Redawn Of War: Hands On With Chaos Rising

By Alec Meer on February 10th, 2010 at 5:46 pm.

Developers do listen, you know. If you thought Relic were consciously ignoring the common complaint that Dawn of War 2 was too lightweight, its maps and challenges too relentlessly similar, you’re wrong. Of course, they might get Chaos Rising, the first expansion (albeit standalone), wrong in new and interesting ways, but by all accounts they’re very conscious that, largely speaking, DOW2 didn’t net the same sky-high review scores most of their previous oeuvre has. Chaos Rising is a bigger, broader game, leaving the tactically-rewarding but rinse and repeat skirmish mentality of the parent game’s missions in favour of 15 heavily story-led, handcrafted levels. (There are plenty of non-mandatory, bonus-laden sidemissions, in case your reactive to the number 15 was to start writing something sweary and in capital letters). Each of the main missions is scripted up the wazoo, doling out new challenges and objectives at the point where, in DOW2-plain, the mission would have ended. The Blood Ravens are going on an adventure…

You’ll even have some new toys and mechanics to play with in some missions – for instance, barking marching orders at a platoon of Imperial Guards, or hurling multiple Predator tanks at the enemy. It’s aiming for spectacle and diversity, not simply military masterfulness. At a guess, we’re going to see a similar approach from Starcraft 2.

There’s a bit of a split in terms of how people think about Dawn of War games and story. Go all the way back to the original Dawn of War and you get a few talking heads between missions and a cutscene before and after, but quite transparently there to link and nothing more. As the expansions wear on, and especially by the time we get to Dawn of War 2, the Blood Ravens, the Space Marine chapter created specifically for DOW and since added to Games Workshop’s official Warhamer 40,000 codex, have been fleshed out with hero figures, lore and mystery.

For some people, myself included, this stuff kind of washes over them as a generalised Let’s Kill All The Bad Guys purpose. For others – well, the true nature and history of the Blood Angels is a big deal. Chaos Rising is going to get into that quite a bit, concerning as it does the sudden emergence of a long-lost Imperial planet. This mysterious orb apparently holds archives that fill in the Ravens’ hitherto unknown history, which they’re obviously keen to find out about. Trouble is, the place is also crawling with The Black Legion, a cartel of murderous Chaos Marines. Is there a link? Only SPACE WAR can answer that. So, the more scripted structure serves another purpose beyond giving each mission more of a backbone.

That said, while it’s a more directed affair, it also introduces the concept of choice to Dawn of War. While, tactically-speaking, that’s been there since Dark Crusde, I don’t mean choice in terms of choosing where you’re going to attack next, and how you’re going to do it. I mean in terms of being a bit Bioware. Chaos Rising introduces the Corruption and Purity meters, each of which grants your squads various buffs and penalties depending how far you lean in one direction. This being, fundamentally, a real-time strategy game, this isn’t going to affect conversation options and whether an ork with a dilemma about abortion is going to chat to you or not.

What it does is affect your abilities, the ones you’re already accustomed to from Dawn of War II. Melee bonuses or weaknesses, healing powers or – in the case of Scout Marine boss Cyrus’ highest-end Corruption bonus – strapping a bomb to one of your squad and sending the doomed soul running into the midst of the enemy. The idea is that, no matter which path you head down (and there’s plenty of room for a mix of both), the game doesn’t turn in your favour. With every pleasurable new power must come painful sacrifice. Hopefully some manner of tentacles too.

That said, Corruption isn’t gained by being out and out evil, but rather by bending or dishonouring the Space Marine code. For instance, you might stumble across a Shrine to the Emperor, from which hangs an especially tasty piece of wargear. Grab that, and you’ll be able to biff that much harder. No-one’s hurt by taking it, either. But you’ll have defiled His Sacred Image, which causes you to become slightly Corrupted, and thus more potentially open to the heretical influence of Chaos. It’s a choice between the long game and the short game.

Neatly, you’re not permanently corrupted by your less pious decisions – there’s scope to make choices, or don particular equipment, which replenishes your purity. Optional side-missions can also tip the good/nasty scales – for instance, one to go and rescue a bunch of alien-assaulted Imperial civilians. It’s a bit of hassle for minimal reward, but it’ll wash away some of that Corrupt-o-meter. Is it worth it? Your call. It’s always matter of deciding to be Pure, or Corrupted, or to find a middleground in which your sense of reward and your sense of duty are balanced enough to quiet your conscience. It’s a very RPG mechanic for an RTS to try – but DOW2 is nothing if not determined to be more RPGlike.

