Should I Buy? – Dawn of War: Dark Crusade

Now there’s actually three expansion packs to Relic’s Dawn of War, but only one that’s really worth talking about. While the first one, Winter Assault was a so-so standard addition only really significant for introducing the Imperial Guard faction and the third one, Soulstorm, was a rushed, unbalanced, incomplete piece of trash from a different studio. Which is a real shame because it also introduced the perennially overlooked Sisters of Battle and Dark Eldar.

Dark Crusade was almost a game unto itself. Each of the three expansions technically are, they’re stand-alone additions which mean that you don’t need the original to install it or play the campaign, but you do need the Activation Key from the others games to use the factions not introduced in the game in multiplayer.

So why is Dark Crusade such a worthwhile addition to the Dawn of War experience? First off it adds some properly balanced factions, the anime-esque Communist influenced Tau, the tabletop game’s newest addition renowned for their shooting prowess and close combat squishiness and the living metal, soulless automations the VAT Inspect-er the Necrons who themselves were fairly new. Think Cybermen, but competent.

These two races had obviously had a lot of work put into them to differentiate them from the other factions. The Tau, like their tabletop counterparts, use their Fire Warriors and powerful vehicles to decimate the enemies from a distance and rely on their Kroot allies to engage enemies at close range. However, about halfway down their tech tree (gaming term used to describe the progression of research and upgrades in a strategy game) you get to choose which of two military doctrines to follow based on the Tau’s two basic army compositions from the tabletop game. One path gives you access to more close combat orientated choices and are suited to drawn out battles of attrition while the other lets you spam firepower to hit the enemy hard and fast, but doesn’t give you much in the way of defensive options.

The Necrons are even more unique than any other faction. They don’t need Requisition, instead their slow, inevitable rise is embodied by the fact that so long as they have power they can keep building. They don’t have much variation in their units and the strategy is pretty much “wait until you can overwhelm the opposition in an endless tide of undying genocidal death”. Does feel good though.

These factions aren’t enough to make this game worth buying a Dawn of War collection though, this is because of the new campaign. Instead of a set of pre-programmed missions you instead choose one of the seven factions to lead and set about conquering the planet of Kronus. Each of the seven factions wants it for a different reason, and everyone’s fighting each other for it. Even the two Imperial factions.

Each turn you move your army to a different territory to attack and try to take it from the other faction in a battle on that map. Some of these are more important than other, offering members of your Honour Guard for purchase or conferring special abilities onto the controlling faction. After your turn, you can be attacked and the computer will attack itself, not just have all six other factions gang up on you, though they won’t remove any of the other factions from play.

When you invade a faction’s home territory you’re thrust into battle against massive fortifications and several unique challenges. These are huge, characterful battles that fall in the tough-but-fun challenge bracket.

So if that sounds appealing to you as a fan of 40K or strategy, then this is a game for you. And if you are planning on buying it I recommend getting it in a pack with the original and Winter Assault.

And seeing as I’ve said that, I should give a brief paragraph to that expansion. The Imperial Guard focus on large bodies of ordinary men that rely on massed firepower and heavy vehicles to compensate for their poor firepower. While they don’t require the same level of micromanagement as the Eldar, they’re still a more strategic proposition than the Orks or…anybody but the Eldar. The campaign allows you to play as the IG, Eldar, Chaos or Orks in preset missions like the first game while the Space Marines are relegated to cameos and support roles.

Price: £5 – CEX
Dawn of War Anthology: £8 – CEX
Dawn of War Platinum Edition: £9.99 – Steam
(Note: The Anthology and Platinum editions are both the original game and WA & DC, just under different names.)


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