Have you played… Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War – Soulstorm?

Have You Played? is an endless stream of game retrospectives. One a day, every day of the year, perhaps for all time.

I genuinely couldn’t say whether Soulstorm was the ‘best’ version of Relic’s first 40K RTS, but it’s certainly the one that makes me feel fondest towards the series.

I can remember seeing the first screenshots of vanilla DoW and sincerely believing that it was going to be the greatest videogame ever made.

I can remember then playing it and finding it slightly… flat. Great-looking for sure, but somehow lacking quite the bombast I’d imagined. The campaign was a major let-down too. But, by the time final expansion Soulstorm rolled around, so many well-known 40K factions were in the mix that the devs had to dig relatively deep – and they struck crazy-gold.

The Sisters of Battle and the Dark Eldar aren’t factions I’d ever particularly wanted to play as, but they do bring enormous extra character to the 40K setting. Better still, with them in the mix we were up to a fully nine different factions. Suddenly Dawn of War wasn’t just a narrow slice of the 40K universe: it was the 40K universe. I remain disappointed that Dawn of War II never went anything like as far.


  1. ArcusC says:

    Tried the demo, made me buy the whole DoW I and II bundles.

  2. DarkFenix says:

    Dark Crusade was where DoW1 hit its pinnacle in my opinion. Soulstorm tried to mix up the formula with things like air units and fell a bit flat, the two added factions also felt very lacklustre compared with the seven existing ones.

    I’ve been back to reinstall DoW1 repeatedly over the years and Soulstorm is never part of that reinstallation.

    • Asrahn says:

      Exactly this. Me and some LAN buddies tend to reinstall DoW up to Dark Crusade; Soulstorm is always left out of the equation.

      The one thing Soulstorm had going for it was the massive amount of ridiculous memes it spawned, but that’s about it.

    • malkav11 says:

      One wonders what might have been if Relic had developed Soulstorm (they didn’t). But yeah, as it stands, new factions are nice and all but the campaign is several steps backwards from Dark Crusade’s, and the balance went all to hell in multiplayer too, from what I understand. Not that I play multiplayer.

      • fuggles says:

        Campaign was about on par with dark crusade as identical,just it had been done by then.

        Multiplayer was just broken for 6 months until relic patched it at last. It’s the best its been now, but community bugfix mod tidied up the rest.

        • malkav11 says:

          It isn’t, though, because your structures don’t stick around on maps you’ve already played. Which means defensive fights are a pain in the butt retread. I also recall there being less special maps/powers and a less interesting overall layout.

        • Xocrates says:

          It really really wasn’t.

          Even setting aside the very dubious decision of not allowing buildings to stay on for defense missions and multiple bugs/performance issues. Level design, and writing were noticeably worse (and Dark Crusade wasn’t that amazing to begin with). Like seriously, was Gorgutz with a hangover or something?

          • KotCR says:

            Actually, I have to take part of the responsibility for the removal of persistant bases in Soulstorm.

            Fact is, while neat, the persistent bases mechanic in Dark Crusade was a poor mechanic – it actively encouraged you too – instead of defeating the enemy swiftly and winning the game – destroy everything except the enemy HQ, box the enemy in, and then play Sim City for two to three hours spamming Turrets all-over the map instead of just winning the match. It was very poor game design encouraged bad RTS gameplay habits, and simply wasn’t fun (if you wanted to play Sim City – go and play Sim City!).

            So when Iron Lore took to the Relic News threads to look for suggestions for Soulstorm, me and many of the other veteran DoW players recommended the removal of the persistent base mechanic. Infact I think I may have been the first to suggest it. Iron Lore listened.

            The problem was, while they removed the feature, they forgot to rebalance the enemy A.I. and enemy task force mechanics to accommodate the player’s reduced ability to defend, which is why the Soulstorm campaign is the bit of a mess it is.

            That being said, I liked Soulstorm as an expansion. The fliers were a little unneccessary and pretty gimmicky, but with the exception of the Reaver Jetbike Tier 1 spam, the Sisters of Battle and the Dark Eldar came out the gate far more balanced than either of the two races that came with Dark Crusade that were egregiously overpowered for so long (a Relic habit, Imperial Guard shared this problem on WA’s release too). They also added some interesting new mechanics of their own, and were nicely flavoured non-the-less.

            I feel like unless it was the campaign you were going for, you are missing out by not installing Soulstorm in addition to Dark Crusade (FWIW, IMO Winter Assault had the best campaign mode, but each to their own).

            Anyway yeah, fun little history lesson for you folks there ^_^.

