Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War II review

  • Great graphics and animations
  • Fast-paced tactical gameplay
  • Co-op campaign mode
  • Repetitive missions
  • No tutorials for Eldar, Orks, or Tyranids
  • Certain game elements aren't explained well

 Two words that aren’t often associated with real-time strategy games: instant gratification. Yet Dawn of War II manages to turn the RTS formula on its ear, putting you in the thick of battle almost 100 percent of the time and ensuring that your moment-to-moment decisions involve picking which alien ass to kick with your giant red armored boot.

It isn’t dumbed down at all, but the focus has shifted to tactical combat. Indeed, Dawn of War II has gone to such lengths to differentiate itself from that other real-time strategy game with space marines fighting aliens that it’s become something else entirely. The transformation goes something like this: take an RTS, add role-playing mechanics like hero unit-leveling, tons of special abilities, and loot, then strip away RTS mechanics like base-building, resource management, and expendable units. The result is a party-based action-RPG with RTS-style controls and camera. Or, like I just said, instant gratification.

It’s a drastic departure, but this formula pays off by dramatically upping the action dosage from your typical RTS - rather than spending half of your time managing unit production and upgrading your troops, you’re in constant combat. Outfitting and upgrading your squads and deciding which missions to take on is handled between missions from the safety of your orbiting battleship in the somewhat shallow meta-game, so all you have to keep track of in battle is the health of your soldiers (they never die, they just become incapacitated until revived). That can be harder than it sounds, because the armor system is difficult to fully comprehend, so when your troops do go down it can take you by surprise.

Everything works brilliantly until your sixth or seventh mission. That’s when the realization dawns on you that most missions are extremely repetitious, dragging down enthusiasm as the 20-plus-hour campaign progresses. Two mission types, each taking between five and fifteen minutes to complete, make up the lion’s share of the game: assaults, in which you fight your way to the opposite corner of the map (optionally detouring to capture factories and shrines to boost to your ship-based support powers), finishing with a super-powerful boss unit; and defense missions where you must protect power generators against increasingly potent waves of attackers.

Only a few of the story missions deviate from these patterns, and there aren’t nearly enough of them to break the monotony. Aggravating this, there are only a handful of maps (three or four per planet) and you burn through missions at a rapid-fire speed, so you’ll probably find yourself constantly muttering, “This map again? Really?” At least the maps are designed to have multiple paths, so you don’t have to play it the same way every time.

Much ado has been made over the cover system; if you set up a gunner squad behind rocks or walls, they take much less damage than they would out in the open. In practice, cover is only really helpful against basic infantry, since nearly every other type of unit has an ability to defeat entrenched units (grenades, jumpjets, teleporters, flamethrowers, rocket launchers, melee charges, etc). Since the majority of the mid- and late-game missions pit you against the melee-focused Tyranids, the importance of cover is diminished. It’s too bad, because when it’s useful the cover-based combat is some of the most tactically interesting gameplay in DoWII.

More Info

Release date: Feb 19 2009 - PC (US)
Feb 20 2009 - PC (UK)
Available Platforms: PC
Genre: Strategy
Published by: THQ
Developed by: Relic
Franchise: Warhammer
ESRB Rating:


  • Reubenguy - February 20, 2009 7:59 a.m.

    have to agree with spybreak the community with this game sukked compared to SWTOR (thats an unfair comparision mind u) But my own opinion is that this game is gonna OWN! been waiting and saving for a tad longer then my poor heart could wait but now its all on! DOW2 has fantastic visuals and the gameplay style sounds awesome. I am sooo sick of other RTS' - build build build build build build, defend defend defend, rebuild rebuild rebuild, defend defend counterattack rebuild and finsih the enemy off. This game is definately gonna shake things up a bit...
  • Sly_Fox - February 20, 2009 5:22 a.m.

    orcs is da best! halo wars? not even. all about dow2 and starcraft2
  • Spybreak8 - February 20, 2009 5:17 a.m.

    I don't know after the lack of support gave to the community with Dawn of War I'm hesitant to grab this. Also I'm more of a single player kinda guy since I suck online so this bums me out. Halo Wars seems like the way to go. Might pick this up when its reduced though.
  • Gotxxrock - March 2, 2009 2:48 a.m.

  • dorrick - February 27, 2009 7:53 p.m.

    This game is amazing. Really funny campaign an really it ends as quickly as u let it. It feels just like an RPG RTS an i love that. I love how its more bout building ur squad then bases each time. More diversity in missions would of been great. Oh and visuals well just pick it up from gamestop or EB games a game store. If you aren't sure cuz if you don't have the recommended settings and you pick this up from target you're going to be pissed becuz if you dont meet the recommended settings this game will not run on your comp. Visuals are by far the best ive seen in ANY rts. Cutscense are epic the game has potential with patches and some updates to be really epic. Just feels like they could of done more though. i really hope there is more to come cuz it can get repeatative unless you love warhammer 40k
  • sprog - February 20, 2009 2:55 p.m.

    DOW1 is still one of the only PC games I play regularly but methinks I'll have to upgrade somewhat to play this little beauty.
  • titodc321 - February 20, 2009 5:28 a.m.

    I totally agree with you Sly_Fox. DOW2 and Starcraft 2 are definitely going to be better than halo wars, but i like the idea of an RTS based on halo. Idk, but a Halo Wars type game made better would be good.
  • C-C-C-C-ComboCro - February 20, 2009 4:24 a.m.

    what there are not even tutorials for the other races? that's so odd because i believe the original DoW did have a tutorial for each race. but anyway, i was a big fan of the 1st DoW because it did get rid of a lot of base managing and I'm glad that they really moved forward with the idea. Cant wait to get it!
  • GoldenMe - February 20, 2009 12:34 a.m.

    My friend was looking forward to this, so I;m happy for him.
  • RedOutlive10 - February 19, 2009 10:05 p.m.

    I always liked the idea of reducing base building, there are plenty of games supporting empire building with combat, Civilization, Caesar-esque games and so on. DoWII sounds great.

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