Wot I Think: Dawn of War II Retribution

Ian Tyranid seeks retribution against the tank that slept with his mum

The second Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War II expansion, Retribution, launched yesterday. Or today. Or tomorrow. Or never. Or whenever. All at once. Depends on where you are and where you download from, basically. This hasn’t enjoyed the pan-continental release date it should have done, despite being so inherently online a title. With a bit of luck, you can purchase Relic’s sci-fi RTS/RPG mash-up from the likes of Steam and Direct2Drive right now, and if you can’t you should have access on the 4th, online and at retail. Should you, though? Well, that’s where the following words come in. Consider me your Dreadnought of truthiness.

Ah, we’re at that stage again. It happened with Dawn of War 1, now it’s happening with the RPG-tinged sequel. Past a certain point, after a few expansion packs, a few more playable races and an armour-plated mountain of added features, there’s just so much stuff in there that the game has little option but to seek total excess. Total, bloody, crazy, beautiful excess. For all the apparent laser-focusing of this second DOW2 standalone add-on’s title and plot setup, in fact it’s just a giant, enthusiastic explosion of future-war. Retribution? Superultrabution, more like.

No lone campaign focused only on the troubled Space Marine chapter the Blood Ravens here – instead, each of the now six playable factions gets its own turn at storytime. Admittedly, this does in practice involve having exactly the same missions and cutscenes for the most part, but Chaos, Orks, Tyranids, Eldar, Space Marines and the newly-added Imperial Guard are each blessed by plenty of talking heads and a tailored skill tree and loot selection of their own. There’s just enough that I haven’t particularly objected to playing through the same missions two or three times, but I suspect I’d have to be a special kind of 40K nutter to want to burn through all half-dozen iterations of it.

It struggles in terms of plot – being a pretty paper-thin ‘hunt the bad guy’ tale in the first place, then confused by awkwardly trying to pin six different motivations to that. When you are bad guys hunting an even badder guy it ends up pretty oblique (and alas not in a terribly nuanced way). But then that’s always been 40K’s thing: everyone’s a massive wanker in one way or another. While it might feel a little cursory to those hanging on the fate of the Chaos-tinged Blood Ravens and their quest to be loved again or whatever, in practice it just doesn’t matter.

Why? Because you’ve got the best toybox in the known universe. Where in the last expansion, Chaos Rising, your happyfuntimes were hung around the impossibly meaty shoulders of four Space Marine hero archetypes, here each of the six races has four archetypes. Each of these has their own, bespoke tech tree, packed with weird buffs and increasingly ludicrous special abilities. Chaos’ Eliphias, for instance, was by the end of that campaign eating about a dozen souls whole in one greedy gulp. Meanwhile, his fat, rotting Plague Marine mate was busily spawning a temporary zombie from the corpse of anything that died in his presence. Then the Chaos Sorcerer was creating clones of the most powerful enemy units on the battlefield. The fourth guy, I barely even remember what he had by the end – throwing all the grenades in the world and demolishing buildings with some ludicrously large gun that required no setup time, or something.

The point is, it’s no drip-feed of incremental rewards. It’s bigger, BIGGER,


At a breakneck pace, too. Never too easy and never too stupid, it accomplishes the remarkable feat of retaining the need for tactics and micro-management whilst also being off-the-hook crazy. Take, for instance, the Imperial Guards. One of the core abilities is to execute a soldier in a chosen unit, which in turn makes the rest of that unit crap its khaki undies and fight like there’s no tomorrow. Towards the end of the campaign, that effect makes any Impy Goo within visible rage go battle-crazy, the squad who lost a man turn invulnerable, any nearby enemies become so unnerved by the open insanity displayed that they forget how to shoot properly, and the guy responsible, Lord Berrn, become able to execute at a rate of knots. Meanwhile, Lord General Castor is cracking out supply drops that instantly replenish any diminished units. It’s absolutely ludicrous.

It’s also the Imperial Guard incarnate: the game simultaneously understands and focuses these hapless soldiers’ purpose and nature. The genetically-enhanced Space Marines are the fist of the human Imperium – but these everyday soldiers are just the fingernails. They are cannon fodder incarnate, recruited almost more to die than to kill, and are thus endlessly reinforced. While in terms of weaponry and abilities they might seem a little vanilla alongside the heightened sci-fi absurdity of the other five factions, it’s their very disposability that makes them so enticingly weird. When I play DOW2, I don’t like to lose soldiers – it feels like a waste, it feels like I’m not playing that well, and frankly it burns resources. In the Impy Goo’s case, wanton sacrifice is positively a virtue. What could have been boring soldier-men become psychopathic fanatics, with the scale of their death toll matched only by the sadistic fervour of their commanders. Remember, in the first Call of Duty, the start of the Russian campaign? You’re given three bullets but no gun, told to seize a weapon from the first fallen comrade you see and threatened with execution if you ever move any direction than forwards. The Imperial Guard is basically that played for chilling laughs.

Lead ‘hero’ Castor is a delight in this regard, a sort of Victorian hunter-general convinced everyone’s slacking and openly relishing the chance to punish them for it, while at the same time positively thrilling in the chance to coolly murder alien hordes. There’s plenty of earnest chest-thumping in the Space Marine and Eldar campaigns, or slightly tiresome sibilant boo-hissing in Chaos, but it’s the double-whammy of fanaticism and humour in the Impy Goo’s that bears the game’s best writing. I’ve yet to try Ork and Tyranid campaigns, but I’m presuming broader humour from the former and alien minimalism from the latter. I love that they’re still they’re to go back to, after I’ve put in some 15 hours of singleplayer already, but I don’t exactly relish ploughing through the opening tutorial missions and more heavily-scripted fights again. Knowing I’m doubtless in for some more full-on crazy special abilities and stacking powers means it remains a lure nonetheless.

