Soulstorm opens up all the DoW races for solo play, but if you want to try 40k’s more established civilizations online you’re going to have to pick up or dust off the DoW Anthology box set. The thing is that apart from the two new races, Soulstorm doesn’t offer up much that’s wildly new that might justify itself to lapsed fans who might have moved on to greener blood-stained pastures. The total number of multiplayer maps may be over a hundred-strong, but being a game where terrain isn’t that much of a big deal, and where maps are largely symmetrical and designed to be fair, that doesn’t really widen the potential for variety - not that the vast number isn’t welcome.
As for the single-player campaign - which will be less of a draw for the multiplayer crowd - well it’s pretty much an expanded version of the one from Dark Crusade, with the battle map stretched across a number of planets and moons rather than a single globe. You move your army between territories once per turn, and should you tread on hostile soil the 3D battles take over with increasingly bland skirmish-style battles for the most part, mixed with the more enjoyable objective-based battles when you attack a ‘stronghold’ territory. What makes the campaign an improvement on Dark Crusade’s is that the battle map has obvious choke points that cut down on having to fight over the dull maps again and again, whilst each faction has special abilities that in almost all cases either speed up the settlement part of each battle, or allow armies to attack stronghold regions more directly.
If your RTS enjoyment is about having the latest live-fast, die-young RTS with a 3D engine that’ll most likely churn your PC into an early grave and a multiplayer game that spends most of the time fumbling for a connection, then Soulstorm probably isn’t the game for you. Though it shames us to have to reel out this old line, it really is more of the same, but with this game adding the weight of its maps and playable factions, as a collection, Dawn of War with Soulstorm alongside it sets itself apart from a lot of the more youthful games out there. Being ancient in the graphics department doesn’t mean Soulstorm is in any way ugly, either. The screens are as vibrant and bombastic as ever and whilst there are textures that lack detail, for those that enjoy fast multiplayer, it will be heartening to know that you won’t have to endure the wait suffered by players whose GFX cards lag behind the times.
As for whether you should purchase what will undoubtedly be DoW’s final outing, well, we would be more tempted to pick up the Anthology first, if only because you get two single-player campaigns plus Dark Crusade’s less story-based skirmish-style campaign - all for less than the price of this standalone effort. Such has been the wait that Soulstorm will suffer from having to compete with its bargain-bin brethren, but for 40k fans there is good value for your money - certainly more than you’d get should you spend the same sum on paint and blister packs of Warhammer figures.
World in Conflict arguably took things a step further and we could reel off a whole list of RTS games that offer better graphics, bigger wars, faster cars and hotter wives than Dawn of War could ever hope to provide. But with that said, there’s still something special lurking within the series that four years of post-release love have relentlessly polished and Soulstorm is a fitting testament to that.
Mar 5, 2008