    • icemann says:

      Second that. Dark Crusade was easily the best of the expansions.

  3. TWChristine says:

    I bought it specifically so that I could finally play as Sororitas! (And because after a move, and my computer getting lost in the mail, all I had was my spouse’s laptop..and DoW was about all I could get to play on it) It often seems to be derided as a cash-in attempt after Dark Crusade, but I rather enjoyed it for what it was.

  4. Xocrates says:

    The campaign was rather rubbish, the air units never feel like a worthwhile addition, and I never really clicked with the Dark Eldar.

    However I like the Sister of Battle and the new skirmish maps enough that’s generally the DoW I game I always keep installed

    • Newt says:

      Air units may not have changed much for you, for players like me it mattered a great deal. Tau have enough jump units that adding aircraft meant that on some maps I could bring a whole lot of units into someone’s base almost instantaneously and they never saw it coming.

      Even with factions like Space Marines who lack as much variety in jump units, they still had jump units and on some maps a few Assault Squads combined with teleported Terminator squads and flying units and you’ve got yourself an extraordinarily powerful strike force.

      They were obviously better on some maps, Morriah Coast being one of my favourites, and the added strategical elements over something like C&C Generals made them a blast to have around. Not always useful, but excellent when they were.

  5. KDR_11k says:

    Nope, it was extremely buggy at launch and I never bothered.

  6. Philopoemen says:

    Dark Crusade was the pinnacle for me – I like Soulstorm, but the air units never really worked, and the AI insisted on using them.

    Didn’t help that I was a 40k tabletopper since Rogue Trader, and the Dark Eldar/sisters of Battle were gimmicky things I didn’t really know.

  7. 321 says:

    “I genuinely couldn’t say whether Soulstorm was the ‘best’ version of Relic’s first 40K RTS, but it’s certainly the one that makes me feel fondest towards the series.”

    The best, what ? Soulstorm is the crappy one that no one ever mentions, at all, ever. The cashgrab title. The lazy one. Dawn of War was the innovative, shining beacon in 04’s RTS ambiance. Winter Assault was the tipical addon that enriched the core experience. Then Dark Crusade came which is one of the best expansions in gaming, which brought so much shit to the table they cold have easily called it DoW 2 and sold it at full price.

  8. Farsearcher says:

    While I found Soulstorms campaign lacklustre I thought the two new factions were great, I have many fond memories of burning squads of panicked enemy units as the Sisters.

    It’s well worth getting the Ultimate apocalypse mod with all the modded factions (Inquisition Daemon Hunters, Tyranids and Chaos Daemons). It adds a huge number or lore friendly units to all sides and they’ve made attempts to make it somewhat balanced.

  9. fuggles says:

    Aha finally! Yes, probably put in well over 1000 hours over the years. The campaign is dire, much as with dark crusade – although the strongholds mod on moddb allows you to just play the scripted ones.

    Soulstorm is the best. It’s dark crusade but with fliers and new races. You can easily mod out the fliers using a mod I made and if you don’t want to use the new races, then don’t, but they are pretty fun.

    Soulstorm is the best (now) owing to the engine changes and is the one to buy now for skirmishes and mods. I work with team thudmeizer and we have recently uploaded, I think our 9th mod race – the adeptus mechanicus. Blood angels and thousand sons should be out in April.

    Finished races will then be: steel legion, inquisition, tyranids, salamanders, renegade guard, black templars, dark angels (has all three wings), daemons (all 4 gods and undivided paths), adeptus mechanicus, witch hunters, harlequins, khorne world eaters, space wolves, thousand sons and blood angels.

    Plus others, such as praetorians are still coming along. A list of all race mods in all states of completion can be found at:
    link to forums.relicnews.com

    So with Soulstorm’s 9 races, plus the communities 15, then its the most complete wh40k game you will likely ever play. We try to make all races distinctive and you can combine them as you see fit. I play 1 v 1 random/random and its never the same game twice.

    A real shame that dow 2 had no mod tools,but did have paid cosmetic dlc….probably related?

    Anyway, soulstorm – its the best as modding (but also 3 xpacs – seemed so unlikely at the time). I could write about Dow forever – thanks rps for all your support! Back to testing, two armies to finish and then we will go back and patch up the old ones.

  10. DanMan says:

    Soulstorm? You mean the skirmish mappack?

  11. mcnostril says:

    Despite the fact that it brought us the glory of METAL BAWKSES, it remains garbage.

  12. kud13 says:

    Soulstorm’s campaign sucked, because they took out persistent buildings. There’s a mod that’s supposed to fix it, but it doesn’t always work.

