Warhammer 40:000: Dawn of War II

Warhammer 40:000: Dawn of War II Review for PC

On: PC

Dawn of War II ushers in a new chapter in the acclaimed RTS series, as ancient races - including the dauntless Space Marines and savage Orks - clash across ruined worlds on a mission to claim the galaxy and preserve their own existence.

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8Out of 10
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Dawn of War is back, but is it still an RTS?
Dawn of War is back, but is it still an RTS?

Dawn of War is back, but is it still an RTS?

Relic's follow-up to its superb Warhammer 40k real-time strategy game is a curious beast. On the one hand it's hardly an RTS at all. Base building has been completely eradicated and the unit cap has been culled. Now, constructing a monster of a base and surrounding it with turrets is a pleasure consigned to the past, and crushing your opponent with an army full of Dreadnoughts and tanks is a distant memory. Dawn of War II provides an experience more akin to Diablo, with an emphasis on micro-managing a small number of hero units, each one with its own unique set of Wargear and levelled up skills. On the other hand, though, Dawn of War II is very much an RTS, since, by definition, you need to think about what you're doing in a strategic kind of way, and the action plays out in real time.

The obvious reaction among hardcore RTS fans will be to dismiss the game entirely. They will accuse Relic of dumbing Dawn of War down and pandering to more casual gamers by making the gameplay more accessible. Without deep tech trees, masses of units or the need to perfect build orders to the millisecond, the game, those critics will claim, lacks depth. Essentially, Dawn of War II is for n00bs.

Others will commend Relic for attempting to do something different, for stripping away all the unnecessary fluff that has held the genre in a vice-like grip of staleness for nearly 20 years. They will say Relic has innovated, made the Dawn of War experience more fun, more intense, more action packed, more in your face. Essentially, Dawn of War II is better.

In reality, Dawn of War II sits somewhere between these two positions. It's undoubtedly less hardcore than Gas Powered Games' Supreme Commander or Creative Assembly's Total War series. But it hasn't dumped so many classic RTS hallmarks to be considered a Diablo or Baldur's Gate clone. Simply put, Dawn of War II feels like the result of some mad scientist's experiment, the by product of the splicing of Dawn of War with Company of Heroes, Relic's other, more recent RTS. Oh, and with a dash of Blizzard's World of Warcraft thrown into the mix for good measure.

Relic has stripped away base-building and resource gathering for the campaign

Relic has stripped away base-building and resource gathering for the campaign

This tearing up the RTS rule-book is felt strongest in the campaign mode, playable single-player or with a mate. You control a newly promoted Space Marine Force Commander, a hero unit that acts as a single squad on the battlefield. The story, told with a level of presentation and grandeur we're not used to seeing from the genre, takes us to Subsector Aurelia, a series of planets the Blood Ravens chapter of the genetically modified super soldiers calls home. Orks are invading, and it's up to you to beat the ogre-ish green skins back, and whatever else turns up uninvited.

You're allowed a take a maximum of four squads out on each mission, with no scope for building more. There's the Force Commander himself, a great all-rounder; Tarkus, a tactical marine useful as a tank; Avitus, the damage dealing Devastator marine; and Cyrus, the sneaky scout. Later on you get Thaddeus, the melee-focused Assault marine, and another hero (we'll keep that one a secret). If you're playing the game on the default difficulty it doesn't make a difference who you pick, really, but a degree of forethought is required on the harder difficulties: should I pick the slow moving Avitus, who takes a second or so to set up and aim his heavy bolter (Company of Heroes fans will be used to that)? Or should I go for agility and pick Thaddeus, whose jump pack ability allows him to leap into the air and slam down on enemies like a armoured frog with rabies? Perhaps neither is essential, since Cyrus, whose squad moves faster than any other, can disappear with the Infiltrate ability and take out powerful enemies with one shot of a sniper rifle.

