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Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War

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Over the course of the last week I have become quite infatuated with the popular RTS released early 2005 (or was it late 2004?), Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War. Dawn of War is set in the futuristic version of the pen-and-paper universe (there's also a fantasy version of the franchise, which also has a big-name RTS in development). And while this is all nice and well for people that find themselves getting all sorts of turned-on by that kind of thing, it doesn't really mean much to me other than the fact that it gives developers quite a bit of background material to work with. The gist of the thing is this: Dawn of War is a fast-paced RTS that could best be described as result of a lonely night where Starcraft had its virginity stolen away by its younger, hipper sibling, Warcraft III. What this means, in layman's terms, is that the game puts an emphasis on both large, important individual units (though there are no RPG components) while still making unit diversity and population as important as, say, Starcraft or Command and Conquer. In short: it's damn good.

The game was developed by the same company responsible for Homeworld (both the original and its sequel) as well as the less critically acclaimed Impossible Creatures. I played both Homeworld games and found them entertaining but a bit too slow-paced for my tastes; the completely free-form 3D game space was fairly overwhelming for me as well. I wanted to like both games (though I never gave Impossible Creatures a try) but they were a bit too complex to easily get into and given that I didn't find them that amazing I didn't feel the necessity to force my way into the guts of the game.

I have heard great things about the multiplayer component of Dawn of War but currently I'm quite engrossed in the original game's campaign mode, which consists of eleven missions played from the Space Marine faction's perspective. And, before you get yourself all down, when I say that there are eleven missions, I want you to understand that these missions are nothing to scoff at. The first two missions took me around an hour to complete whereas every mission since then has taken me roughly two to two and a half hours to complete on hard difficultly. These are some pretty huge missions and, despite there only being eleven of them in the vanilla game, it'll take you a nice chunk of time to complete. The story is also surprisingly compelling and interesting, which is a nice change from the highly predictable stories of every game I've played in the last couple months. I just finished up the seventh mission a few minutes ago, and here are some nice little screenshots to give you an idea of how hectic things are at this point:

Did I mention that the game is damn purdy despite the engine being capable of displaying a massive number of units and special effects on the screen at once? Each unit has an unsettling amount of detail paid to it, and the weapons/loadout on the unit will change if you choose to upgrade certain features on it. As an example, there is a tank on the Space Marine side that you can eventually upgrade to have two side laser cannons as well as upgrading the primary gun into a dual-laser turret (I feel nerdy just relaying that) and both upgrades will show up on your unit in-game. Generic tech upgrades will also have a visual influence on your units throughout the course of a match too; for instance, if you decide to upgrade the melee tech of your leaders/commanders, their melee weapons will switch from a kind of chainsaw-sword to an unnecessarily large power-glove with little electrical beams pulsing through it. It's the little details like this, rather than the polygon count, shaders, and texture resolution, that really help make a game stand out all the more in my eyes.

And let me say this now: you've never seen an RTS with such amazing, inventive (and violent) animations as will see in Dawn of War. The game fully earns its M-rating with animations which, as an example, have a very large "avatar" unit that spears infantry units on its sword while blood drips down. There is also a Space Marine mech unit that will impale infantry on its claw-like thing and then beat it to the ground. It's a very neat effect, not to mention jaw-dropping when seen for the first time, but definitely just a bit violent. I personally love it -- not sure what that says about me and I'm quite willing to keep it that way.

Overall though, Dawn of War is the most fun I've had with an RTS since Rise of Nations which was released almost two years ago (and then Warcraft III before that). I liked it so much that I actually went and bought Dawn of War's first expansion pack (as was recently announced, a second expansion pack is also under development), Winter Assault, which is something I very rarely do with games. I'm going to ignore the fact that the EB Games cashier didn't put in the first CD of the game when he was filling the empty box that was displayed on the shelves. Bringing that up just makes me sad.

Now, if only it wasn't currently 4:40am so I could get to work on starting the eighth campaign mission...
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I am torn.

On the one hand, it sounds (and looks) like a bloody good game.

On the other hand, I've now heard it described as a bastard incest child of two Blizzard games... and that's just weird, man...

I dunno. I just don't know.

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Believe me, I'm looking forward to Rise of Legends more than I am my first child.

I think that Trent Jr. is quite a bit farther off on the horizon though, so it's kind of a skewed comparison.

When do I get a preview build? :)

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Just one little stupid question: by "late 2006", you mean something like december 2006 ? You are playing a game which will going to be released later this year ?

Can I buy your time travel machine please ?

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