There's something to be said about the Dawn of War series, of its focus on battle and unit management rather than base building, and its laying of the foundation for one of the best real-time-strategy games on the market (Company of Heroes, that is). Unfortunately, something can also be said about its refusal to change this formula and how it's starting to show.
The latest instalment in the series, another stand-alone expansion, is Soulstorm. It adds another two playable races to the mix - bringing the total up to nine if you're keeping count - as well as another single player campaign. The two races here are technically offshoots from previous races, but they play very differently and involve new strategies. They also come with a couple new additions to gameplay: the addition of 'magic' (with different names), and flying units.
The Sisters of Battle are the first race. These ladies take fanaticism to the extreme, with religious quotes as their speech and even a still-living martyr tied to a mech as one of their walking melee vehicle units. In addition to all the units, buildings, and upgrades that would be pointless to list here, the Sisters come with something called 'Faith', a pool of power that allows their leader units to use powerful abilities on the battlefield. Unlike the other resources, faith is a resource that is generated from specific units that have halos around their heads. In addition, certain buildings can be upgraded to produce it.
The other new race is the Dark Eldar, an evil offshoot of the Eldar. They're like the Chaos Marines of the Eldar, only with less chaos and more evil. They're a race that focuses on quick hit-and-run attacks, since while they can deal some pretty good damage, they can take it, and fold over quickly. Like the Sisters of Battle, they also have a special resource called 'spirit essence', harvested from dead bodies and allowing them to use some powerful attacks.
In addition to the two new races, Soulstorm has introduced flying units into the fray. While on paper this sounds like a good enough idea, it just doesn't work out. The game has been based around the strategy between melee and ranged, units and vehicles, and everything from the upgrades to the maps have been designed around this. To introduce a completely new type of unit this late in the game is somewhat jarring and makes them seem out of place. In addition, each race only gets one flying unit, so it seems even more like they don't belong.
While some things have changed, the single-player campaign has not, for all intents and purposes. The conquest-style has held over from the previous title, Dark Crusade. A portal has opened up near a series of planets, luring all the nine races of the game to it for various reasons. And of course, only one can have it. So, you pick a race and take over a series of planets and their territories. First, there's a map screen in which you can do things like build base armies (which require requisition, obtained per-turn by each of the territories you own) or invade more territories with your hero.
Once you invade a territory, things switch to the traditional real-time mode, and you're off building an army and buildings, capturing resources and destroying your enemy. The campaign mode, much like the rest of the game, does not feel like it has aged too well. The map is pretty hard to read, with territories smaller than a fingernail in size and things feel a little constrained, with only a few territories per planet to fight through. It can also get a little repetitive to build the same structures, the same units, and attack the same enemy over and over again for every territory.
Since this is a standalone expansion, all the races are available in single player. If you want to play multiplayer matches, you'll be relegated to only the new races. However, there are some serious technical issues with each of them that are game-breaking. For example, if someone is playing Dark Eldar while another player is an observer, the observer can actually use the abilities of the Dark Eldar units. There's also a bug that essentially gives the Sisters of Battle an infinite amount of resources. Problems like these are not minor and really mess around with online gameplay, making it entirely pointless to play these races since many people will outright refuse to play against them.
From my point of view, it's time Relic moved on from the Dawn of War standard. Either they need to come out with a sequel with a new engine, or just let the series go entirely. While the Warhammer series is fun to play as a strategy game, the continued lack of lore, what makes the Warhammer series interesting in the first place, is starting to make the series just like any other strategy title. Right now, the game feels dated. It still has the formula that made the game popular in the first place, but that formula is just starting to show its wrinkles.