The light side/dark side stuff even extends to loot – for instance, a piece of armour that pushes up your purity if you wear it for a while, but carries stats so poxy that you’re going to find missions that much harder. Or one that has ace stats but pushes your I’m A Dick rating sky-high. Interestingly (and presumably so no-one finds particularly cool pieces of loot are totally useless to them), some stuff can, when trashed, transform into something new rather than yield bonus XP as it did in DOW2. Trashing a Corrupt piece of wargear will in some cases turn it into a Purity-blessed one, but with its own positives and negatives. The Diablo-like hunger for Wargear is a big part of Dawn of War II, and, while it’s not to traditional tacticians’ tastes, it’s being amped up in CR. There’s a new tier of Elite-level stuff too, denoted by now-familiar purple text, which’ll really keep the lootfiends busy.

Probably the most interesting element of the Corruption/Purity balancing act is that it’s not universal – each of your seven squads (including the new Librarian, Jonah Orion) climbs the good/bad ladder separately. As well as each gaining new skills depending on what they’ve been up to, they’ll look a little more Imperial or Chaotic, and they’ll have different things to say. There’s a bunch of fun things I’m going to keep under my Spoiler Hat, but suffice to say the story’s affected by your choices.

Oh, and the story picks up a couple of weeks where DOW2 left off – to that end, you can import your old savegame, and have your Marines begin the game at whatever level and with whatever wargear you left ‘em with. If you don’t, they’ll all kick off around level 17, with a decent clutch of pre-assigned goodies. Either way, expect to be drowning in decent new loot very quickly, as the new level cap is 30.

So: an expansion that’s not gone for the easy road of some new maps and a new playable race. I’d by lying if I said I wasn’t a little disappointed we don’t get a campaign in which we play as one of the other factions – Space Marines are cool, but they have an unfortunate habit of stealing the focus in any 40K game. Still, it’s good that Relic are building up their cast of characters – Cyrus, Avitus, Davian Thule et al are on their way to being more memorable than most RTS characters, apart from the ones with big bald heads and small beards.

There’s also going to be a revised multiplayer mode, most notably adding Chaos as a playable faction. I’ll have a piece about that side of things up on Eurogamer in the next few days, which I’ll link to here once it appears. I’ve also got a bit more to say about the new Librarian character, who I’ll do a new post about very soon.

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65 Comments »

  1. Arturo says:

    Very much looking forward to this. If only we got our planetary-conquest metagame I’d be set . And a few more playable factions…. Multiplayer is still 100x times more interesting and involved than anything SC2 is going to give us.

    • Jeremy says:

      You can see the future? Amazing.

    • Furniture Merchant says:

      @Jeremy

      You don’t need to be a seer to see that SC2′s multiplayer will be nigh identical to it’s predecessor, and also because Blizzard has said as much and since most of the SC gaming community are extremely conservative any big changes to multiplayer would cause a shit storm.

      (That and trying something new isn’t what Blizzard does, I keed I keed.)

    • jonfitt says:

      Ah, they may not try new things, but they do love ripping off GW, so maybe there will be some overlap with DoW :)

    • Thants says:

      Unless you include mods as part of SC2’s multiplayer.

    • sigma83 says:

      I would feel more strongly about StarCraft’s multiplayer if I didn’t love the Terrans so damn much.

    • RenegadeRed says:

      Yeah I was just thinking that SCII is not going to be your regular RTS game because of the excellent mod support Blizzard is planning.

      So instead of just the regular old gameplay we’ve come to love and expect, you’ll also have different game modes such as: Defense of the Ancients, Tower Defense, and dare I say it… DAWN OF WAR EQUIVALENT MOD!?!?!

      They might call it “building-free mode” or something else different-sounding but we’ll all know what it means. So buying SCII is like buying every RTS game ever…? And they’d all have Blizzard-like quality? Wow that would be AWESOME.

      Oh I think I need to lay down for a second. [Faints.]

  2. MasterBoo says:

    “apart from the ones with big bald heads and small beards.”

    AKA Jim Ranyor?

  3. Rich says:

    So, this is going to be a stand-up fight, not another bug hunt.

  4. Dorian Cornelius Jasper says:

    This reminds me. Haven’t actually beaten DoW2 yet because I wanted to get the “Angel of Death” accolade associated with my Primarch game. But grinding Savior points is taking an awful long time.

