The Warhammer 40K universe is a pretty rough place. You’ve got Nazi like Space Marines trying to ensure humanity’s survival by purging all Xenos, the extremely expendable Imperial guard allied with the Space Marines (for the most part), the Ork hordes plundering and pillaging worlds as they please, Chaos Space Marines who have fallen off the deep end and now fight ancient dark gods slaughtering anything, the Tyrranid hive consuming worlds like a plague of locusts, and the space-elfish Eldar who are always plotting ways to mess up everyone’s plans. Like I said, it’s a tough place, and it only gets tougher in the latest standalone expansion Warhammer 40K: Dawn of War II: Retribution.
For those of you who already are fans of DoWII or its other expansion Chaos Rising, you probably have a good idea what Retribution is all about. If you haven’t played any of the previous games, hit the jump and allow me to break it all down for you.
The DoWII series is a PC real-time strategy game with a RPG elements that focuses on cover-based tactical play rather than over all strategy. Unlike other popular RTS games (I’m looking at you StarCraft II), DoWII really doesn’t feature any base building, tech switches, etc. Instead, you are given a few squads of super powerful ‘hero’ units which you need to micromanage effectively in order to win. More depth of gameplay is added by allowing the player to customize each units equipment loadout. For example, if I want my Space Marine Force Commander to play more of a passive role, I can equip various accessories that will provide buffs to the rest of my units. If I want to be using him in a more proactive role, I can swap out the passive buffs for something like a jetpack, which will allow him to jump over terrain and land in the midst of battle breaking enemy moral.
I should mention that Retribution does make some changes to this formula, or rather adds some more variables that allows you more tactical options. You see, now before you start a mission you are able to bench any ‘hero’ unit and replace it with a much larger, specialized squad. For example, if you don’t want to use your Tech Priest, you can swap in standard Space Marines, a Terminator Squad, or even a Dreadnaught.
The big selling point for Retribution is that you are now able to play as the Imperial Guard. On top of that, Retribution features a single player campaign for every faction in the game (before the Chaos Space Marines, Eldar, Tyranid and Orks were only playable in multiplayer). While it’s fun to see how the other faction play, I do have a major complain about the single player campaign; they’re all basically the same thing. Regardless of which faction you choose, you’re going to end up playing the same levels with similar objectives. Sure the different factions has their own unique units, play styles and endings, but it’s just a little disappointing to be playing the same levels over and over again. One thing that can add some life to the singleplayer campaign is that you can play through the game co-op with a friend.
Don’t take this to mean that there is no replay value in the game, though. The multiplayer will keep you entertained for a long while. There’s the standard versus mode called skirmish, where players choose their faction and hero unit, amass an army and then duke it out. There’s plenty of options and strategic avenues to explore ensuring an entertaining and dynamic experience.
My personal favorite multiplayer mode is called “Last Stand.” Basically a co-op horde mode game, each player chooses a persistent hero (meaning it levels up across games) and tries to hold out for as long as they can against wave after wave of AI enemies. Nothing beats kicking back with a few beers and some buddies as your badass heroes send wave after wave of goons to a bloody grave.
In terms of presentation, Retribution delivers on all fronts. The visuals are simply fantastic even when you zoom the camera in as far as possible, which you’ll want to do to check out all the battle animations in their full gory glory. Nothing beats seeing a Space Marine Dreadnaught pick up an Ork unit and literally tear it in half.
I should also take a moment to mention the voice acting. Now, I’m usually a harsh critic of the half-assed voice acting that plagues most games, but I have to admit Relic went all out for Retribution. You can hear bravado in the voices of the Imperial Guard as they charge into battle, the insanity that has crept into the minds of the Chaos Space Marines, and the dopeyness of the Ork hordes. I could not be more pleased with the sound and voice acting in Retribution.
All in all Warhammer 40K: Dawn of War II: Retribution is a great addition to the series. Despite the lackluster variety in the singleplayer campaigns, the option of playing through cooperatively with a friend and the various other multiplayer modes easily make up for it. If you’re a fan of the RTS genre who has gotten tired of the all to popular macromanagement focus in modern games, do yourself a favor and checkout Retribution. It’s a standalone expansion, so you don’t need to buy the previous games, plus it’s reasonably priced at $30. What more could you ask for?
Everything from the graphics and animations to the cut scenes show that Relic put tons of time and love into this game.
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Giving gamers a unique twist on the RTS genre, Retribution's focus on tactical gameplay is sure to please.
The enjoyment you'll find in the chaos of battle is enhanced ten fold by the superb voice acting and sound effects.
Despite having six almost identical campaigns, the variety of units, ability and multiplayer options will keep you entertained for a long time
Retribution is a solid stand alone expansion that I would have no problem paying $50 for... and it retails for $30.