawn of War series. The original Dawn of War was the sparkling gem that brought Warhammer 40k out of the dark and dingy nerd's basement and into the world of the mainstream gamer. While not without it's flaws, DoW was an immensely fun game which mixed classic RTS with the brutality of the Warhammer universe, as well as creating one of the first believable and visually pleasing mixes between ranged and melee combat.
Then came Dawn of War 2, the sequel to the now dated DoW which was met with quite varied reviews across the board. While it defenestrated the whole base building system that some players liked in favour for a more tactical squad based gameplay, it still had the charm and brutality that fans expected. And so, in a series which is known for it's many expansion packs we come to the 3rd instalment in the DoW 2 series, Retribution.
Let's Start A Wargh!
While Retribution is standalone like every other DoW expansion, it is more aimed at the series' current fan base rather than focusing on attracting new fans. That is to say, if you've played the original you'll feel right at home with Retribution. The prominent features of this expansion include the Imperial Guard, the squishy 'good guy' humans, and the individual campaigns for each of the 6 races you'll have to choose from. Thankfully Relic have done a grand job of making each campaign feel finely tuned towards it's respective race.
Play as the Imperial Guard and you'll be traipsing around lush forests being hunted by the nasty flesh eating xeno's known as the Tyranids. Orcs, on the other hand, get to run around playing pirates as they start Warghs and crack some skulls just for fun. It is safe to say that Relic have put in a lot of work into making each campaign have their own unique feel. Having said that, you will definitely find that some of the campaigns just aren’t as fun as others but each is designed to fit certain play styles. For example, Imperial guard rely more on tactics and hero buffs than the Eldar's stealth and speed or the Orcs' overall ferocity and numbers.
This type of gameplay - which is still extremely similar to the original's campaign - creates a much more enjoyable experience for those who prefer single-player and co-op to multiplayer, as they now get the choice of ditching the overzealous power armoured pansies for an army of their own choice.
Vengeance and Retribution!
While the single-player experience is a slight variation from the original, the multiplayer elements stay relatively the same. You have still got Last Stand and normal competitive multiplayer but with the added enjoyment of beating your foes by sending waves and waves of guardsmen into the meat grinder - thanks to the addition of the Imperial Guard faction. The 5 other races are still the ones you know and love from last time. Imperial Guard comprise of the overall army of the Imperium of man, the faction which contains every Human who hasn't fallen to Chaos yet. IG, in terms of play style, are a mix between the Orcs and Space Marines. Their infantry is weak and requires large numbers in order to do much, much like the Orcs, while their tanks are heavily armoured and able to shred the competition, like the Space Marines. Basically, if you like blowing stuff up with heavy armour, you'll be right at home with the Imperial Guard.
While competitive multiplayer has a few new maps added there isn't much difference compared to the original. The same goes for Last Stand, except for the addition of the Imperial Guard hero, The General, and a new map to satisfy your Chaos killing taste if you just so happened to have maxed out your hero through the original map. Be warned, though: this one is a lot harder than the first, pitting you against demon spawn and chaos space marines from the offset instead of giving you a more easy ride with just a couple of Orc boys. If you're itching to get your hands on a new hero for Last Stand, the General will not disappoint.
The General is a buffing character, designed to buff the damage or health of his team mates as well as provide support by being able to call in single squads of infantry, from the lowly guardsmen squad to the elite stormtroopers. It's nice to see that Relic were still able to design a totally new character without doing a half-arsed copy-paste of the previous characters.
No Chance of Peace...
The main thing to take away from this review is that Retribution is nothing new. At heart it is purely an expansion that, while adding nothing innovative to the series, gives fans exactly what they want: more of the sweet sweet violence that they've come to expect from the series. If you're itching for more single-player action or just love the Imperial Guard, you can't go wrong with Retribution. However, if that doesn't sound like you, you won't be missing out by not getting it. You can still play with your friends who have it and enjoy the game as it is. Unless you want to play as the Imperial Guard or experience the new single-player campaigns, there's nothing new waiting for you in Retribution...
New Campaigns are great fun. IG are an interesting new faction.
Not enough new content to justify its price tag.