Dawn of War II Chaos Rising: review

  • Format: PC
  • Unleashed: Out Now
  • Publisher: THQ
  • Developer: Relic Entertainment
  • Players: 1 – 6
  • Site: www.dawnofwar2.com

Big burly men wearing the equivalent of an ocean liner’s metal content in their armour, bludgeoning the poo out of each other with hammers sparking with lightening is actually quite a common theme in the Warhammer 40k universe. It probably comes as quite a delight to fans then that the tradition is lovingly carried through into Chaos Rising, the expansion to last year’s critically successful RTS Dawn of War II.

It’s nice to see a fairly meaty expansion pack that fleshes out the original game, in an age where DLC is now charging us through the spinal column for little, fairly insignificant bolt-ons. Looking at it in a blunt listed format, the goodies we get are a new 15 mission campaign, new units for existing races in multiplayer, and the Chaos Space Marines as a playable race online.

The bulk of this package is the new campaign which continues the Blood Raven Space Marine’s organ soaked, bullet riddled, heavy impact, interplanetary adventure, this time introducing a memorable enemy in their arch nemesis, the Chaos Space Marines. Think of them as a twin brother going through the gothy teenage phase with loads of piercings, spikes, demonic interests and severed body parts adorning their apparel.

If negotiation fails, turning thine enemy into a mist of blood will secure victory

Various mission structures really make the new campaign something special, and show a nice improvement over the original’s. The constant defence missions that plagued Dawn of War II, causing the player to regularly redo previous levels have disappeared which keeps each environment nice and refreshing. It doesn’t however do the game’s longevity any favours, meaning that you can only do up to a maximum of 15 missions. This also makes it very difficult, if not impossible, to max all of your squads up to the new level cap of 30.

Speaking of your squads, all of the familiar faces return and are pretty much accessible from the start, meaning you can go in all guns blazing with a heavy weapon devastator squad, tactical marines and a dreadnought, or be slightly more ambush centric with infiltrating scouts and jump pack toting assault marines. Adding a bit more flavour to the mix this time round, Relic have added a Librarian, Jonah Orion, who acts as the magic spewing and squad buffing class. The squad handling mechanics remain unchanged, with cover hugging still being integral to victory.

An interesting twist to the formula this time around comes in very nicely with the introduction to the forces of Chaos. At several points during missions, you will face decisions that can grant you new, powerful war gear, or perhaps make the path ahead easier, at the cost of doing something really naughty and corrupting your squads, inching their way towards becoming no better than their spiky nemesis. This could be ransacking a tomb of a fallen brother for his armour, or destroying a gate instead of fighting your way to the controls that open it, therefore leaving a city undefended from future attacks.

With that much padding he will outlast you in combat and tickle fights

Gaining corruption grants you powerful new abilities and allows access to some really nice new toys to play with, but it comes at a cost which will affect the outcome of the game. We won’t spoil anything but being a pure goody two-shoes will net you the best ending; but where’s the fun in playing nice? This system is a good way of testing the player’s in-game moral compass and seeing if they can resist the dark temptation and stay loyal to the Imperium of man. It also means you can have two run-throughs with slightly different experiences, giving greater replayability than the original.

Not to say that everything is a rosy 100% improvement. Most of the levels still seem to end with a rather cheap boss fight which is usually a big enemy champion or tank with the health and resistance of a mountain range that you need to slowly chip away at. After all of the enhancements in mission structure, these feel like quite the let down showing very little innovation on the finale to each deployment. The encounters can be frustrating and all feel very similar.

Multiplayer gets some nice upgrades. As with the release of Chaos Rising, all players of Dawn of War II received new units for the four standard armies, whether they own the new expansion or not. As well as a few tweaks on older units, everybody gets the Space Marine Librarian, Eldar Wraithguard, Ork Weird Boy and the Tyranid Tyrant Guard and Gene Stealers.

My kingdom for a horse piloted by a daemon wielding a fire sword

It’s nice that everyone gets these, but there is no need for those who paid for the premium experience to feel cheated, as Chaos Rising players get to use the Chaos Space Marines in battle. They offer some very nice armour with decent ranged and melee damage to boot. Although lacking in numbers, they do have some very powerful units, including a very nasty endgame Greater Daemon.

The Last Stand, a team based king of the hill survival mode that was added to the game last October, also gets enhanced for those who own the expansion – giving us the Hive Tyrant and Chaos Sorcerer as playable heroes. They each fill a new niche with the Hive Tyrant being capable of summoning up to three different minion squads and the Sorcerer being able to create clones of enemy squads to turn against them. They complement the existing heroes, fitting in with the drop in and quick play mentality brilliantly.

The RTS/RPG hybrid experience that Dawn of War II started, Chaos Rising upgrades nicely. Granted, it is more of the same, but you can see that Relic has been back to address some of the criticisms from the first time around. We get a slightly more varied campaign with a nice twist towards the end that reflects player choices, a new (albeit familiar) multiplayer faction, and a few more additions here and there. It fills the role of an expansion excellently and so fans of the original should definitely stick their bloodlusting noses into this.


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Written by Anthony H

Anthony has been playing games for far too much of his life, starting with the MS-DOS classic Mario is Missing. Since then his tastes have evolved to include just about anything, but his soft spot lies with shooters and the odd strategy game. Anthony will inspire you with his prose, uplift you with his wit and lie to you in his biography.

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