Together Alone: Last Standing In DoW 2

By Alec Meer on October 23rd, 2009 at 12:35 am.

It’s been out for a while, but I’ve only just gotten around to trying out the free Last Stand update for Dawn Of War 2. Chatting to one of the game’s producers a while back, he posited it as almost a third game – alongside the already dramatically different single and multiplayer aspects of it. The plan for it is to create a way for more casual/hithero singleplayer-focused chaps to play online, to enjoy the social aspects of multiplayer gaming, without being put off by the fear of a near-instant spanking by someone who knows the game intimately. Does it work?

I rather think it does, though the trade off is to take DOW2 even further away from being a real-time strategy game. I don’t mind that, but it’s going to turn off anyone who thinks challenge can’t come without complexity. Last Stand is more akin to a co-operative Diablo within an arena. Each player – up to three at once – controls just one Hero character with fixed abilities, from a choice of Space Marine Force Commander, Elder Farseer or Ork, er, Something. (I don’t dig the DOW2 take on Orks too much). No building, no upgrading – only hitting/shooting. Waves of enemies – Orks, Tyranids, Eldar and Space Marines/Imperial guard on rotation – storm the large circular deathpit, and the three Heroes struggle to stay alive through as many waves as possible.

It’s all about points – each kill nets some, multiplied by speed, ownership of the two quickly won/lost control points and how long it’s been since anyone got deaded. At the end of the whole shebang, this all adds up to experience points. Points mean prizes – war gear that in turn makes you better-equipped for surviving these waves. Some of it gives you new/replacement abilities, but you can only equip ‘em between matches, not during.

So am I playing for the XP, or for the experience? Do you know, I honestly couldn’t say – and that’s very much to Last Stand’s credit. I want to see how well I can do, for the quasi-military prestige of it, as well as because I want to win more toys. It’s not just hollow grinding – there’s a pride to it too.

There’s something a bit plain about it – forever having the same experience, with only really the end (i.e. the point at which you all perish and the game ends) changing, forever in the same arena. But it’s a state of constant alert, constant action, and it slowly builds from a slow, cheery fish-in-a-barrel affair to a desperate, well, last stand. I’ve only played a few sessions of it (this lunchtime, with PC Gamer UK’s Tim and Tom. Tom was worst), but it was fun to see it turn from selfish glory-hunting to ad-hoc strategies – comboing our various abilities, timing when to run for control points or to rescue a downed man.

And it really is something I can imagine dropping into on a whim, regardless of who I’m playing with. I’m not going to get absolutely demolished, no matter what. Working well together will keep us alive longer, but there’s no risk of being humiliated. The flipside is whether doing better at it depends only on levelling up and having better wargear – but the stuff I’ve won so far seems to not always offer improvement, but instead choice. Would I rather have a stun power, or would I rather be more hardy? Would I rather dole out high melee damage, or reduce it a little to be able to have basic ranged prowess? There’s scope for it to get really involved, and to have a build that’s highly tailored to my play style.

There’s also scope for it to get pretty boring (especially in terms of having to repeat the earlier, super-easy waves again and again), which is why I hope Relic are planning to expand it – with a bit of a luck, there’ll be a more elaborate version of it in the upcoming Chaos Rising expansion.

If you’ve shied away from DOW2′s multiplayer because it’s too much like traditional, hardcore multiplayer RTS, certainly give this a try. It’s much more akin to the singleplayer, and it’s almost impossible to feel like you haven’t achieved anything by playing it. It’s not RTS, not even slightly – but it’s agreeably death-filled, instant-gratification Warhammer 40,000 gaming. Ain’t much to moan about there.

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61 Comments »

  1. Alex-chan! says:

    I’m pretty certain that the xp you gain is based on what wave you reach, not the points you get

    • Shadow says:

      I’ve found that it’s a bit of both, as higher scores seem to come at higher levels in the arena anyway. Level of death may play a large factor in deciding the number of hundreds in your exp, but I get the feeling that score boosts it with a few tens (possibly adding another hundred or so if you score really well)

    • Crispy says:

      XP is based on the level you reach. Points are based on the multipliers. There’s nothing more to it.

