After playing Dawn of War, I was very intrigued to see whether Winter Assault would live up to the high standard set by its predecessor. Warhammer 40,000 Winter Assault introduces a variety of new features to the game, including a new playable race, and while it didn't take long for me to dive into the campaign, my hope of a better gaming experience was rapidly suppressed.
The story of the game takes place on the Ice world of Lorn V, which is currently under the control of the Chaos Space Marines. The Orcs that are planet side have been scattered, and the clans vie for power amongst themselves instead of fighting their common enemy. The game starts off with the Imperial Guards first landing on the planet. Their purpose for being there is to recover the Titan War Machine that was lost to them during the defence of the planet. Under the command of General Sturnn, the Imperial Guard make a push towards their objective while unbeknownst to them that the Eldar are secretly aiding them. Later on, the Space Marines will make a surprising entry into the game; they are by far the most powerful units at your disposal.
The general principle for every level of the campaign is to achieve certain objective by capturing a variety of strategic points. These strategic points provide you with resource points that you can spend at will. The goal in each mission is to capture as many, if not all, of the strategic points in order to defeat the enemy. Each mission will have different objectives, such as killing specific enemies, but the overall level design is based off these strategic locations.
The campaign mode in Winter Assault is significantly different than the one in Dawn of War. The game now features two campaigns, a campaign of order and a campaign of disorder. The campaign of order features the Imperial Guard and the Eldar, both of which have different objectives. The campaign of disorder features the Orcs and the Chaos Space Marines. In most of the missions you are able to switch between the two races that are featured in the campaign. While this a neat feature, it can prove difficult to attempt to control two races at the same time. Each campaign is five missions long, bringing the total number of missions to ten for the full game.
While the campaign mode is just as short as that of its predecessor, Winter Assault shone brightest in its multiplayer mode. The multiplayer game once again focuses on the capturing and controlling of strategic points, but instead of one opponent, you can pit yourself against groups of enemies or engage a group of friends in free-for-all mode. The four original races, Space Marines, Chaos Space Marines, Orcs, and Eldar, are all still fairly equally balanced with their additional units. The Imperial Guard bring the race total to five, but this new race does not unbalance the game at all. The Imperial Guard are more of a defensive race, so instead of performing a rush attack at the beginning of the game, they are better suited for building up base defences before even considering mounting some kind of an offensive. For example, while space marines have powerful firepower capabilities, the base unit of the Imperial Guard are weak in comparison and a squad of Imperial Guard can be torn in half within a few seconds. The Imperial Guard race allows units to be garrisoned in buildings to bolster its defences. With an upgrade, Imperial Guard buildings can be connected via underground tunnels for quickly travelling around the map. The additional of a defensive race in the multiplayer arena adds a lot more to replayability if different multiplayer scenarios.
The visual effects in Winter Assault are very well done and really offer an immersive gameplay experience. The ability to rotate the map 360 degrees and change the vertical camera angle really allows the opportunity to create some amazing visuals. The unit models are very impressive in the amount of detail and variety. The ability to customize the color of your units in multiplayer is a neat feature that is a good attempt to connect the player with his/her units. Overall the graphics that are in Winter Assault are just as amazing as that of its predecessor. While there is not a large increase in quality, the new unit models are a nice that add a lot of depth to the game. The audio effects are also pretty impressive and the voiceover acting is effective at conveying the varying emotions from the different races' units.
Instead of just creating units and then losing them in battles, the game uses a squad-based approach. This approach allows the squad to recruit units that are lost in battles, or to simply increase the overall squad size. All squads are incomplete when they are originally built, and it is up to the player to decide whether it is worth the resources to recruit more units or buy another squad. Each unit in a squad can be upgraded with different types of weapons that have a variety of special abilities.
The Relic development team did an amazing job at original presenting the Warhammer series in a Dawn of War. With Winter Assault, the gameplay in multiplayer is significantly improved with a lot more unit variety. However, the campaign stills suffers from being awfully short, and can easily be finished in less than 20 hours. If you've played the original, this expansion will expand your multiplayer horizons, but if you are simply looking for a new campaign, I suggest you go back and play the original again.