What also shines is that the game actively gives you a choice between playing it as a strategy game or a massively overclocked Diablo. For every mission, you can either take your four heroes along and concentrate resources on buffing them to maxibuff, or your can replace them with Honor Guard that cleave closer to the units found in multiplayer, plus increase the population capacity so you can field more general units. Also, mission rewards offer a choice between unlocking new units or unit upgrades, or simply indulging yourself in a colossal piece of loot for one of the heroes. It is entirely possible to play the campaign with just your four uber-characters and pretty much ignore building anything. I would argue that’s a less satisfying way of playing it than the middleground of a couple of heroes and a small retinue, but what’s important is it’s no longer stuck in an awkward halfway house between RTS and RPG. It lets you pick which one you want to play, which makes the old formula make so much more sense. It also livens up the repeat plays an awful lot; the missions might be the same, by my tactics and abilities can be quite profoundly different.

At the same time, I do miss caring at a level beyond OTT war and mega-biff. While last expandalone Chaos Rising hardly deserves an entry on the videogame narrative scroll of fame, it did a pretty stand-up job of juggling loot hunger, huge fights and having a vested interest in the broad but solid archetypes that made up its core cast. They were on the road to hell, I got the chance to viciously toy with their morality, and I had a vested interest in finding out who the 24-style traitor in their ranks was. Here, I just want, crave more stuff, more powers, more crazy. It’s an almost exact trade-off rather than a reduction in appeal, but what a remarkable feat it would have been to achieve both. Given that would require making no less than 24 characters semi-rounded and interesting, I’m hardly blaming Relic for not pulling it off, however.

Multiplayer I am, as I have always been, less excited about. It is solid, it is glossy and it is loud, plus the Imperial Guard mesh in remarkably well – they’re surprisingly various and meaty compared to their DOW1 implementation, so definitely don’t go thinking that they’re a lesser option than the other races. Between their mighty tankitude and the lumbering meat-shield Ogryns, they have at least as much clout as any other faction. If anything, they’re wilder than some of the more openly sci-fi factions such as Chaos and Eldar. I don’t play often, but I’m enormously likely to gravitate to them when I do. While there are a raft of tweaks and boosts the multiplayer game at large, primarily a victory point tussle, remains fundamentally the same however; a remix of Company of Heroes with a little more micro and a lot more colour. It’s a strong multiplayer offering for sure, but it doesn’t feel like Only War, the 40K mantra. It feels like Only Videogame, and that’s a shame. Clearly the spectre of StarCraft II looms large and trying to stand against it is perhaps an impossible feat, but I can’t help but feel this is the game that could, if it wanted, co-exist securely by more aggressively pursuing difference . That it does have, to some extent, in the co-op arena mode that is Last Stand, introduced yonks ago but updated with new heroes and loot here. It’s a more throwaway option, but it is the missing link between singleplayer’s reward-based progression and multiplayer’s commanding and conquering. I wish it, not trad. multiplayer, was the online focus and thus given more room to breath.

I’m left in a slightly odd place about Retribution. I have absolutely no doubt that it will remain installed on my PC for at least a year and be something I reliably dip in and out of, but to some extent that’s achieved by sheer scale. Six races isn’t all that much compared to DOW1 come its fourth expansion, but it makes for a huge game nonetheless. It’s a hell of package, and a fine, fine way to delve into DOW2 if you’ve never done so before. I’d recommend Chaos Rising over it, however – it has a certain focus, and a certain splendour, which is a little lost in the marvellous scale of Retribution.

Don’t got thinking this an either/or situation, mind. You should absolutely play both. This has been the remarkable thing about DOW2 after its brave but slightly wobbly start – it positively embraces change. Each of the three times it’s welcomed us into its world of war craft, it has changed and grown in a way that, tradition tells us, expansions don’t bother to. The maxi-splosion that is Retribution might not have the clarity of Chaos Rising, but it absolutely redeems any lingering sense that Dawn of War 2 is a smaller RTS. This is as big and noisy as it gets.


  1. Heliosicle says:

    Shame about the pricing, $29.99 and £29.99?

    • Fwiffo says:

      They promised us digital distribution would free us from crap like this. People don’t mind it seems, it’s the top selling game on Steam at the moment.

    • Heliocentric says:

      £19.99 on gamersgate mind.

    • Dolphan says:

      I shall wait for a Steam weekend deal/holiday sale methinks.

    • liq3 says:

      Only $29.99? Lucky you. It’s $59.99 for me. Seems they hate Australia.

    • Talsidor says:

      “It’s $59.99 for me. Seems they hate Australia.”
      Don’t forget that’s $59.99 USD. They’re literally charging us double for the same product from the same place. Is our USD only worth half as much?

    • Bilbo says:

      They know they’ll get away with it, so they’ll do it. It’s free money from their perspective. Screw them, I’m not biting on this one.

    • FRIENDLYUNIT says:

      Gosh. Yes, I forgot I was also paying in not-AUD. How absolutely preposterous.

      I bought it from a shop that specialises in shipping to Australia for free. I just couldn’t bring myself to close my eyes and take it.

    • jonfitt says:

      Not this old hoary chestnut again.

    • vagabond says:

      Buy it from GamersGate, punch the code they give you into Steam if you’d prefer to download it from there.

    • anduin1 says:

      I remember how digital distribution was supposed to cut costs way down but now I keep reading stuff like “dev costs keep going up so we have to charge the same amount” yet the physical copies that cost money to transport, print, and display cost the same.

    • TheTourist314 says:

      I guess that’s the downside of living anywhere that isn’t America. U.S.A.! U.S.A.!

    • Squirrelfanatic says:

      Go check out the RPS data smuggling ring thread. This is what it is for.