    Some neat ideas with the new factions, but execution was… not great.

    Dark Crusade is the best unmodded. But since many mods focus on Soulstorm, it’s got that going for it.

  13. dancindan2589 says:

    As a tabletop DEldar player (PAPER BOATS ARE THE ONLY WAY TO FLY, PITIFUL PLAYTHINGS) this was always my favorite version of DoW simply because I got to see my sexy little BDSM Spess Elves actually running around on a screen. Gawd I hope they make another DoW with DEldar.

  14. Poppis says:

    By the way, DoW 1 master collection and DoW 2 grand master collection are both in the humble bundle at the moment!

  15. Titler says:

    I loved the original DoW; played it to death, got extremely good at it, published a few maps for it, one of which was hosted as free DLC by the publishers of the Polish version… What made it special was an almost perfect mix of streamlined RTS standards (base building, reinforcements, unit v unit balancing) and high octane thrills (WH40k atmosphere, control point mechanism which encouraged brutal fights in the field)…

    What was more, the community was considerably more mature than most for some reason, including down to the Relic Dev team themselves, who did their best to be active in and support their community; and still do, releasing free Necron Lord DLC for their DoW2 game only last month in fact. Many of my happiest memories of gaming were from sharing replays and learning how to create mods for the game on the old RelicNews forums.

    I think what kept both game and community standards high was that whilst you could win through by being a Micro god, the game still remembered Macro strategy mattered, so if you could keep your logistics more efficient, pick fights in the correct terrain and apply intelligent pressure, you could win out through actual knowledge and persistence. It wasn’t just a “Young Persons Game”, indeed it was exhilarating to be able to beat 2, 3 and sometimes 4 other, younger (or at least, more potty mouthed) players by Orky Kno Wotz.

    My replays are here, if you want to see those games, although I don’t know if they’d work with the Steam version of DoW Dark Crusade now. I notice they also removed Senior Member tags on the forums, boo. I felt so proud when I got nominated for that recognition from the community…

    Anyway, as you can tell, I adored the series right up until
    right up until Soulstorm released, and DoW 2 was nearing launch, at which point my interest in the game waned. Some of it was simple burn out after being so involved for so long… but also Soulstorm is where the rot really came in.

    Not only did Flying Vehicles look awful but much of the deeper strategy was ruined by the fact they weren’t hindered in any way by terrain, so you could just tech for them then fly into the bases and wreck them. There were horrendous, unpatched for months game wrecking bugs too. The campaign was laughable. And the voice acting… oh dear, oh dear. So much so that the plot of DoW 2 even has a subtle dig at the game, in that the Blood Ravens refuse to talk about what happened during it’s campaign.

    And DoW 2 itself… *shivers*. It’s ok, I suppose, but by turning it into a MOBA variant, and victory coming down to pure Micro skill on tiny armies, both the wider strategy and the maturity of the community have changed; games are all about who can run to the opponents Power Gens first, be better at micro-ing that fight, and then the game is largely over. Repetitive in the worst ways, stressful in the least appealing ways, whilst it was beautifully modelled the game absolutely tore the old community apart.

    On top of which, it was impossible to easily mod out of the box, and apart from one well known mode (The Elite Mod) the modding scene largely died at birth.

    So… to me, DoW1 Dark Crusade will always be the high point of the series. I’ve purchased the beta of Battlefleet Gothic Armada in the hopes of rekindling that Orky RTS feeling, but DOW DC will always have a special place in my heart…

  16. Doomlord says:

    I think most reviewers and players who enjoyed that series acknowledge that Soulstorm wasn’t that great and felt cranked out. Between bugs and the somewhat underwhelming units and races involved, it was by far the most underwhelming of that first DOW game series.

  17. VOD says:

    Amazing game, what can you say after almost 10 years of release and people still playing and buying!
    The story, the graphics, the gameplay, the friends you can make in, the whole package is a must. You want a US200 dollars game paying less than 10? buy soulstorm.

  18. VOD says:

    Agree. Totally!
    Back in 2004 a friend on a lan party let me tried the new Dawn of War (1 or vanilla dow – no one can ever imagine the whole franchise in those days).
    12 years later, the best RTS I have ever play (I’m an old school boy, my first RTS was WESTWOOD’S DUNE 2) passing through Age of Empires, Mythology, Rise of nations, and so on…my all time favorite will be DOW 1 series forever.
    I had made my best online friends playing this amazing game.
    If you are a gamer, YOU MUST get it!