  5. Jeremy says:

    I’m glad they’re fully committing to the story based missions. I felt like the original was trying to be 2 things, and it didn’t mesh particularly well, but this makes me hopeful.

  6. DeepSleeper says:

    Why do you get less corruption for letting a bunch of xeno-touched civilians live? They’ve come in contact with the enemy. Round them up and have them all burned. It’s the only way to be sure nothing spreads.

    • Rich says:

      You’ll go a long way in this man’s army.

    • Alexander Norris says:

      I could rant about the state of GW canon, really, but there’s no point. The good space monks knights who worship Super Wizard Emperor Jesus would protect the civilians, of course. We all know the Imperium are super goodie guys and they’re just fighting against the evil space monk knights who worship Satan.

      (It’s been a long time since space marines were biological alternatives to combat androids, old man. They’ve been replaced with noble space knights who fight to protect God’s honour.)

    • jonfitt says:

      Hmm, I’ve not been playing 40k since before the Squats went AWOL (my guess is they’re up to something sneaky), but in this man’s Space Army we burninate the villagers lest the infection spread.

      If I see any pansy Space Knights they’ll feel my righteous hammer.

  7. Garg says:

    I want to see the new orc weird boy in action. His “Over Dere” ability sounds classic. Teleporters are for de fancy humies, being flung at the armoured pansies with a choppa gripped in your teeth is the way to go.

  8. Lord_Mordja says:

    This article disappoints.

    Everyone knows that Orks grow from fungus and so abortion isn’t an issue. Geez.

  9. DesolationJones says:

    Time to boot up and replay, loved DowII and feel a genuine attachment to my squads, cant wait to continue the save through to DOWIICR.

  10. Acosta says:

    “this isn’t going to affect conversation options and whether an ork with a dilemma about abortion is going to chat to you or not.”

    My hat is off for you Mr Meer, bravo.

  11. ForDuhEmprarh says:

    Why are those Chaos Space Marines trying to impregnate the force commander?

  12. Heliocentric says:

    I’m glad games like dow2 and men of war can co exist. As action games get increasingly narrow its nice to see that its not mandatory for gaming, at least in pc land.

  13. Alex Hopkinson says:

    I hadn’t realised we’re going to be dancing with the Black Legion specifically. Those traitorous scum were the legion of Horus himself. Purge the heretic!

  14. Shalrath says:

    Actually, interesting points brought up here – wouldn’t ‘helping’ people generally give you corruption, and being ‘true to the emperor’ be, well, acting like a total dick?

    I can’t think of anyone who ‘fell’ to a non-Khornate God for any reason other than trying to help.

  15. cpuwhiz11 says:

    If they listen, why is there no Homeworld 3? I have been screaming it out loud since Homeworld 2 came out.

    • sigma83 says:

      It was hinted at recently wasn’t it? Some guy all but saying ‘This is the Homeworld 3 department.’

    • ChaK_ says:

      Couldn’t agree more, I don’t really give a darn about DOW, but homeworld, ah men !!

  16. Miker says:

    I blew through DoW II’s campaign in just a weekend, playing for long stretches at a time, which is an impressive feat for me nowadays. Looking forward to this, although I’d rather they not use GFWL for matchmaking.

    • jonfitt says:

      You’ve got to think Valve are working on some p2p matchmaking steamworks tech to compliment their existing server based tech. When we see that commonly available games should start dropping GFWL like a hot potato.

  17. mujadaddy says:

    REJOICE

    …sounds like he did his V/O wearing a bucket on his head :)

  18. Heliocentric says:

    @cpuwizz I gave up on homeworld 3. My space heart belongs to sots now, i am prepared to have a fling with flotilla but we’ll see how that goes.

  19. PixelCody says:

    I’ll be getting this one based on how much it adds to the multiplayer experience.

    Singleplayer really didn’t do it for me in the first release. Multi-character Diablo was a wonderful idea, but there wasn’t enough variation between each pull and fight. Only a demo will convince me that scripting can do enough to change that dynamic sufficiently.

    Mega upset that it’s another space marine romp and the only new army is a space marine variant.

  20. Bonedwarf says:

    So I assume this is like the later DoW expansions where it’s standalone, but to get all the races in multiplayer you have to own the original?

    Resisted buying DoWII but my resolve is crumbling very fast reading this.

    Was referring to my youngest son (11 months) as various Chaos daemon names last night (since he causes a lot of chaos).