    • Bilbo says:

      @Vagabond has the right idea. This is only £19.95 from GamersGate, and they even give you £1 back in their magic gamersgate currency. Now to play the twelve-hour Steam waiting game… honestly this loophole has mostly nullified my rage at THQ, although I still take umbrage with having to wait longer for it than the ungrateful Merricuns.

    • RegisteredUser says:

      AUD/USD is currently actually pretty much at parity in the real world foreign exchange market.

  2. Bilbo says:

    Here’s wot I think: two days later than the US, double the price. Screw you, THQ.

  3. x25killa says:

    I’m a big fan of DoW 2 and Chaos Rising with The Last Stand mode, I shall be purchasing the Collector’s Edition of Retribution. This is the only game I have been excited for in a long time and that’s saying something. Already spent over 400 hours total for both games and I wouldn’t be surprised if I spend more time on this game alone.
    And the crazy thing is, I don’t even play multiplayer except for Last Stand mode!

    However, Relic/THQ did shoot themselves in the foot by releasing standard version on steam MORE than the collector’s version from a retailer and making the UK and Irish people wait longer because of red tape.

    Just hope this hasn’t peeved off potential customers…

    • Xocrates says:

      Naw, they preferred to peeve of actual costumers by launching the game and then deciding that a handful of countries weren’t supposed to have it yet (despite previously implying, if not outright stating the game was supposed to be launched then) so locked people out of the game after one day of play, proving not only that they could, but that they WOULD do that, not only punishing costumers for their mistake, but severely breach the accumulated trust on Valve, THQ, and Relic.

    • x25killa says:

      I did send @wh40kdow with a tweet: “Explain this to me, why do I with many UK and Irish people have to wait extra 3 days later for your game to be released on steam?” The response:

      “Because we’re still mad at you for the Spice Girls.”

      “Nah, it’s all legal and financial stuff that we can’t always control. We’d love for everyone to get it all at once.”

    • Xocrates says:

      Don’t get me wrong, I was fine with waiting for the 4th to play. What I’m not fine is with been given access to the game and then have that access removed, especially since it was previously implied I was supposed to have access.

      i.e., this: link to forums.steampowered.com

    • x25killa says:

      The hell? Who’s fault is this? I got my pitchfork and torch ready…
      Reminds me of the Modern Warfare 2 being locked for PC Gamers but not for console gamers ¬¬

  4. Andy_Panthro says:

    “threatened with execution if you ever move any direction than backwards”
    I think you meant “any direction other than forwards” #corrections [edit] corrected, so ignore this bit [/edit]
    This does make me want to buy the game though. I did enjoy DOW1 to a certain extent, so I’m wondering if this would be a better fit for me… is the single-player as good for the other bits of DOW2? Will there be some sort of low-price compilation edition? I will wait and see I think. I still have too many other games to get through first…

  5. Kdansky says:

    > it’s welcomed us into its world of war craft.

    I see what you did there, and I cringed.

  6. pagad says:

    “The fingernails”? You do the Imperial Guard a severe injustice, Meer. If the Space Marines are the fist, the Imperial Guard are the entire rest of the person.

    • Bilbo says:

      The hammer of the emperor!

    • Zyrxil says:

      Yeah, you don’t fuck with the Black Knight just because he has no fists.

    • Andy_Panthro says:

      Tis but a scratch!

    • Bhazor says:

      If the Space Marines are the Emperor’s fist then the Guard is the Baneblade he’s driving in.
      “Drive me closer! I want to hit them with my sword!”

      Edit: Freakin’ yay!

    • DJ Phantoon says:

      I’m fairly sure Black Knights can kill people by staring at them forcefully.

    • jonfitt says:

      The Space Marines are the Emperor’s Fist, and the Impy Goo are the glove slap that proceeds the fist.

    • Ultra Superior says:

      Imperial Guard is the hammer of the Emperor while Space Marines are his Sword.

      Which makes Emperor a double wielder.

      Also, Imperial Guard kills few more Orks every standard year (as in year here on Holy Terra).

      I think it’s around 31 000 000 000 000 Orks killed by Space Marines versus 32 000 000 000 000 Orks killed by Guard.

    • noerartnoe says:

      @Superior: But how many members of the Guard butchered by Orks? ;)

  7. McDan says:

    Race of choice anyone? Eldar for me.
    And must agree on the pricing issue, it’s 2011 now. We’re living IN the future, c’mon.

    • x25killa says:

      Blood Ravens. Why? Cyrus. I personally thought he was the best unit to use in DoW 2/Chaos Rising.

    • Hypocee says:

      If you want to imagine the future, imagine games publishers stamping on British guys, forever.

    • Bhazor says:

      Haven’t played them yet but Impy Goos were my favourite race in DOW and probably my favourite in terms of 40K in general. Personally I’m still waiting for the Necron expansion which were crazy enough in the original DOW and I’d love to see how they’d turn out in DOW 2.

    • Bonedwarf says:

      Orks. Love me some greenskinz.

    • Cael says:

      I can’t choose between Orks and Imperial Guard, I love them both.

    • Danarchist says:

      So far I have really enjoyed Chaos, a little dark and dreary but cool looking anyways O.o
      As for pricing I can confirm it actually has nothing to do with The Spice Girls. Simon Cowell and the jack___ from hell’s kitchen though…..ya, your gonna pay us for that.

      {edit} actually we’ll forgive you for Gordon Ramsey if you’ll agree to take Justin Beibre and to keep Madonna. We will even throw in any two of our non-comedy central political commentators as a bonus.

    • Blackberries says:

      Imperial Guard, without question. Then Eldar, probably.

    • drewski says:

      Given Justy Bieb-Biebs is Canadian, seems harsh to make the ‘murrikans have him. Unless the UK agrees to take Bryan Adams in exchange.