  2. Mwalk10 says:

    While leveling up does offer choice, the choices seem to only get better.

    For example, when I first started playing my team would never pass wave 9 (despite who i played with) .
    Now that I am about level 15 teams I’m with rarely stop at 9, even when playing with people of a lower level.

    I guess the true test of level vs skill would be to switch characters or do the DOW2 equivalent of a prestige class and see if I’m once again stuck at 9.

    • Frools says:

      I dont think higher level unlocks are automatically better. There are some high level unlocks that are pretty useless.
      I think certain items become almost required, for example above a certain wave you REALLY need to have some kind of mobility, so teleporter, jump pack or whatever.
      Until you get that unlock you’ll find the higher waves really hard.
      For space marine the jump pack + plasma gun + dreadnaught combo works pretty damn well.

  3. TCM says:

    Been meaning to try this, but my two friends are not actually available. Shame.

  4. Baris says:

    So, is it possible to play this offline?

    • Vinraith says:

      No. It requires two other people, there are no bots and no scaling to smaller parties. In other words, it’s useless.

  5. Dante says:

    The loading screens do say that levelling only offers choice, rather than improvements,

    This is bullshit, really handy stuff, like insta rezes, area of effect attacks and even a deployable dreadnought seriously help out over time.

    If you know what you’re doing you can burn through the early waves pretty fast, so it doesn’t really get dull. As Mwalk says, after a while you’ll find yourself sauntering past a previously impenetrable barrier, but this is as much to do with increased skill as new gear.

    What kind of builds are people using? I’ve got a mekboy up to 15, mostly using the teleporter armour (with the cybork bits to make up for the rubbish armour) and the big shoota to kite around people, the other two slots made me an ‘energy carrier’ for the rest of the team, keeping them topped up.

    Recently though I got the bubble shield (awesome) and with the Dakka Deffgun up next I’m thinking of taking the tank/turret approach, sitting the middle suppressing the enemies.

    • Shadow says:

      I use a mekboy with rokkit launcher, rok commander accessory, the +75hp/180 armor gear, cybork bits, the acc that makes you unshakable, and the death explosion acc.

      I’ve found that along with another player with some sort of AoE it can do quite well if you invade one of the spawn areas and camp it later on (wave 7+). I’ve even gotten to wave 16 along with a second, similarly equipped Mekboy (minus the death explosion, plus the wrench). We died after our marine backup snuffed it, leaving us to fend off two almost immortal Mekboys (immune to rok knockdown, high armour/hp), and a melee marine who could dish out the damage quite successfully.

    • Neut says:

      Playing a support farseer, hide and spam the shit out of confuse, hide downed teammates body and revive, spam confuse some more.

    • Neut says:

      Forgot to add we got to wave 20, nice surprise there ;) died pretty much instantly of course.

    • [21CW] 2000AD says:

      Got to Wave 20 with the following build:

      Me: Mekboy – Dakka Deff Gun (supression) Teleporter, Cybork parts (armour), +25 energy, ‘Ave a Taste (heal), Damage reduction pole.
      Friend 1: Farseer – Group Teleport, Eldritch Storm, Ward and then energy regen stuff.
      Friend 2: Farseer – Eldritch Sotrm, Confuse, can’t remember what else.

      Basic plan for the harder levels was to group up, shoot thema bit as they come in and then group teleport into one of the spawn zones. Kill anything there and then set up there. Use the suppression from the Deff gun to slow up the rest of the army, drop an Eldritch storm or two on them while confusing a big unit or 2 (wraithlords on 12 for example) and when they get too close group teleport away to the next spawn area. Recharge (using ‘Ave a Taste if needed), wash, rinse, repeat.

      Didn’t get much of a time bonus and we regularly lost the control points but we got to wave 20 where we learned why all those bodies weren’t dissappearing and got smacked down.

      Over all lesson learned: Farseer’s Group Teleport is jaw droppingly awesome.