  21. Mugrul says:

    Be pure.
    Be Vigilant.
    BEHAVE.

    And I can’t wait to get my grubby little mitts on Davian Thule again. I absolutely adored stomping him about in DoW2, even though half the time you were better off taking a different squad. It didn’t matter. Davian Thule just emanated stompy.

  22. malkav11 says:

    The next expansion / game had better deliver non-Space Marine shenanigans. But I’ll be getting this unless they decide it needs horrible DRM.

  23. Personoic says:

    I’m curious as to where you got some of this information. Do you have a beta demo or something?

  24. feighnt says:

    “the Blood Ravens, the Space Marine chapter created specifically for DOW and since added to Games Workshop’s official Warhamer 40,000 codex”

    what?? bloody hell, i never knew that – i was *wondering* why the games were so obsessed with the Blood Ravens :P

    ps: yay to less skirmishy maps!!! … now it’d be nice if they made (genuine) campaigns for armies that dont include the word “marine” in their name…

    • subedii says:

      Yeah Games Workshop pretty much allowed Relic to make their own chapter for the games, which was then incorporated into the official setting. Considering that there’s only 20 Primarchs and each had their own chapter (and half of those went Chaos), it’s a not-insignificant addition to the fluff.

      Fluff-wise the chapter has an unusually large number of Psykers, and there’s been hints through the games that dodgy stuff is going on with the Blood Raven’s origins and history. The Blood Ravens are the only chapter to not know who their Primarch was.

      And if we’re talking the story of these games, Eliphas (the Chaos Lord apparently leading the troops in this game) was supposed to have been killed back in Dark Crusade. After having been defeated by Davian Thule. So that’ll make for an interesting reunion this time around considering that one’s pretty much become a corpse in a box “in service to the Emperor”. Thule apparently found information relating to the history of the Blood Ravens during this campaign on Kronus, which he promptly destroyed. So that might be another thing coming to light here.

      And that’s about it, you’re caught up on what’s happening. :)

    • Alexander Norris says:

      There are a lot of official space marine chapters. The Blood Ravens were never a founding chapter, so GW including them in official publications is the equivalent to their dropping a line or two about your chapter in White Dwarf (which they used to do all the time a few years back).

    • archonsod says:

      Pff, they can just use the standard excuse

      “Cypher did it”

  25. bill says:

    Shouldn’t it be:
    (a) Kill/Cleanse the villagers and be a dick in the name of the emperor
    (b) Kill/Sacrifice the villagers and be a dick in the name of the Chaos Gods

  26. sigma83 says:

    So… where’s the Space Hulk-esque FPS already? =P

  27. Helm says:

    “For instance, you might stumble across a Shrine to the Emperor, from which hangs an especially tasty piece of wargear. Grab that, and you’ll be able to biff that much harder. No-one’s hurt by taking it, either. But you’ll have defiled His Sacred Image, which causes you to become slightly Corrupted, and thus more potentially open to the heretical influence of Chaos. ”

    Loot that warhear. Fuck that guy and his fascist empire. Flesh for the flesh god!

  28. GCU Speak Softly says:

    So no alternative to Starship Stormtroopers vs Starship Stormtroopers with spiky bits, then?

  29. theSAiNT says:

    Blizzard’s last two RTS offerings are now 12 years and 8 years old respectively and they still have healthy competitive scenes. I can’t think of any other games in the genre with such wide, loyal communities and it’s really a testament to the balance and depth they’ve managed to create.

    Compare that to DoW multiplayer which was unbalanced to start with (even SC took over 4 years to sort out) but which actually got worse with every expansion as new factions complicated the problem while at the same time diluting racial uniqueness until they gave up on the whole multiplayer mess.

    Not to mention nobody has managed to make anything that worked as well as Battlenet. My experiences across the DoW games and the various CnCs have been nothing less than painful.

    Yes I’m a Blizzard fanboi. And yes SC2 is going to rock.

  30. theSAiNT says:

    PS that was @Arturo, not just some random rant about Blizzard…

  31. Pani says:

    Picking up this game will be dependent on what they’ve done with the survival game they implemented late in DoW2. That made the game go from good to great in my opinion.

    What do we know about survival in this new game?

  32. Arturo says:

    @ theSaint

    We’re all entitled to our opinions. I’m happy to grant that Starcraft/Blizzard will provide a far more meticulously balanced/ streamlined to a shiny exterior experience, but it’s still not more entertaining for my gaming dollars. Your criticisms about DOW are completely valid, I admit it does have a ton of issues.