  8. Hirmetrium says:

    Sad to hear you don’t like it as much as Chaos Rising. From the little demo I played I found it ravishing, entertaining, and brutal. I’m looking forward to digging into it, and finally finishing the Space Marine story started in DOW1.

    And yes folks, this does conclude the campaign from DOW1. Awesome is born again.

    • x25killa says:

      I do hope there’s an ending for the Space Marine storyline in this, had flashbacks of DoW 1 from the Retri intro trailer.

  9. Axyl says:

    Heliocentric i LOVE YOU DUDE!

    You’ve just put Retri within my price range to buy AT UK LAUNCH!

    For the £30 i thought i’d need, that was gonna have to wait till Monday (another 3-4 days).

    Thank you dude and thank you GAMERS GATE! :)

  10. oatish says:

    I really found the plucky Imperial Guardsmen the best bit of the beta – shit seeing those guys get asploded had me all like, ” ! ”

    This is as a cheaper and lazier alternative to actually building a 40K army and I am looking forward to toy-soldiering around with Skirmishes.

  11. The Sombrero Kid says:

    Almost everyone completely fails to see the absolute unprecedented brilliance of all Relics games as a whole but specifically DOW2 i don’t understand why people can’t see that it saved the RTS from Starcraft 2.

    • Xocrates says:

      That… doesn’t even begin to make sense.

      For starters, Relic’s RTS are adored since Homeworld and probably the most popular non-blizzard RTSs out there, secondly Starcraft 2 is not only out but likely outsold every Relic game ever made so Relic hardly saved the RTS world from Starcraft 2.

      If what you’re trying to say is that Relic stopped RTSs from following the classic Starcraft formula then I disagree since said formula had started to become stale around the turn of the century and RTSs as a whole have been reinventing themselves since then in an attempt to remain relevant. Relic may be the biggest name on this movement, but was not the first (heck, the original DOW was essentially Warcraft 3 with squads and cover).
      In fact the movement has gone for so long that Starcraft 2 is one of the few modern games to follow the classic formula closely which, ironically enough, actually makes it feel original.

    • Zenicetus says:

      I just started playing DOW2 recently, I think a recent Steam sale was the trigger.

      One reason why it may not be more popular, is the goofy faction design from the perspective of someone who isn’t already a 40k tabletop gamer fan. I knew nothing about this franchise, and I had to suppress some giggles about the space “Orks” with a “k”, and the over-the-top space marines with the tiny heads and big shoulders. Once I realized it was sorta like COH in space, and just accepted the goofy faction designs and back story, it started to grow on me. I’m enjoying it now, and will probably work through Chaos and Retribution eventually.

      Another thing that doesn’t help, is that the online resources like Wikis for learning about the 40k “universe” and factions really suck, for someone trying to get a handle on this for the first time. There is no encyclopedia or FAQ in-game, and the online info scattered around various web sites assumes that you’ve been following this stuff for years.

    • subedii says:

      There’s only like, two or three sites you need. If you’re looking for Dawn of War unit stats and things, then it’s the DoW2 codex here:

      link to dow2.info

      At the moment it’s still being updated, naturally since the game just released.

      If you’re looking for strategies and strategic help, you can head for the DoW 2 community website forums, although a better choice might be game replays and their forums:

      link to gamereplays.org

      And finally if you’re looking for background information on the universe itself, that would be the lexicanum here:

      link to wh40k.lexicanum.com

      Be wary, if you get into 40K, that place can be as bad as TVTropes for incessant tab clicking.

    • Bonedwarf says:

      I adore the 40K universe. Have done since the Rogue Trader days. I have the 3rd edition of WH40K. I even made tons of counters to use as units as I couldn’t afford the minis. (Back before they saw the profit to be made in minis Games Workshop actually ENCOURAGED substitution.)

      And now I get linked to a wiki detailing the minute details of the 40K universe.

      I AM DOOMED! (And will most likely wind up buying the latest rule set because of all this.)

      GOD I love the 40K universe. No other universe comes to close to enthralling me as much as that one. (Battletech came close but the universe just wasn’t as inspiring.)

    • Zenicetus says:

      Subedii, thanks for those links! There goes my weekend. Although, whoever decided black text on a dark grey background was a good design on that Lexicanum site, should be shot.

    • Blackberries says:

      I actually prefer the basey-buildy, Starcrafty model of RTS. I like building things, dammit. Building, researching, training, massing, commanding, conquering. I still enjoy DoW2 for what it is, but it’s not a replacement for the original Dawn of War. That’s fine, of course: I can still play the first when my friends and I want some excellent, 40K-themed multiplayer (co-op, vs AI). But there will never be another, as I doubt Games Workshop will be handing out another 40K RTS license anytime soon.

      Oh, and I don’t play Starcraft because the universe doesn’t excite me all that much, and I prefer having a good spread of races. I enjoy watching competitive matches, but it couldn’t replace Dawn of War of Age of Empires for single-player skirmish or co-op multiplayer fun.

  12. Reapy says:

    I keep finding myself drawn to last stand mode again and again and really would love to see this concept expanded even more so than they have now. I really love the idea of this rpg lite making quick builds that are somewhat different, but each pretty crazy powerful.

    It also helps that I haven’t beat last stand yet after playing the CR one for a few weeks, but came pretty close a few times. It’s hard when you don’t have anyone to make a run at it with. The new arena will be pretty fun I think to work with, it seems like the difficulty ramps up pretty quickly.

    Oh one thing that the SP really does in this game is ease you into the multiplayer. I started late in CR and when I finished up the original dow2 + CR I stepped into regular multiplayer and found it a little bit overwhelming. In the SP you don’t see any of the cap points, requisition, power and pop limits and the interface has a bunch more stuff you haven’t seen. Then, on top of that you have a whole slew of new units that you don’t really know what is effective vs what. Couple that with trying to learn in an environment where you are playing a rapid paced multiplayer game vs knowledgeable opponents and it was pretty rough.

