Sub-Sector Aurelia is on the brink of annihilation. Again. After enough bother to fill two games, The Emperor has sent a powerful intergalactic armada to perform Exterminatus on the region and start afresh, wiping the slate clean by snuffing out millions of residents - basically an intergalactic version of getting rid of some kitchen mould with a satchel of C4. Meanwhile, I'm stomping gitz in a bid to get my green hands on a nice new hat.
I picked the Orks, basically. Who wouldn't? Retribution might have six playable races - Space Marine, Tyranid, Eldar, Imperial Guard, Ork and Chaos - available for a third helping of Relic's endearing RTS-meets-RPG campaign, but you're absolutely dead inside if your mouse pointer doesn't naturally gravitate towards Ork pirate Kaptin Bluddflagg and his merry band of ork boyz. He's got a hat and everything.
But who am I to judge? You might fancy the minty freshness of the Imperial Guard, a contingent of cannon fodder making their first playable appearance in Dawn of War II. They come complete with their requisite quotas of stiff upper lips, masses of infantry, and immaculately groomed moustaches. Maybe it's that you remember painting an army of flimsy Eldar as a child, swarming foes as the Tyranids, or you just enjoy the idea of pledging allegiance to one of the Chaos gods - bestowing unit buffs from shrines erected in their honour. You might, possibly, even like playing as the Space Marines.
Whichever faction you opt for, the real new notch in Retribution's sturdy belt is an abundance of versatility. Dawn of War II and Chaos Rising funnelled you through tight, scripted campaigns as the same quartet of Space Marine hero units, over and over again. It was the same excellent confrontational template repeated until the end credits: set up your heavy weapons guy behind a patch of cover, jump your jetpack-toting assault marines into the middle of the conflict, and mop everything else up with your Force Commander and his massive hammer.
New additions further shake up the basic mechanics beyond the well-worn pattern of former titles. Retribution now gives the ability to bolster your ranks by purchasing further units to fight alongside your heroes, meaning you're often fielding an entire army as opposed to a single squad. There's even an old-school population cap in place. The overall result is an experience more similar to what you'd expect from a traditional RTS.
This is plainly apparent as the Imperial Guard. Take shady Commissar Lord Bernn, whose primary Execute ability allows him to dispatch an allied troop in a bid to get everyone else to resist enemy suppression and fight harder - get the lads to really put their back into the ruckus, and all that. Basic infantry are cheap and eminently expendable, so their loss is not mourned. Soon you work it into a steady rhythm: I like to force my army into tip-top shape with a good execution and then get General Castor to absorb most of the enemy fire, who in turn uses one of his abilities to bolster ranks from the firing line, putting squads back to full numbers and allowing the war machine to march onwards.
Alternatively, Kaptin Bluddflagg and boyz work particularly well without the extra numbers. Currency for new troops is relatively scarce, and can alternatively be used to strengthen your hero units; the endearing individuality of the Ork heroes means you'll probably leave everything else at the door. Spookums, for instance, has an uncanny knack for exploding whenever he performs any of his abilities, most of which revolve around throwing grenades (the fact that Spookums is supposed to be the Ork's infiltrator unit just makes it all the more amusing).