Dawn of War II is the sequel to Relic Entertainments’ original Dawn of War, released back in 2004. That real-time strategy game involved the standard base-building, resource-gathering and the invariable grind across the map, laying waste to the enemy. It did so in Game Workshops’ Warhammer 40,000 universe, involving Space Marines, Orcs and other aliens, a brilliant clean-cut interface, fantastic presentation and a very slick squad-level combat element. With the release of the public multiplayer beta, we got to see what the long-awaited sequel has in store for us.
Dawn of War II places far more focus on squad-level combat and player aggression than its predecessor. The result may turn off some traditionalists, but the new focus makes the game faster, more exciting and just plain fun.
The player holds only an HQ building, which can produce all the units in the game, assuming the player has the requisition and energy to build them. Requisition and energy can be earned by capturing and holding key locations on the map. Each unit can then be reinforced or upgraded, making the unit more versatile and powerful, which in turn allows the player to capture more resource locations. Therefore, the game calls for constant aggression where control of the map is held in a tug-of-war, and the player is consistently engaged in maneouvres making use of cover, destructible terrain and the game’s “Hero” units.
The graphics engine takes a serious step up, thanks to the revised Essence Engine (used in Relic’s Company of Heroes) with fantastic animations, sounds and effects.
Although the single-player campaign is yet to be seen, it promises to focus on more of the same squad- level combat (which makes the multiplayer experience such a blast) with a heavy focus on in-game characters, a strong story and non-linear campaign. Can Relic pull it all together? From the impressions so far – yes.