    So retribution will at least ease you into the multiplayer by letting you basically play with all the units in the singleplayer game, and I think it is a pretty smart move… though I wish I could have played with my maxed out guys a bit longer.

  13. JackShandy says:

    I know this is probably something people ask a lot, but why exactly is a game set 40,000 years in the future called “Dawn of War”?

    • The Sombrero Kid says:

      Dawn of the Sun, isn’t the start of the Sun, it’s the Start of the Suns apearance in a day, Dawn of War is the Start of this instance of War, not all wars ever.

    • Bhazor says:

      Warhammer is like a thousand seperate all piling on top of each other and in a million different star systems. This is just the outbreak of one particular war.

    • Bonedwarf says:

      In that case it should be called “Dawn of a War”.:)

    • Ultra Superior says:

      Because in the grim darkness of the far future there is ONLY WAR!

      Here’s your answer, now open Lexicanum and learn.

    • Xocrates says:

      Last I checked, Dawn of War was up to at least 7 different wars.

    • JackShandy says:

      Dawn of A War – and it’s sequel, Dawn of Another War.

    • Pijama says:

      “In the grim dawn of the 41st Millenium there is only war” – on the core rulebook of wh40k. =)

    • drewski says:

      Nope, still the same War – just another day in the War. Different opponents, different locations, always the same struggle.

    • Archonsod says:

      I heard the spin-off “Noon of a Mild Disagreement” got canned.

    • Eversor says:

      In tabletop 40k, Dawn of War is simply one of the game types that determines how you deploy units. You start off with your HQ (commander) and two squads of troops. All additional forces come into play later.

      It’s also a catchy name.

  14. Ultra Superior says:

    Nice review, however I’m bit puzzled about Alec’s skepticism about multiplayer.

    I can’t be objective in this matter as I play DOW2 multiplayer with my friends nearly every day for few games – and I live like this since whenever the DOW2 had been released – BUT

    I really consider the multiplayer of DoW2 to be superior to any other RTS currently out there.

    Resource management, Map control, overall strategy/coordination with team mates, cover tactics, micro – I find it much better than SC2 (which had disappointed me – after me being spoiled from DoW2’s depth.)

    • Danarchist says:

      Honestly I have tried the DOW2 multi-player numerous times, and really never cared for it myself. I think the resource management in the game is bad imho and having to memorize hotkey’s for each individual squad makes my head swim.
      But besides that, theres no finding the other guys base since they are all placed statically. There is very little along the lines of unit AI, if you dont tickle each squad they just stand there in the open and get butchered, and the first guy to get to a tier 3 base and crank out one unit wins. Maybe im getting old and crusty slow, but I find dow1 far superior for a multiplayer experience.

    • subedii says:

      Have to disagree on pretty much most of those points to be honest. Hotkey’s aren’t nearly as essential as Starcraft 2. Regardless, memorising them isn’t necessary, Retribution has an option for a GridKeys layout, meaning all unit ability hotkeys follow a simple layout format. QWERTY will activate your units individual abilities, depending on where the icon is. So the first ability is always triggered by Q for example.

      Unit AI is about the same as any other RTS, they’ll fire if something’s in range, otherwise they won’t move of their own accord. If they did then that would be bad. They do however have cover auto-seek, they’ll make use of any cover close by (I emphasise close, because having your units turn around and head in the opposite direction because there’s cover there would be a bad thing). Since the game’s based around fewer units, yes, it’s all about squad control.

      You’re really really really wrong about getting to T3 being some kind of bizarre “I WIN!” button. I’m sorry, there’s just no other way to put it other than you’re wrong there. T3 brings out the heaviest or most complex units, but they require a large amount of resources, and proper investments even in T2 is usually enough to see them off, even the super units (which, if it’s gotten to the point where they’re putting out super units and you’re so behind that you haven’t even reached T3, then frankly you had problems long before T3. That’s very literally the same in any other RTS, you fall very behind in the tech race, then you’re probably going to lose. Almost every RTS has its metagame, even ones like World In Conflict).

      It naturally varies from race to race, but I’d actually say the divide between T1 and T2 is greater than the one between T2 and T3.

      As for bases being static, well yeah, but the oppont’s base doesn’t really matter. It’s a different style of game, and I can appreciate if you don’t like that style, but you need to understand the mechanics this is going by. Unlike other RTS’s, the focus isn’t on destroying the enemy base, and since there’s no building, you’re never going to be scouting it either. The way that the whole Victory Point mechanic is structured is to emphasise actual in-the-field combat and unit control, not base management. To that end, the gameplay is based around VP’s and critical resource areas. Those are designed to be points of contention, sources of conflict where armies meet and fight each other. It makes for a much more combat oriented game.

      Basically yeah, it’s not going to play like a standard base building RTS, and it’s understandable that people will dislike that. But you have to understand that you then can’t judge the gameplay by the same mechanics as those other RTS’s. Asking why there’s not base scouting in Dawn of War is about as relevant as asking why there’s no suppression mechanics in Starcraft. The emphasis of the gameplay is placed elsewhere.

    • Ultra Superior says:


      Excellently put! Agree 100% with all your points.

    • Ovno says:

      /thread Subediii, /thread

    • theSAiNT says:

      What do you mean by ‘DoW2’s depth’?

      I found DoW2 multiplayer pretty disappointing relative to DoW (I am a huge fan of SC/SC2). The reason is that it removed what I consider to be a pivotal spoke of all RTS games: the tripod of economy, army and tech.

      Every RTS is defined by the choices you are given to achieve these three possible objectives and there is dynamic tension throughout the game because you can’t pursue all three.

      DoW2 effectively throws out economy and thus waters down the scope of strategic choices dramatically.

