Should I Buy? – Dawn of War

“In the grim darkness of the far future, there is only war.”

With these words Games Workshop have sold one of the world’s most popular tabletop war games, Warhammer 40,000. It’s set in the far flung 41st Millennium where the Imperium of Man rules over millions of worlds and billions of souls die each day to defend humanity from its manifold enemies both within and without. Though the game is both complex and expensive, it’s certainly an immersive hobby with a rich internal mythology. Luckily, with the work of  Relic Entertainment, you no longer need to absorb tons of information and pay out hundreds of pounds to experience the challenging, visceral battles of 40K.

This is a real-time strategy (or RTS) for the PC that was originally released back in 2004. It allows you control of one of four different factions, either the Space Marines, the Orks, the Eldar and the forces of Chaos. Each is designed with a different play style in mind. The Space Marines are balanced and flexible, the Orks use massive numbers to overwhelm the enemy with little strategy, the Eldar have a wide range of highly specialised units that require intensive micromanagement and Chaos, which are an up-close and personal elite cadre of psychopaths. Each one draws from their tabletop counterpart without being bound by it. All put together, this makes sure the game is faithful to the source material without ever limiting itself.

Unlike most RTS’ that emphasis base-building, this game instead advocates combat.  The usual resource harvesting and base building has been streamlined. There are only two resources to worry about, Power and Requisition. Power is earned simply by building generators, and Requisition by holding Strategic points and Critical Locations. These are special locations on the map that you can order your squads to capture. These are set at routes to your base, chokepoints etc. which gives you two reasons take as many as you can. It also gives you objectives to focus on in battle. If your north entrance keeps getting harassed because you haven’t secured a proper perimeter and defence, you know what you gotta throw your Tactical Marines at.

The base building also boils down to just a handful of proper structures, the rest is all big grimdark tough things like turrets and stuff Once it’s set up, you’ll pretty much never have to bother about it.

You know how in most RTS’ building a unit just gives you one guy? Not here. Instead, it gives you a basic squad which you can then reinforce it with additional members, leaders, advanced weapons etc. that can be used to adapt the squad into different roles. Each race gets variations on different archetypes. There’s the scouts, the standard guys, the jetpack types etc. Still, they manage to strike a balance so that each race feels familiar enough at first that you’ll have a basic handle on them but they’re differentiated enough not to feel like palette swaps.

The game’s campaign only allows you to play as the Space Marines and pits you against the other three factions over twelve missions. It’s not the focus of the game, but it’s much better designed and fun than most tacked-on single player campaigns.  It doesn’t hold a candle to the campaign from the expansion pack Dark Crusade, but I’ll get round to reviewing that soon. Overall, this is a great game. The graphics may be dated now, but the whole visual and auditory design is pitch-perfect 40K material.

I’m only going to include the price for the base game below, but the various expansion packs are available in collected editions.

The price is £2.50 in CEX, but you can’t get this by itself on Steam. There are many collected editions on there though that combine the different expansion packs.


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