    That being said, there’s a visceral nature to DOW2 with the melee and animations that just make it -FUN-. You really feel like the armies are actually fighting each other with all the custom animations and hand to hand combat. In starcraft2 the units never interact. It’s just hails of gunfire, or a sprite standing still doing a melee animation. Running into a crowd of troops with a Warboss and seeing them all fly back after a huge stomp just looks pretty damn cool, or when a Tank plows through some terrain, pretty damn cool. Nothing in starcraft has that kind of interaction, it’s just cartoony troops moving around in a detached manor. Yes it will be more competitive, yes it will look more flashy, but the soul of it just isn’t the same.

  33. Corrupt_Tiki says:

    “more memorable than most RTS characters, apart from the ones with big bald heads and small beards.” – I’ve got it, Kane from C&C Fame!? Am I right? ^^ (It was the best universe C&C and RA – Untill EA raped it, If I ever see a dev who said he worked on C&C 3 or RA3, I’m going to kick him in the balls and punch him in the throat. They destroyed that which I most loved </3)

  34. Henrik J says:

    I had been avoiding DOW2 because i didnt like the idea of taking a game about big armies and then limiting it to just a few units, but this sounds pretty interesting, might just have to check it out.

    • theSAiNT says:

      @Henrik J

      Having not played tabletop Warhammer 40k (I was more into elves and dragons at the time and briefly dabbled in Warhammer), I remember the 40k armies being really quite small. Most of the time I saw people playing with only a handful of squads, much smaller armies than the fantasy version. Having said that, I also stayed clear of DoW2 despite quite liking DoW. Lack of a base building dynamic really narrowed its strategic depth.

      @Arturo

      I see where you’re coming from now. I used to have a similar stance. One of the reasons why I was such a big fan of the original Total Annihilation was because the units felt like they were actually engaged in mortal combat. The land based bots would circle each other, knocking over trees while the air based bots would actually dog fight. Compared to Warcraft 2 at the time where sprites moved next to each other and performed their attack animations until one or the other died.

      However, I’ve come to realise that it was a conscious design choice Blizzard made to go with this more static contact. The complex animations and realistic fighting detract from the ability of the player to ‘micro’ their units and is seriously detrimental to competitive play. The longevity of SC2 will be determined by how good a platform it is for multiplayer so Blizzard has stated it prioritizes playability over everything else in its design.

      A minor example is aeroplane ‘banking’. I believe it’s used in quite a lot of RTS’s but my experience comes from Red Alert 3. The Tenggu ‘banks’ when it turns instead of just swiveling. It looks great. But it’s a complete pain to manage because the unit sometimes banks over anti aircraft guns. An early beta of SC2 had some its units performing a banking animation but that was quickly removed.

      At the end of the day, SC2 will still look more like animated chess pieces than a real battlefield. But oh what a glorious chessboard it will be.

    • AdrianWerner says:

      @Henrik
      Since when did WH40K have huge armies? Aren’t you mixing it up with Epic?

  35. Jow says:

    dow2 does indeed have a ton of issues. Although they’ve tried to make it a game more focused on combat and ability use, I think inclusion of the Company of Heroes retreat system has turned it into much more of a whack-a-mole affair that’s less about fighting and more about how optimally players who are outnumbered or outclassed in a skirmish can retreat. It doesn’t feel like DoW to me anymore but I still do find it somewhat fun.

    That said, with all its flaws, the DoW games, including 2, have all had far more soul and flair than any of the Blizzard games have imo.

  36. Will says:

    Dunno who these nice space knight chappies are but the Emperor shalt not suffer the psyker, the heretic or the xenos.

    Exterminatus!

  37. Disillusionati says:

    Steamworks game = non-starter.

    I want to buy this game from Amazon, but it will make me install and run Steam in order to play the game. Thank you for helping me save money, Valve!

  38. lab says:

    davian thrule in campaign is an absolute god and should not be left out period….he can kill like 100 infantry units in one blast with that assault cannon ability…..as soon as i figured out i could cut buildings in half with an assault cannon i was sold on using davian :D

  39. God Emperor says:

    To all who find themselves worthy of the Emperor and the Blood Ravens, Challenge “Balraga” for I will destroy all who oppose me with my superior knowledge of war. I have tactics from some of the best so I hope that at least a handful of you servants will end my hunger of a strong opponent. KNOWLEDGE IS POWER! GUARD IT WELL BLOOD RAVENS!