    • subedii says:

      It removed base-building and replaced it with a greater emphasis on individual squad tactics and control. Which is why, as an example, there’s such a huge emphasis on the hero units and their wargear loadouts over the course of the game, something that Starcraft doesn’t really “do”. On the Eldar, playing against a Warp Spider Exarch is a very different affair to fighting against a Warlock Exarch. And even moreso if for example, they adopt a strategy based around group teleport. Or maybe Phase Shift instead. Maybe they sideline teching their commander altogether instead focussing on upgrading their squads or fast teching to latter tier units.

      Starcraft 2 has a different emphasis, and base building is a necessary part of its overall strategy and pacing. It’s a good game, but I don’t want to go into what I felt were also some ill judged design decisions that they took with it lest I turn this into a Starcraft VS DoW argument. Let’s just say they play differently and work along different lines.

    • Ultra Superior says:


      Tripod very much stands, only you don’t see “harvesters” turning on their heels as they slave their endless 10 metre cycles from crystal to refinery…

      In Dow2 the economy is a part of the battlefield and you have to choose how much of it you are able to seize, and how much of it you are able to deny to your opponent.

      You have to choose, how much resources you’re willing to invest into your economy – to see the returns of this investment, you have to support it/defend it with your army.

      – if you succeed, you can tech up and broaden your tactical possibilities (yet still carefully consider what units you’re investing into, and you have to be aware which game plan you want to pursue) teching doesn’t ensure victory.

      I’m an avid RTS player (C&C, SC&Warcrafts, Generals ZH, supreme commander, CoH, Dow1&2) – and I really think DoW2 provides most depth – it keeps you constantly on your toes and you have to carefully analyze the strategy of your opponents in order to defeat them. Cover, suppression, support units/abilities, specialized units, tough choice which upgrades to get etc.

      In Dow1 building the base was absolutely redundant (with the exception of Eldar) and the game was all about who amasses bigger blob.
      Supreme Commander multiplayer can be fun if you have spare 30 hours.
      C&C3 and 4 are absolutely terrible – shame on them.
      CoH is a slightly boring desaturated ww2 miniature.
      SC2 is a colorful mess with sci-fi cliché everything.

      Generals ZH – is an unbalanced and obsolete game, yet still with the best designed factions/units variety in RTS –

      In terms of variety of scale (amassing hordes of units, turtling or using few specialists units to win the game)

      And in terms of variety of factions (stealth GLA versus Airforce USA = it’s like two different games clashing together and it worked wonderfully).

    • subedii says:

      I’m not necessarily going to agree with everything Ultra said, but I do agree that the base building in DoW didn’t serve much purpose to the gameplay. Other games like Starcraft handle that better.

      Ultimately the purpose of building structures was effectively to act as a sunk cost investment in order to gain access to specific unit types and technologies. It was an opportunity cost, spend your resources on units now, or tech up and get something better later on, at the expense of having to deal with your opponent now with whatever they may have (and if they’ve invested heavily without teching up, you could be under a lot of pressure to begin with).

      That hasn’t been removed in DoW 2, it’s been streamlined. Saving to tech up as opposed to investing in new units or abilities is still important, you just don’t have to deal with multiple structures dotted around your “base” to do it. It also means that individual squad upgrades become more important, there’s a lot of tension between upgrading your squads / commander and teching to get access to higher tier units and abilities.

      Resource management still comes into it because you need to invest resources into getting your power infrastructure running, and the more you invest, the more you have to defend. It’s a trade-off, getting more power nodes secured with more power generators doesn’t just mean you have less requisition to buy a new unit, it also means you’re having to defend more points. Losing an un-upgraded power node isn’t a big deal. Losing a fully upgraded one is often a game changer. And each time a requisition or power node changes hands, it takes time to tick up to full capacity again.

      DoW2 foregoes the nuances of base micromanagement and instead shifts that focus onto the battlefield, with things like suppression mechanics, retreat / reinforce mechanics, the melee / ranged delineation, positional cover and so forth.

    • Ultra Superior says:

      Relic wouldn’t describe it better.

    • theSAiNT says:

      In the interest of not turning this into SC2 vs DoW2, I will try to to keep my comments more general.

      Unfortunately, I don’t think you have managed to salvage my ‘Tripod of RTS: economy, army, tech’. You are right that there is an economy to manage but being part of the battlefield effectively rolls it into my ‘army’ leg. In more ‘traditional’ RTS, resources spent on the ‘economy’ cannot be spent on the other legs, hence the trade off. Buying another refinery, gold mine or hatchery all mean that you’re not using those resources on your army or tech. In DoW’s case, your economy comes from controlling points on the map but you need your army to do that. So spending resources on your army simultaneously increases your economy. There is no longer a trade off.

      You could argue that some resources can be spent on upgrading collection points which recovers a bit of strategic tension but to the same extent. I think what it does do is accentuate the value of map control and positioning.

      I completely agree that the remaining two legs of ‘army’ and ‘tech’ still provide interesting tradeoffs. I just lament the loss of ‘economy’.

      Re: ‘suppression mechanics, retreat / reinforce mechanics, the melee / ranged delineation, positional cover and so forth’, I understand that lots of people, including a large contingent of RPS faithful, are fans of these features. I personally always found them rather unintuitive. Having to learn special rules for how units behaved under different types of terrain? Special rules for fighting near or far? Facing forward or backward? No doubt they’re realistic but I think they detract from the elegance of the game and moreover the ‘watch-ability’ for spectators. I much prefer the model of ‘if you can see it, you can shoot it.’ The other mechanics can be more subtly built into how units behave. For instance, attacking into a position allows defenders to have the first shot at you. Different units have different range. Etc. Anyway, to each his own.

