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Dawn of War II: Retribution Preview

Dawn of War II: Retribution Preview

Platform: PC
Publisher: THQ
Release Date: 4 March 2011

We think somebody needs to explain the definition of 'expansion' to Relic, as it seems to have misinterpreted it somewhat. We say this because the new expansion to the perennially popular Dawn of War II - titled Retribution - is more of a re-vamp than an add-on. Nearly every facet of the game has seen a degree of tweaking or improvement.

Die-hard fans of the series need not worry, however, as the core of the game remains the same. Chainswords still scream and strain as they grind through armoured chitin, and the Orks still provide the comedy relief in a galaxy otherwise devoid of anything remotely resembling joy. In the grim darkness of the far future, there is only war.

Possibly the biggest talking point regarding Retribution is the fact that it introduces a full singleplayer campaign comprising 16 or so missions for each of its playable races. These races now number a healthy six due to the addition of the Imperial Guard. Fans of the tabletop game may question why other races such as the Tau or Necrons missed out on the chance to join the fray, but Head Producer Jeff Lydell explained to us that Relic thought the Guard provided a better contrast to the races already in the game.

Dawn of War II: Retribution Preview
The rave turned violent quickly

Adding this many singleplayer campaigns is no mean feat, but concessions have had to be made to cram in so much content. The campaigns share a lot of the same maps, for example, and a lot of the set pieces, such as a memorable mission in which you're chased by a super-heavy Baneblade tank, are used in each campaign. The scripting and story for each campaign may be unique, but we’ll admit to getting a little tired of seeing the same old scenery over and over again, even if we were controlling different races each time.

Thankfully, though, the strength of the storylines for each of the races is a highlight, with the Relic scripting department doing a good job of making each of the stories believable and each of the playable heroes likeable. This is important, as your heroes form the core of your strike force, with their individual abilities often making the difference between a bloody death and a bloody nose.

Dawn of War II: Retribution Preview
Kaptin BluddFlagg spends the majority of the campaign trying to steal Inquisitor Adrastia's hat

Four playable heroes are available to each race (apart from the Tyranids, as their Swarm Lord does things solo) but in a change to the tried and tested Dawn of War II formula, it’s not actually necessary to take any of them into combat. Instead, heroes can be subbed in and out of missions in exchange for elite honour guard units, which replace them on the battlefield and are free to revive from one of the many factory points dotted around the singleplayer maps.

These points take different forms for each race - a bunker for Imperial guard, a teleport homing beacon for the Marines and so on - but each performs the same job of enabling the player to revive fallen heroes or requisition additional troops to aid the war effort. This, coupled with the fact that you can sub out heroes for additional units, plus a raised population cap, heralds a move away from forcing players to play with a small elite group of persistent squads, and a step towards allowing players to approach a given mission in their preferred method - elite or hoard.