Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War, known throughout the online community as DoW, is perhaps the only decent game based on the huge Warhammer 40,000 universe. Sure, Fire Warrior wasn't too bad, and Space Hulk a few years back was ok, but considering what a huge universe the games draw on for inspiration, you'd expect better. A bit like Star Wars games really. Much like Knights of the Old Republic proved that you can have truly excellent Star Wars games, DoW does the same for 40k games. Except, not quite as much really.
The problem with the 40k universe is that it's so large and you're never going to please everyone. This is especially true for real time strategy games when you have a selection of factions, or countries or whatever to choose from. DoW has chosen, arguably, the most popular races from the 40k universe in the form of Space Marines, Chaos, Eldar and the Orks.
Now that would seem like a decent selection to your average gamer. Four wildly different races all needing completely different tactics to win, with an excellent rock, paper, scissors system working perfectly to ensure that a force is never invincible. However, and it's a big however, the majority of gamers will never play as anything but Space Marines. Why? Because Relic only included a Space Marine campaign. This is unforgivable really considering that WarCraft III, a good two years DoW's senior, has an extensive campaign for each race.
'Unfortunately skirmish isn't as good as it should be, primarily down to poor A.I.'
The Skirmish mode is usually the saving grace for solo play in an RTS, if, as the case is here, the campaign is painfully short. Unfortunately skirmish isn't as good as it should be, primarily down to poor A.I. The AI isn't bad as such, but the constant 'rush' tactics of your computer opponent, regardless of difficulty setting, means that every skirmish is the same. The more advanced AI also exposes itself as being weak in this mode. For some reason your troops seem to be more stupid in Skirmish. You'll regularly notice units standing still and ignoring all opponents, even if they're being shot at, whereas some troops won't fire unless the rest of their squad is present. Sure it's present in online as well, but when you're facing down one huge rushing force that's constantly reinforced, it's a lot more noticeable.
So far not a very rosy picture has been painted despite the opening paragraph, hmm? OK, where DoW really picks itself up is its new approach to RTS. There are no gatherers, meaning no pointless race to build a thousand SCV's to collect an insane amount of minerals and gas. DoW's approach is a lot more user friendly than that - you have to capture strategic points on the map. These show up as blue dots on your mini map and are always present. When a point is captured your 'Requisition Resource' is increased. You can then fortify the point up to three tiers, each tier adding more defence and more requisition. This makes for a very attacking game, as these points can be captured by most squads, and as in all RTS games, the person, or team, with the most money has the best chance of winning. Of course you may be thinking that there's nothing to stop you sitting back and reinforcing a point with Turrets and mines, and to a small degree this is true. However, turrets aren't particularly cheap and they are particularly weak. The other resource is electricity and this isn't gathered from any degree of mining either. No, this time you must build pylons in order to gather electric. Of course this costs requisition, so you'll have to carefully manage between building units and increasing your resources.
Strategic points aren't the only thing that can be captured in this game; Relics and Critical Locations can also be had. Capturing Critical Locations not only increases your requisition but also act as a game mode for skirmish and multiplayer. Rather excellently, these points cannot be reinforced like strat points can and when a take and hold game is being played, the fiercest fighting will often occur over these points. Relics add an excellent degree of strategy to the game. Once captured, they provide the same basic requisition increase that strat points provide and unlike crit points, they can be reinforced to the same degree as start points, for more requisition and added defence. However, just like crit points, a lot of fighting will occur around them. This is where the importance of relics come in, giving you access to your best troops and tanks. Having these ultra units on the battlefield won't secure you a win, but it'll certainly help your cause.