    • Ultra Superior says:

      You’re completely wrong there… If you want to have economy – gather power – you can choose to invest significant amount of your primary resource, requisition per “map point” (power point=crystals/goldmine : node+gens=refinery/harvesters) to boost energy gain or you can decide to invest them in units for greater map control, but then you have to watch your “upkeep” which means, you gain less requisition the bigger your army is.

      Or were you saying that in “traditional” RTS your enemy can’t raid your quarry/gold mine/lumbers/refinery/harvesters? Protecting your economy investments is a necessary part of any RTS and DOW2 is no way different in this matter. It just isn’t.

      Sorry, but the economy is very much there – if you failed to see it, then you probably sucked at it – and therefore I can imagine you didn’t like it.

      Just don’t blame the game “lacking economy”. That’s absurd.

    • theSAiNT says:

      @Ultra: I don’t really know the game well enough to provide an in depth critical analysis so I shall point you at this well known post: link to forums.relicnews.com

      It was written by the creator of the DoWpro mod which is widely used competitively. I would venture that he has some authority on game balancing. He has this to say about DoW2 economy:

      “Currently Eco is one of the KEY issues with DoW2. Many players have realised that req points are fairly useless compared to VP’s (particularly in 3v3, in 1v1’s they have a larger impact….although its still fairly small) – its almost always better to cap a VP and worry about killing the enemy and THEN going for the REQ points. The HQ, with its huge req rate allows you to focus on VP’s and ignore reqs. Due to the cheapness of tiering in some situations this means that the static, stay-at-home player can successfully tech to higher power t2 units and slaughter their opponent who has gone and contested the map and invested in t1 units. Whilst fast techs are always nice – DoW2 offers one of the most lenient eco systems I’ve ever seen and due to turrets makes it near impossible to rush.

      Moreover, without any real way of securing points DoW2 has been criticised as an online game of tag – particularly 1v1. DoW1 avoided this by allowing LP’s to be placed on points. CoH similarly employed this mechanic to a lesser degree as they were not weaponised and also with its integration of the territory system that does not feature in DoW2.

      The Eco situation is further complicated by the small maps and sheer number of points on a given map. There’s loads. There’s no real way of securing them without camping and ultimately req points don’t really matter – its more cost effective to wipe out your opponent’s troops.”

  15. Retribution says:

    Currently playing through it and it’s certainly my favorite DoW game to date (and since DoW is my favorite game series…yea). Although I loved DoWII I was really perturbed at being shoe-horned into only playing with Marines, and this fixes that with a rather well-designed campaign. Though I would agree Chaos Rising had better…coherency. I’ve played DoWII and SCII extensively since both launched…and something about the overall design of DoWII just feels better, though it does sacrifice some static balance for random realism

  16. N says:

    Hm, no Tau. No one likes Tau huh? Best headgear in the game :D

    • Tom OBedlam says:

      Gah! Tau! Bastard Hammerheads!

    • Ovno says:

      Fortunately the guys at relic seemed to have stopped playing 40k at arround the smae time as me so theres none of these weird tau and necron bods that GW added in later…

    • Xocrates says:

      @Ovno: Dark Crusade never happened where you live?

    • Eversor says:

      Tau will most likely be added right after they get a new codex. I’d say, uh, in four-five years at the least.

      Dammit GW.

    • Ovno says:

      Not to me it didn’t ;p

      And the way that they always seem to get added as an after thought (IMO) makes me think that there not the relic staffs favourite races….

  17. Farewell says:

    Is it still tainted with GFWL? I’ve never really been able to play DoWII with my friends online due to cryptic GFWL-related NAT errors, no matter how much we fiddle with our routers.

    • Pijama says:

      IT HAS NOT

    • subedii says:

      GFWL’s been dropped, largely because everyone was having problems with it.
      On the downside it means that the playerbase has been effectively split, with vanilla DoW2 / CR being deprecated, which is unfortunate.

      On the upside, it means that the multiplayer connectivity is MUCH better, matchmaking’s greatly improved, and I think you ought to be able to play with your friends now. Steamworks is a much better multiplayer community system in general.

      I was certainly having any number of NAT issues connecting up with friends to play DoW2, but didn’t have any of those issues crop up when I was playing the beta for Retribution.

  18. xaphoo says:

    The only DoW 2 I’ve played is the demo for the original game. I’ve been wanting to play it properly for a while now, but the proliferation of add-ons and semi-sequels has confused me. Where should I start — with this, or Chaos Rising, or something else? Is there some upcoming sale or package I should wait for?

    • subedii says:


      Singleplayer-wise, things start off with Dawn of War 2, and you can carry your squad into Chaos Rising. Personally I found the SP campaign in DoW2 OK, but not brilliant. Chaos Rising was much better though, and the events there are basically a separate story to DoW 2 (bar the returning squadmates and a couple of returning characters). Really the campaign storyline for Chaos Rising has closer ties to Dawn of War 1 than it does for the Tyranid campaign of Dawn of War 2.

      And if you co-op either campaign, it’s awesome, just up the difficulty a notch if you’re finding things too easy.

      If we’re talking multiplayer, Retribution has everything you need, you’ll have access to all the multiplayer races, and all the Last Stand heroes. And it uses Steamworks instead of GFWL for the multiplayer architecture, which is much better.

      It’s singleplayer campaigns will follow on from the events of the first two games (and apparently even hearken all the way back to events in DoW 1 for lore fans), but I can’t tell you how good it is.

      In general, if you want the full storyline, then start with DoW2. Realistically you could probably start with any of the three and not be missing much, Chaos Rising has the better campaign, DoW2’s is OK and allows you to carry forward your squad and its wargear into Chaos Rising. Retribution won’t be carrying the squads over, but will be carrying on the storyline from Chaos Rising..