    • Premium User Badge

      Flimgoblin says:

      Got the bits for the melee tank orc (choppa, fear aura, armour, extra armour) which is fun too.

    • Dante says:

      Has anyone else dabbled in the Suicide Ork? Choppa, intentionally low armour (electric works well) a battery pack and a bomb. Wade into the biggest thicket of enemies and watch them fly when they take you down.

      Obviously not great for high scores, and you’ll need a very understanding space marine to back you up, but it’s loads of fun.

  6. Thants says:

    So, it’s a Warcraft 3 hero-defense map. Those are fun.

  7. Premium User Badge

    El_MUERkO says:

    I’ve been playing quiet a bit of Last Stand with a couple of friends, our only problem with it is the doppelgänger wave is totally unkillable if I use my preferred setup as my double with extra health and faster regen cannot be killed

    • Neut says:

      I like they stuck that in to stop people using perfect builds and forces you to pick a build with inherent weaknesses offset by teamwork etc. Plus it helps having a farseer with confuse in your party ;)

    • Premium User Badge

      El_MUERkO says:

      I’m sorry but I dont buy that, they cant give people interchangeable wargear and then stop them from using most of it, as a level 11 space marine two of my items make my doppelgänger overpowered and combined make him unstoppable, that’s bad game design and nothing more.

    • Dante says:

      Actually I’ve only made it through the doppleganger wave once so far, and it wasn’t due to any intentional weakness on our part.

      The doppleganger wave, like all other later waves, has it’s own strategies, it punishes you for playing pure tanks with low damage, and rewards the use of incapacitation attacks (confuse, knockdown, etc)

    • Crispy says:

      There are actually combos that cannot be beaten in the mirror wave, such as triple ‘eavy armour Mekboys with Megah Rumblahs and Flamers. While the mirror match-up can be frustrating, it’s a super-clever bit of design to punish anyone trying to ‘game’ The Last Stand with over-powered, stacked combinations.

      Sadly the only dominant strategy it doesn’t punish is teleporting Mekboys and Jump-pack Plasma ASMs, so it’s not completely fool-proof.

  8. LionsPhil says:

    Bah. C&C: Generals defense maps show that this kind of Invasion mode works even better when you can build up a Maginot line or two.

    Hedgehogs/turtles forever!

  9. Mad Doc MacRae says:

    It’s a shame you can’t be a dreadnought. Those were made for stompy last stands and forlon hopes!

  10. pnic says:

    Can we please get an update with an open ended campaign map!

  11. Mad Doc MacRae says:

    Forlorn. With an “r”. Come back, edit button. : (

  12. paddytehpyro says:

    I really love it. I did get slightly addicted to Last stand when it first came out. 2 days of play for a level 20 (max lavel and far too low imo) Space Marine. I was playing both because the mode was fun (with eeryone unlocking new abilities and trying different combos kept it fresh for me) and because I wanted the next peaice of shiny stuff.

    There is something to say for the level doesnt trump skill. With a good team it is possible to do very well with low level chars. And depending on how you like your char you wont be ignoring items you unlocked at level 2 even when level 20.

    The “Elite” option when you hit level 20 though is just rubbish and seems a bit cheap to me. Hit level 20 and you can choose elite which will erase your level and current wargear for a small dot under your rank and a new item that increases points of things killed by 5%. Which uses a commander slot which would be better suited to something else imo.

  13. Glove says:

    “So am I playing for the XP, or for the experience?”

    Oh, clever lad!

  14. blobulon says:

    I actually prefer the farseer with the damage sword, shield, and all the additional damage mods that she can take.

    She’s actually a pretty surprising tank. I can solo kill 1-2 of the clones in the late game levels.

    2 downsides though. Easy to get swamped (later tyranids/orks) and if you try to rush a ranged group (later marines, tyranids), they will eat you alive.