Each mission plays out similarly - indeed, perhaps the game's biggest problem is that the missions aren't varied enough. You need to work your way around a map, attack pockets of enemies, use the cover system (also drafted in from Company of Heroes) to your advantage, hole up in buildings if need be, suppress whenever possible, destroy the environment as you see fit (the physics at play in Dawn of War II are the best seen in an RTS), capture nodes, which serve no other purpose than to replenish the minions that make up your squads, and eventually engage in a boss fight - a battle to the death against an enemy hero unit from the game's three other races, the Orks, Eldar and, in a first for the series, the Tyranids (cheer!).

The mission objectives hardly deviate from this basic premise. Occasionally you'll be charged with defending a Space Marine relic against a predetermined number of enemy attacks, or asked to retrieve a sample or object, but on the whole you're doing the same thing mission after mission: make your way round the map, capture nodes, kill clusters of enemies, kill boss. As a result of this structure missions usually last no longer than 20 minutes - down massively on the often hour plus missions of the first game.

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User Comments

reynoldio's Avatar


It's in the post and I'm both excited and have some mild trepidation - I wanna build a big base and 10,000 units then steamroller people! But I'll get that hit from Starcraft 2 sometime, until then it's Spacemarine fun - which will be lotsa fun! :)
Posted 22:58 on 31 December 2010
RoranTk's Avatar
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^^u said it bro

-------------was "Anonymous" in the last few posts
Posted 16:48 on 03 March 2009
thpcplayer's Avatar


THis game is really great. Single player is good but multiplayer is the finest for any rts to date. 9/10 not 8/10
Posted 12:36 on 28 February 2009
OldSchooBill's Avatar
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Think I’ll give it a bash. I’m tired of base building RTS already (After 15 years of it!). I always lost interest when I became too powerful and overwhelmed the AI. Much prefer games where you have to pick your army before the battle starts(Like Total War and erm, MechCommander, remember that one? Classic!), there’s proper strategy in it that way, instead of being rushed after 30 secs of play or overwhelmed by another player who can click things faster than you.
Posted 14:54 on 26 February 2009
Mac's Avatar
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i was really looking forward to this game, but after reading more and more about it, i may just check it out later if i have some extra cash around (unlikely).

remaking the game for casual fans is scary. the first game wasn't broke. i just needed Tyrannids!
Posted 00:20 on 24 February 2009
Anonymous's Avatar
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totally agree with the review but not with the score . U urself said that there will be people who hate it , and some who will love it . But u allied with the former in the end and gave the score .

DoW 2 throws away all the unesscessary things from the part DoWs like the stupid dreadnoughts that used to happen when two large armies collided , n the game usually lasted for hrs .

Micro management rocks , for the first time tactics are of some use , and u have to use your brain . Base buildng is gone , m happy . But fewer unit types available is not gud .

Still Mp is top notch , and overall this game easily desrves a 9 , since u guys dont go decimal . i will personally give it 9.5 /
Posted 09:52 on 23 February 2009
pk-ny's Avatar
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pretty decent game..i reli miss base building PK FTW :D
Posted 19:42 on 21 February 2009
thpcplayer's Avatar


bought it, played it. it is cool but below my expectations. it deserves an 8.
Posted 12:54 on 20 February 2009
Anonymous's Avatar
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""You miss being able to build a big base, in a real "boys and their toys" way""


Ah well . But that wont stop me from getting this game , it'll still remain ma most fav rts . Hope they increase the unit cap and unit types by 1 or 2 in upcoming DLCs
Posted 12:37 on 20 February 2009
thpcplayer's Avatar


expected a 9. No, matter still sounds good. i'm tempted. i will pick this up today
Posted 09:48 on 20 February 2009

Game Stats

System Requirements
Warhammer 40:000: Dawn of War II
Out of 10
Warhammer 40:000: Dawn of War II
  • Action-packed, fast-paced gameplay
  • Great physics and sound effects
  • Missions lack variety
  • No base building will turn some off
Agree? Disagree? Get Involved!
Release Date: 20/02/2009
Platform: PC
Developer: Relic Entertainment
Publisher: THQ
Genre: Real-time strategy
No. Players: 1-6
Rating: PEGI 16+
Site Rank: 366 39
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