Dawn of War II, Extra-Judged
I tend to think it's a hallmark of a game being a wee bit special if I carry on playing it after I've filed a review of it. Because what I think is so terribly important and always 100% right, you see. Such has been the case with Dawn of War II, which has successfully managed to keep me from away from other, more pressing work for the last couple of days. One big reason for this has been wading back in on the Primarch difficulty setting (that's 'Ultra-bastard-hard' in proper English), where my concerns about how relatively tactic-free the Sergeant setting was have been given a gentle shoeing.
It's a much more challenging game at Primarch, becoming akin to something like Commandos or Men at War. Unfortunately there are some crazy difficuly spikes, especially in boss fights, and I keep on winding up feeling like my Space Marines are feckless incompetents rather than super soldiers. I hope to carve though Primarch in co-op at some point, however - seems like it might be a perfect balance. Inevitably, the Campaign's map repetition is a little more grating second time around, so I can't see myself sticking with it for long. I wonder if it's possible for Relic to shove a little more variety into the campaign maps in an upcoming patch. In theory, it shouldn't break anything - most of the maps are pre-set playgrounds as opposed to anything clever and scripted.
Also luring me back again and again, this time for skirmish fights, is the new Army Painter. It's not hugely inflated from DOW1's in terms of your input options, but the effects seem so much more profound. There seem to be more minute details that are artfully recoloured based on your selections, plus there's a wider colour pallet - the net result being that you field an army that looks so much more your own, and not simply a butchery of someone else's template. I've been especially enjoying painting Tryanids in the lurid red, yellow and blue hues I did to the models when I was 14 - and frankly they look so much better than the purple and beige bores the singleplayer campaign plumped for.
Best of all, though, are the new metallic paints - silver and gold specifically. Clearly every bugger's going to go overboard with them, but there's definitely something about fielding an army clad in such regal splendour. An Eldar Warlock with a flowing golden robe is a magnificent sight, while the liquid metal look of all-over chrome Tyranids surely impress cyber-fetishists more than anything Terminator Salvation will have to offer. While Army Painter of course lacks the I Made This thrills of physically painting your own bespoke army, DOWII's take on it does seem to realise a decent fraction of that pride. I said this repeatedly about DOW1 and it never came to pass, but it would be lovely if the inevitable expansion packs increased the visual customisation options further still. How about it, Relic?