  15. unique_identifier says:

    Amusing Tip: perhaps surprisingly, Farseer’s group teleport works on the bodies of dead allies! Useful when your mate dies in an inconvenient spot (ie in the middle of a pile of angry banshees / plasma tacs / whatever)

    I’ve been mainly playing as a knock-down immune space marine with plasma cannon, dreadnaught, victory charge, and as much health tank as possible in the remaining slots. Not sure how useful the build is, but it’s certainly hilarious fun. Victory charge is a very comical way to add some mobility to the otherwise fairly immobile plasma cannon marine.

    I’m finding the far more casual cooperative gameplay a nice way to get some gaming with friends – it’s actually relaxing. Unlike the ranked 1v1 ladder, which is bloody stressful.

  16. An Innocuous Coin says:

    I like it, personally. There’s not much conversation involved, but the people I tend to play with are usually nice and polite enough overall. I wouldn’t mind an expanded experience, though – more heroes to play as, different arenas and waves…I do hope Relic expands on this mode.

    I’d love to see a mutant combination of this with the RTS part of the game, but then I suppose what I really want to say is I’d love to see the actual tabletop game on the PC. Never happening in a million years, of course. ;)

  17. Frosty840 says:

    “It’s not RTS, not even slightly”

    I have to take issue with this.
    Strategy: the art of devising or employing plans or stratagems toward a goal
    Tactics: the art or science of disposing military or naval forces for battle and maneuvering them in battle.

    A Last Stand strategy: Pick the Ork. Put him in the teleporter armour.
    A Last Stand tactic for this strategy: Teleport around madly, keeping a long way away from everything, laughing because nothing has even hit you for the entire game. Get one-hit-killed by the sodding Zoanthropes.

    It’s certainly not grand strategy (Total War games), and it’s not a conventional RTS, but it’s definitely got a level of depth to it.

    • Vinraith says:

      You could use the same argument to prove that almost any RPG also contains elements of strategy. That’s entirely true, of course, but not a very good way to delineate between genres.

    • Frosty840 says:

      Eeeh. I’d say Baldur’s Gate had RTS-style-combat, with RPG-style levelling (stats increasing according to player choice so that a level 5 character would be more likely to beat an identically-armed level 1 character) and RPG-style exposition (dialogue trees, optional side-quests).

      Game genres are diversifying to the extent that there are a few games I would be reluctant to place within a specific genre, due to the wide range of gameplay styles within them; admittedly, those would generally be the games classed as “family” games (there aren’t any games I can think of whose range of gameplay styles completely defies classification, though Overlord comes close if one is sufficiently generous), but the point I’m groping for is that games can move outside of strict genre boundaries.

      Side-points disregarded, back to Last Stand; There’s nothing about it that is not-RTS. What is left is RTS. Therefore it’s RTS, being, as it is, insufficiently different from an RTS to call it anything else.

    • Crispy says:

      The flaw in your argument is that it’s not ‘real-time’ strategy. You pick your strategy once and it doesn’t change in real-time. A proper RTS involves (hinges on?) the ability to alter your strategy in real-time.

  18. Heliocentric says:

    These coop defensive missions were a great way to get casual rts players online back in warcraft 3, while its smart dow2 has it, its hardly a revolution.

    • DK says:

      It’s an evolution – and a hell of an evolution. From the point system and leaderboards to the wargear, it’s extremely well made. And Wave 16 is pure genius, punishing “uber” builds.

  19. The Sombrero Kid says:

    i was looking forward to this, but theres been so much good games i’ve not been able to give it a chance

  20. Mort says:

    Played this much more than I thought, though it is wearing thin now. But I think that’s due in large part to so many other games being about. I’ll return to it no doubt.
    That doppelgänger wave is a bit gash though as someone always has an insta-rez equipped (or similar) making it a complete deadlock and suicide the only option.

  21. Tom Francis says:

    Hey! Guys, please read “Tom was worst” as “Tom was lowest level, having missed the first match and a half wrestling with the abominable Games for Windows Live, lending yet further credence to his angry report about the state of this terrible service in the latest issue of PC Gamer magazine, on shelves now and available online from the Games Radar shop with free delivery anywhere in the UK and Europe, or at a very reasonable £1 extra for the US.”