      If you’re more interested in the multiplayer stuff, then Retribution’s what you want. And it still has (apparently) a very good SP campaign, that may not be as involving story-wise (and people recat to that differently so YMMV), but I’m guessing it wouldn’t be difficult to follow even if you were starting off just from there.

      As for sales, well both DoW 2 and CR have been on sale a few times now on Steam. They’ll probably be on sale again sometime in the future, most likely during the summer sale or the winter sale. Or even just a THQ sale.

  19. Jake says:

    Quick question – what sort of army size do you end up with in multiplayer? Is it closer to the first DOW in terms of numbers? Or is it still four small squads/lone heroes like DOWII?

    • Andrew Dunn says:

      Multiplayer population cap is the same in Retribution as it was in DoW2 – 100. For the Imperial Guard, during the beta, a typical army for me was:

      Three Guardsman squads
      Stormtrooper Squad
      Leman Russ

      So medium-scale. Battles can still be hectic as all hell, though. Some sides tend to field more squads with the same popcap – the Tyranids, for instance.

  20. clownst0pper says:

    I miss base building :(

  21. mcol says:

    I think I’ve kind of had my fill of DoW2. I heaved through the Chaos Rising campaign, I just didn’t find it engaging at all. I tried the beta for Retribution and it felt more of the same multiplayer-wise, and doing another campaign, for each race! Filled me with dread. so I cancelled my pre-order.
    Superb game, just needs refreshing in my view. One of those ones I want to love, but I just don’t.

  22. Hmm-Hmm. says:

    As much as I’ll enjoy this, I think I’ll wait a good long while before picking this up. Less buying, more playing is the mantra.

  23. Ovno says:

    “For every mission, you can either take your four heroes along and concentrate resources on buffing them to maxibuff, or your can replace them with Honor Guard that cleave closer to the units found in multiplayer, plus increase the population capacity so you can field more general units.”

    Thank you god!!!!!!!!!!!

    I was getting really worried that they were going to ruin dawn of war by bringing enforced base and army building grind back into singleplayer, but that is the best news I’ve heard all week, I may even try playing it with a bit of both, but “hero mode single player” is my favourite thing about the whole dow2 series…

  24. Kollega says:

    Ah, Dawn of War 2: Retribution. Whether to get it is one of those big dilemmas of gaming that i face every now and then. On one hand, the gameplay seems exactly like what i want in an RTS (or rather, RTT) game – less emphasis on the “build order” bullshit and the metagame, and more on actual here-and-now tactics, plus everything happens on that neatly detailed, easily micromanageable small scale. But on the other hand… my relationship with Warhammer 40k and it’s fanbase can be described as strained at best. I still can’t decide if the gameplay is worth all the facepalm moments that Chaos, Eldar, and Spehhs Mahreens (and IG too, at times) will most undoubtedly provide. What to do, what to do.

    And oh, inb4 accusations of “heresy”.

  25. ghost4 says:

    I don’t really like RTS games anymore because they don’t actually require any strategy. Just build an army of tanks and steamroll the enemy, mission accomplished. I thought DOW2 would be different, but then it turned out that you can replenish your troops indefinitely, so there goes the strategy.


    • theSAiNT says:

      When did you stop liking RTS games? If you say ‘after Brood War’ then you have a valid position. Otherwise, I think you’ll find that most RTS games do ‘require strategy’. Nothing to surpass Brood War but strategy nonetheless.

    • ghost4 says:

      Mass producing tanks and rolling them over the enemy is not strategy.

  26. bleeters says:

    As someone who recieved their boxed copy today but was left unable to install it due to steam not unlocking their version until tommorrow:

    Fuck you, steam.

    • MrThingy says:

      Hehe, yeah.

      Is sneakily downloaded it via Steam in the office hoping to back it onto USB key and take it home… but I can’t even do that until steam unlock it.

      Those files are sitting there but I’m not allowed to back them up. =\

  27. bluebottle says:

    I seem to remeber that Dark Crusade was delayed outside the US for similarly arbitrary reasons. Seems like THQ can’t get their act together with global release dates. It’s even worse with it being tied into Steam, now. No excuses, and all that.

    Ack well, I’ll do the same as with DC. Wait till it’s on sale for a pittance, and pick it up then.

  28. Iskariot says:

    I bought Dawn of War II gold edition (Includes Chaos Rising) for 5 euro within a year after release. This one will be 5 euro within a year too. So, I’m not in a hurry.
    The collectors edition of Retribution can already be bought for no more than 29 euro. It’ll be fun to watch the price plummeting.

    Each time I want to play DoW I always end up choosing DOW 1 in stead of DoW 2. The skirmish in DoW 1 is infinitely more pleasing. The AI is infinitely better, especially with the Skirmish AI Mod installed. Perhaps the graphics are a bit outdated, but I get great base building, research, more races, a huge amount of maps, larger maps, full squads, more variety in units and much more mechanized vehicles and.. a sh*tload of superb professional looking community mods. For me the choice is easy.

  29. SwiftRanger says:

    Don’t know about you guys but I could play the CE (€35) at Tuesday already, Belgium here. And it’s rad yes.

  30. RegisteredUser says:

    “There’s just enough that I haven’t particularly objected to playing through the same missions two or three times, but I suspect I’d have to be a special kind of 40K nutter to want to burn through all half-dozen iterations of it.”

    That’s pretty much another way of saying you will end up only ever playing half the game due to them not bothering to actually make at least 3 seperate campaigns.

    They could have gone the route of seperating into major/minor factions and just having 2 choices per main campaign each. But 6 x same maps?
    This is the original DOW2 problem all over again, and it’s a bit sad, because I am an absolute WH40k nutter.

  31. Jolly Teaparty says:

    @x25killa Same here, he kind of broke the game for me actually. Stealth everywhere with demo packs, frag grenades, and remote charges. Kill absolutely freaking everything. Then walk the rest of your troops to the boss.