Happy December! Today was the first day of snow for the season. It was absolutely beautiful; always gives the day a magical feel. I rode my bike in the early morning hours and though to myself, “Wow, I really need some earmuffs!” After work, I headed over to the gym for a bit. And nothing makes me want to play Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War: Soulstorm than a good and hard trip to the gym; it makes me feel like an Ork! I flex all of my burly muscles and go WAAAGH in front of the mirror. Orks are brutally awesome or awesomely brutal, I could never figure out which. If I couldn’t be a speedy zergling, I would be an Ork.
I love this game. I’ve been playing it off and on since it was in beta, way, way back in the Summer of 2004. Part of my love for this game is that I was tripping on Vicodin the first time I played it and developed lots of positive associations with the game. I may not have been able to eat very much or use straws as my wisdom teeth had just been pulled, but dammit I could play Dawn of War! Apart from that drug-influenced episode, the game has humor, good balance (in general), great multiplayer battles and is quite possibly the most visceral strategy game ever made. The melee animations are amazing and the kill animations are freaking brutal: units get impaled, picked up, gouged, shot, and tossed around like the rag dolls they are.
In terms of gameplay, I think the major difference between Dawn of War and most strategy games is its take on resource gathering: you accumulate requisition based on the number of control points in your possession. This helps to make the game more aggressive than say, Command & Conquer or the Warcrafts & Starcrafts. The amount of time spent building structures is limited, giving the player more time to micro his or her troops. Another nice difference is that the player builds and commands squads of troops, rather than individual units. This makes it easier to get the hang of the game and avoids the silliness of microing a single troop out of harms way. If the squad’s standard loadout isn’t cutting it, you can also outfit them with heavy weapons, increasing their effectiveness against a specific unit type. Overall, I feel like the game has enough cool and unique mechanics to make it worth playing through. It’s definitely not your standard RTS.
Now the game has a number of expansions, each introducing new races and units, and it still rocks. I’ve played all of the nine races in the game, but have always felt most at home in the skin of an Ork. The campaign for Soulstorm, the last expansion, takes place across four planets in the war-torn Kaurava system. The player moves his or her army and chooses which provinces to attack. Taking hold of provinces gives the player resource bonuses or access to special Honor Guard units, units which are a little tougher than their standard counterparts and don’t count toward the supply cap.
While the standard missions themselves don’t go beyond the tried and true “Kill them all” and “Take and Hold” modes, each race also has a fortified stronghold. Each of the stronghold missions has different objectives that must be completed to eliminate that race from the game. The objectives tend to follow the flavor of the race in question. For instance, in the Space Marine stronghold mission, the player must hunt down beacons that guide marines from their spaceships, and allow the Space Marines to make orbital drops anywhere on the map. Stomp the beacons, then no more drop-pods.
On your way to crushing the eight other races, you’ll earn special pieces of wargear for your hero character by killing enemies, taking provinces, and defending your holdings. These items boost your hero’s stats or grant special powers. Plus, they have the added bonus of making your leader look even more badass. Very cool.
And Dawn of War has Orks. I don’t know what it is about these guys that makes me love them. They’re green, muscular, British and hilarious. I’ve heard them described as unruly football fans. While everyone else in the Warhammer 40,000 universe is all solemn and crying to “For the Emperor,” the Orks just want to get stuck in a good fight; they are pretty happy living in perpetual strife.
Overall, Dawn of War is great. It is definitely a niche RTS game, but it fulfills what it sets out to do very well.
Oh, and the introduction cinematic to the vanilla game is freakin’ awesome. Orks and Space Marines hacking each other to pieces? Yes please!
Till next time,