When I first picked up Dawn of War, I wasn't sure what kind of game I was going to get. I've been a big fan of real-time strategy games, but I wasn't sure if this product would live up to all the hype that had been going around. After playing the game for only fifteen minutes, I was already impressed at the quality of both the gameplay and visual effects. Dawn of War is an immersive experience that can captivate you for at least a couple of hours at a time.
The story of the game takes place on a planet called Tartarus, which is overrun by Orcs. The space marines are in orbit and are preparing to take the fight to the Orcs planet side. The player takes command of the Space Marine Blood Ravens under the command of Captain Gabriel Angelos in an attempt to restore order to a war-torn planet. In a drastic plot twist, new enemies will reveal themselves as you progress further along in the campaign. 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 resources 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 consists of eleven missions that follow this guiding principle. It might seem like a really inventive idea at the beginning, but by the time the last missions come around, you'll just want to finish the campaign and get it over with.
Though the campaign mode might seem weak in the repetitiveness of each mission, the multiplayer modes shine in comparison. 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 races, Space Marines, Chaos Space Marines, Orcs, and Eldar, are all equally balanced. For example, while space marines have powerful firepower capabilities, the Eldar compensate by having an increased squad size and the ability to cloak their units. I found that once I finished the campaign I never had the desire to play through it again. Instead I've opted to play multiplayer skirmishes, which can have vary degrees of difficulty depending on what kind battle I'm looking for. The AI for Dawn of War is fairly intuitive on the higher difficulty levels, but it's easy to beat when playing on the lower difficulty settings. Even on the normal difficulty level, you should have no problem beating a single computer opponent.
The visual effects in Dawn of War are well expressed, and really offer an immersive gameplay experience. The ability to rotate the map 360 degrees and change the vertical camera angle really allows an opportunity to create some amazing stills. 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 Dawn of War are downright amazing and really make up for a lacking campaign mode. The audio effects are also pretty impressive and the voiceover acting is effective at conveying the varying emotions from the different races' units.
Surprisingly, the gameplay in Dawn of War is unlike most other strategy games. 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's up to the player to decided 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. For example, a space marine squad has a maximum squad size of eight, and can equip up to four units with special weapons. These weapons vary from rocket launcher, which excel at destroying buildings, to heavy bolters, which are excellent at dealing with heavy infantry. These special weapons increase the variety of squad construction and really make the gameplay feel more in-depth.
The Relic development team has done an amazing job at presenting the Warhammer series in a realistic sci-fi strategy game. Dawn of War is definitely a solid game that is immersive with a lot multiplayer replay value. Although the campaign will only take about fifteen hours to complete, Warhammer 40,000 more then makes up for it with its highly addictive multiplayer component.