Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War II - Retribution Review

Warhammer 40,000 Dawn of War II Retribution is a standalone "expansion" for Dawn of War II. I feel that "expansion" needs to be quoted because Retribution is an entirely standalone and complete game in itself, and ownership of either of the prior two Dawn of War games is unnecessary, and, conversely, if you own the previous games you don't get anything extra out of Retribution. Still, if they want to call it an expansion and give it a $30 price tag that's fine with me, because you'll get more gameplay out of this title than you will out of a lot of games that go for twice the price.

If you're new to Dawn of War II, it's a bit different than your typical real-time strategy game. You don't build bases and collect resources, at least in the traditional sense, but rather command a small group of elite heroes in missions that have you moving from skirmish to skirmish with the occasional larger battle or boss confrontation tossed in to provide some extra challenge. While this type of gameplay may seem more akin to an action game, there's plenty of strategy at play. Different heroes and units have their strengths and weaknesses, and are more effective against some unit types than others. Managing cover and suppression effects are critical to success and sound tactics win out over brute force frontal assaults.

This will be familiar to Dawn of War II veterans, but Retribution has changed things up a little for those of you who have played the first two games in the series. Rather than having squads attached to heroes, heroes are now all truly individual units. However, you can have squads of units accompany your heroes into a mission and even spawn in squads subject to a population cap and resource costs. You can also choose to bring squads in place of heroes into missions and be compensated for the loss of a powerful hero by a higher population cap for the mission. Post-mission rewards are no longer limited to gear for heroes, but now include upgrades for the various squads available to your faction. In fact, you'll have to choose between them, so it will take a little planning to balance the need for more powerful squads with keeping your heroes well enough armed to face the tougher opposition as the campaign progresses.

Another thing that is different about Retribution is that it does not have "a" single player campaign it has six. This is probably the one feature that Dawn of War II fans will be most interested in because it gives them the chance to control factions that were once only playable in the multiplayer game. The game features campaigns for the Space Marines, Imperial Guard, Chaos, Orks, Tryanids, and Eldar, each of which will probably take you at least six hours to make your way through. All told you're in the ballpark of forty hours here, territory rare outside of the RPG genre. The storylines of each campaign intertwine, and it's enjoyable to play through the conflict over the Aurelian subsector from each faction's perspective. While the factions do have their differences and each requires a slightly different approach to battle, when you get down to it the mission structure is pretty much the same in each campaign. You enter a map and must fight your way along its linear path to the main objective points (taking the time to knock off the occasional secondary objective if you'd like), and then face a final boss, assault, or siege at the end of the path. Luckily the fundamental gameplay is enjoyable and enough mission variety is built within this framework to keep things from getting boring.

The multiplayer game remains essentially unchanged, except that now all six factions are playable by anyone who buys Retribution regardless of whether or not they own any of the prior Dawn of War II games. Each faction lends itself to a different style of play, but they're well-balanced enough that you can be successful with any one of them. Multiplayer games focus on the capture and holding of control points, and like the single-player game are more tactics-focused than most strategy games you have to do more with less rather than trying to overwhelm your opponents with masses of units. Although personally I had more fun with the campaigns because they are more story-focused and can draw upon the rich Warhammer 40K universe, the multiplayer game can certainly hold its own with any other real-time strategy game's multiplayer mode.

Overall, the game features top-notch production values. The graphics are detailed and the animations capture the personalities of the heroes and units under their command. The voice acting is excellent, and the actors have the advantage of working with a great script. Retribution is an excellent value and a great game, and a no-brainer for those who played either of the previous games. And if you're new to Dawn of War II, Retribution is a great place to begin your experience.

Final Rating: 92%. It's nothing revolutionary as far as Dawn of War II goes, but six excellent campaigns and great gameplay make this a must for both Warhammer 40K and RTS fans.


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