We imagine most game developers would kill for an IP as rich in lore, detail and untold awesomeness as the Warhammer 40K license. Chainswords, a war raging over tens of millennia between dozens of unique factions and an extra large order of explodey gibs are fantastic ingredients for a game and the latest addition to the franchise, Chaos Rising has now arrived to bring a touch of the dark gods to the Dawn of War 2 universe.
An expandalone follow up to last year’s excellent squad based RTS Dawn of War II, Chaos Rising picks up the Tyranid-ravaged storyline of the original one year on, with the enemy this time the eponymous forces of Chaos; Space Marines who have fallen from grace and given into their darker, carnal and basest drives. They've also developed a penchant for spiky armour.
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The Chaos marines come into conflict with your own troop of Blood Ravens when the planet Aurellia, long since lost to the ravages of the warp, suddenly reappears back on the galactic map and every faction in the fiction decides they want a piece of it.
As a direct follow up to Dawn of War 2 little has changed when it comes to Chaos Rising's core gameplay. Instead it follows the main game's overall template, with the base building of other RTS' replaced with smaller, more personable squads. All six squads from original return too, led by the same familiar faces and each best suited for a specific combat role. Avitus’ devastator marines provide heavy weapons support from range, Thaddeus’ assault marines bring flaming chainsword death from the sky and so on.
There’s also the addition of a new squad in the form of Jonah the Librarian. A solo character squad like the Force Commander, Jonah slots in nicely with the existing squads as more of a support class, casting spells from afar and buffing allies. His initially basic array of spells can be upgraded and customised by using different sets of wargear, as well as the returning level-up system. Given time and dedication it’s possible to turn Jonah from a vulnerable healer into a spell-casting powerhouse.
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Getting the best out of him does require plenty of micro management though, so players may prefer to bench him in favour of the more familiar squads – it’s hard to turn down a Dreadnaught walking tank, after all.
As the single player campaign unfolds though, it becomes clear that it’s not quite business as usual for Chaos Rising. Developer Relic has taken onboard the criticism of the wash, rinse, repeat level design of Dawn of War 2 which saw you endlessly slogging through similar levels to take on a high level boss character. In response, Relic has this time chosen to make levels more scripted and individual, a change that’s almost unanimously for the better.
While there are still a few of the tedious boss battles waiting, including a ludicrously tedious final battle that can be best described as victory by a thousand cuts, the result is a game with a lot more memorable moments than its predecessor; a dark and eerie trip onto a Tyranid infested Space Hulk as your squads slowly succumb to the influence of Chaos being a particular highlight.