Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War II

But make no mistake, DoW II isn’t a skill-spamming clickfest. Taking on more missions bolstered my party with additional squads, but more importantly, the new cover system created a package that felt both action-oriented and more manageable. We weren’t mousing units through static maps, but using each grizzly shrub as interactive cover, à la Company of Heroes.

Having a wall to lean on, so to speak, builds a buffer for decision-making and reflects the game’s turn-based tabletop roots. We see it in action as we’re saddled up behind a grove, holding position to plot our attack on a Tyranid Warrior and the pack of Gaunts around him. They haven’t seen us yet. We click to cling to the flora separating us from the aliens, select a single marine, and lob a satchel charge through the brush. Once a timer clicks down, the Tyranid lieutenant’s claws and carapace get blown in six directions. The handful of leftover Gaunts go into shock (because they’re psychically separated from their superior), making them easy to mop up with our bolters. Being a hive mind–controlled race, expect these synapse-linked effects to be a trend among the Tyranids.

Above: None of your units are disposable. You’ll need to take advantage of cover and think strategically to succeed

Like having a stable of chess pieces with strengths and weaknesses, managing and upgrading your squads over the course of the campaign will be a big focus. Tarkus’ Tactical Space Marines excel at soaking up damage and peppering enemies from the front lines with a constant rain of bolter fire; Cyrus and his sneaky Scouts can destroy cover with their explosive charges, or snipe down high-value targets from afar with High Powered Shot; Thaddeus’ Assault Marines can Squad Jump, lighting jetpacks to leapfrog over obstacles and stomp enemies below.

Yes, there are times when DoW II screams “I’m an RPG!” - such as when your eyes are drawn to the green text descriptors on equippable loot you’ll find along the way. But when my Space Marines were overwhelmed by waves of Tyranids, my fingers flew straight for the number keys to assign control groups. When the dust settled, I had a new set of power armor to upgrade my Force Commander, stat points to spend on boosting the health regeneration rate of Avitus’ Devestator squad, and a distress signal urging me to help quell another Ork uprising.

Nov 20, 2008

+ Adding RPG goodness in equippable items and persistent units, and focusing on smaller squads could be a breath of fresh air to the genre.
– Micromanagement masters who enjoy controlling large armies may not like DoW II’s focus on small groups of squads.

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