    I’d link it, but I guess I’d legitimately qualify as a full blown spambot then.

    • KikiJiki says:

      Games for Windows Live makes me cry :<

      I like that it links to my XBL account and everything, but for some reason it likes to kill my microphone when I log in/get to a lobby on DoW2, so I can't talk on ventrilo unless I test the output :/

      Sad really, GFWL could be such a nice service if instead of trying to bully their way into being a platform Microsoft just made it integrate with existing platforms like steam.

    • Frosty840 says:

      My mic works fine in Skype with the GFWL microphone input muted. I’d suggest that, as with so many problems when running under Windows, the problem lies elsewhere, but the issue you’re having only occurs when you use GFWL, so that’s what you blame…

      That said, the GFWL matchmaking is arse.

    • Crispy says:

      As much as I dislike GfWL, it’s Relic’s implementation of the TrueSkill algorithm that makes the matchmaking arse. It may even be that TrueSkill doesn’t work with a DoW2-style game and should have been dismissed after proper investigation. But there are plenty of examples where TrueSkill is implemented well, such as Halo 3.

      I just thought I’d make this point because there seems to be a lot of confusion over this. If you want to have a dig at GfWL, you only have to look so far as the godawful interface that makes the simplest actions an horrific and arduous chore.

  22. Alec Meer says:

    Tom was worst. But Tim was even worse in the game we played without Tom earlier.

  23. subedii says:

    Too late.

  24. megaman says:

    Why, Oh Why, do I need a MS Live account for this to work? Played through the single player campaign happily without it, and I don’t see much gain in creating one now.

  25. Geoff says:

    “Useless” is probably overstating it, but I definitely share Vinraith’s preference of not ruining a perfectly good game by putting Internet Strangers into it. And I admit that descriptions of this game mode remind me of Defense of the Ancients, and replace my fear of “near-instant spanking by someone who knows the game intimately” with fear of “being told I’m doin it wrong by someone who knows the game intimately, angry that I’m screwing up his mad lewtz by not choosing an optimum build” or whatnot.

    But I’m gonna give it a fair shake before making up my mind.

    • woppin says:

      Multiplayer game intended to be played with other people in internet shocker!

      More seriously, I’m glad Relic didn’t spend time trying to write AI for this to allow people to play it in the same way as Left 4 Dead, with bots taking over the other allies. It would have been poor at best. If your fear of serious people is preventing you from trying it out, bear in mind the serious DoW2 players have already gone back to playing 1v1 ranked for the most part :)

    • Primar says:

      If you enjoy single-player shenanigans and dislike multiplayer things, then that’s fine.

      But I suspect that people complaining that a multiplayer game mode requires multiple players is a bit much, really. If you don’t like horror movies, you don’t watch horror movies. It’s not like you’ve had to pay for this free content. :)

  26. JonFitt says:

    Two questions:
    Is there any in story explanation as to why you fight Orks, Eldar, Marines and Guard as well as Tyranids, or is it just “Round One, FIGHT!”?

    Does it use matchmaking, or is it friends list only?

  27. GigaFuzz says:

    There’s no story, it literally just pits you against waves of enemies.

    There is matchmaking. When you create a lobby, you can either invite friends to it, or start searching to fill the empty slots.

  28. kromagg says:

    I don’t think I didn’t play the RTS multi much because of the complex nature of it. It’s more because I played the single player and then got dropped into something that didn’t resemble it at all. Suddenly you have a bunch of buildings and squads to manage and I’m just useless.

    FWIW it was pretty funny, hit me up on the RPS channel if you want to do some noobing around with it.

  29. shokwaav says:

    i love last stand but would appreciate it if someone here could tell me a few strategies

    ive levelled up my marine to 11 nearly 12 but when i teamed up with two mekboys we still got owned by lvl 11 by the avatars.. whats effective against them?

    i once got to wave 16 but got wiped by my counterpart. how do you go against them?

