Having spent some time on the beta for the newest expansion for Warhammer 40K based RTS game, Dawn of War 2, I’ve been able to get a glimpse of how we can expect an already solid strategy title to develop even further. With several changes to the core infrastructure of the DoW2 community, Retribution looks set to be a must have expansion.
One of the key changes being made to Dawn of War 2 in Retribution is the change from using the Games for Windows Live service to using Steam for activating the game and accessing its online features. This now means that all friends and achievements from the game will synch up with Steam rather than your Windows Live account and, whilst this may annoy some DoW2 loyalists, it has its relevant benefits. Now that the game has transferred over to Steamworks one can easily purchase a digital copy of the game should this be your inclination, but there is also the added benefit of the expansion pack being entirely stand alone. Much like the expansions to the original Dawn of War, Retribution can be installed and enjoyed without the original game. You can even still play all of the races from the original game and the first expansion, Chaos Rising, in both the multiplayer and the campaign modes.
Speaking of returning to a state more akin to the original Dawn of War games, Retribution sees base-building taking a more prominent place in the Dawn of War 2 set-up. Whilst Dawn of War 1 played out in a very similar style to FPS titles such as Command and Conquer and Age of Empires, DoW2 took a more unit-based approach to strategy in the vein of Company of Heroes and World in Conflict. This is not quite the case with Retribution though, for bases can now be upgraded, with more of an emphasis being placed upon unit production and base defence management. Whilst die-hard Dawn of War 2 fans may feel shifting the focus away from the front-lines may dilute the gameplay, yet this is quite a nice treat for us oldies who enjoyed the original DoW back in the day. Rest assured that the compromise is a worthwhile one.
Whilst these key changes are being made to the way that we run and play Dawn of War 2, I must say that I was a little disappointed with the minor changes we usually take for granted in our expansion packs. In terms of new armies to command we are only given access to the Imperial Guard units, as opposed to the many new units that were introduced to all the races with the previous expansion: Chaos Rising. Admittedly, the Imperial Guard are fun to play as and add to the strategic depth of the proceedings with their special brand of rush strategies and their unique ability to create cover in the middle of the battlefield. Yet, considering the wealth of armies that populate the Warhammer 40K universe, it might have been nice if more armies could have been added to the game in Retribution. Bring back the Tau. I miss them ever so much.
Even if there aren’t a huge amount of new units added to the mix in Retribution, there is enough new content to get excited about. With the Imperial Lord General added to the roster, the Last Stand survival mode has been given a much needed boost in variety. The new maps and unit upgrades also keep your grey matter in gear, as you need to adopt your strategies to incorporate the new additions to the formula. This said it’s all still more of the same but, for all the DoW2 fans out there, this is most definitely a good thing.
A large majority of the new action in Retribution seems to be coming from the campaign side of things, with each army getting its own separate new story in the expansion. Naturally though, considering we only got a look into the multiplayer beta, we’ll have to wait until the full pack launches March 1st. Until then sit back and revel in the anticipation. For all of the expansion’s potential shortcomings in terms of content, it still does a fantastic job of expanding the Dawn of War 2 experience and it pushes the series out into bold new directions in terms of structure and gameplay.