  30. Galador says:

    Just a tip on the strategy I use with my friends when I play. I use the SM with Plasma gun/Hellfire Grenades, the artificer armor for the extra health.energy, the +75 Health ribbon(cant remember the name), the Jump Pack, Taunt, and the Dread (which I will be switching for Orbital Bombardment once I get back up to lvl 20(wish I had never went Elite). I sit in the bottom portion of the arena and taunt everything to me. Between my Dread and my teammates… everything is usually dead by the time it gets close enough for me to need to run away. the Taun makes itself the most useful on lvl 16 as I taunt all the heroes, and while we all concentrate on one ata time, as long as I keep taunting them, THE WONT RESSURECT EACH OTHER!!! In other words, your friends can bring their uber builds and as long as you have a SM with taunt, lvl 16 is very easily beaten!!! Just some food for thought to help some folks out!!

  31. Alaric says:

    Hi shokwaav,
    The wraithlords in level 11 are tough, specially if you were loaded out in anti-infantry weapons. (chainswords and bolters are weak against vehicles, while axe and plasma are better). You need to use speed and movement. They don’t heal while you do. So, the strategy is to avoid them WLs while wiping out the platforms and everything else. Keep moving if you start taking damage. Once you are down to the WLs fight and run.

    Against counter parts, this is what I do. Two of you focus on their weakest clone. Leaving one of you to engage and then run away from the other two. The third person has the hard job of running instead of fighting… except fight enough to keep their attention. The hard part is stopping them from resurrecting their friends.

    -Alaric

  32. jester_prince says:

    Id say that building uber builds isnt really a problem with a bit of practice, if your team focuses on one dopplganger (usualy the marine with the insta rez or the ork/marine with anti knock down armour) you can beat any build. Just keep them down and let no one near them.

    Wraiths and dreads and anything bigger then a house is genrally a good idea to avoid, pick off the hords, keep the dreads away and then pick them off at the end. All the while jump packing or teleporting like a mad man.

    My current favorite build ismarine with EVERYTHING that heals, the chain sword plus the zeal purity seal = 15 health every time you hit stuff +5 for your allies. Its practically unstopable in a hord or one on one with big stompy things, is a great diestraction for your own dopple ganger while the other two pick off the others, you just pla him around for a bit untill they are ready to finish him off (you both heal faster then either fo you can damage each other). Jump pack obviously and the plasma pistol. Group healy goodness to keep your chums alive. It only leaves you with one usable ability (jump pack) but it leaves you a ton of energy to use as an escape tool, i used to use the healy armour but im leaning towards the reactive strike armour now.

    I love this game mode its so much fun, im on my third time of getting to 20… though each time i do i find the token disapointing, as siad before each takes up a slot of equipment (1st time around its a commander and 2nd time round equipment).

    But im addicted, makes you feel like a real hero. Now if only you could take them into battle in the rest of DOW.

  33. mundenez says:

    No, definately based on points. Much better to reach level 10 with a million points without dying than to survive to 17 dying all the time. The best I’ve done with mates is about 1.2 million points atm and we reached 1 million of that at level 10, got to level 17 a couple of times and not a lot more points cos we die lots towards the end.

  34. mundenez says:

    One more thing and perhaps often overlooked is the power of the confuse spell on the Farseer. Unbelievably powerful. Its like being able to chose groups to swap sides for you, Has no monster level limit, just stick it on the avatars while you run in circles avoiding the mobs and let them do the work for you. And its hilarious. I swear I could solo the first 7 levels of the game with it.

  35. Martock says:

    Definitely true. I have made it all the way to 16 solo with the Farseer.
    Heavy Armour with Supression resistance, The speed/attack bonus gun, Fortune, Confuse, Energy Regen, and Storm.

    You need the speed to run around the circle and confuse as you go. I was able to kill 1 of the doppelgangers but could not finish off the other 2 by myself.

    And the whole bit about items vs. skill. Skill definitely trumps items. Especially 3 skilled players with teamwork. We beat wave 20 and I was only using a lvl 4 orc along with a lvl 11 orc and a lvl9 Farseer.

    We both had big shootas so high dps. And the eldar confused the crap out of everything.