Why Dawn of War II Is Doomed

Written by Harry Butler

February 22, 2009 | 12:21

Tags: #dawn-of-war-2 #multiplayer

I’ve been playing Dawn of War II a fair bit since the excellent open beta launched back in January, and I have to say I’m a little concerned. You see, while the single player is a nifty fusion of RPG and RTS and so highly polished you could shave in its gloriously violent reflection, the multiplayer aspect of the game is ridiculously hostile to those new to the game that if it were an animal it’d be some kind of rabid honey badger.

After logging into Game for Windows Live (a mercifully painless experience) the game drops you into a multiplayer match without so much as a loading screen tutorial, and you’re left to fend for yourself whilst figuring out all of the game’s numerous multiplayer gameplay mechanics.

What this results in is a learning curve that’s more of a learning wall, and it’s not an easy one to overcome. Your first game will most likely be an exercise in frustration and it really shouldn’t be this way.
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You’re trying to figure out what units you need to build and which point to capture while your opponent (who despite the claimed True Skill matchmaking service, always seems to know more than you) runs off and captures the map. When he garrisons units into a building you’re left figuring out how the hell to flush them out – do you use grenades? A flame thrower? Some kind of anti-building laser? You simply won’t know.

Of course, with practise comes knowledge. After ten or fifteen games you’ll understand the mechanics, know the best unit build orders and have a grasp on how to counter most enemy tactics. But you’ll have had to play through numerous humiliating defeats and for many it’ll be too much bother.

In one particular match I played, my rookie opponent built nothing but scout marines, and was promptly slaughtered by my balanced Tyranid swarm. As I capped the map and camped my ever growing xeno swarm horde outside his base, I asked him if this was first game. It was (GG there GFWL), and he then told me he wouldn’t be playing again and that the game was just too tough to learn.

Why Dawn of War II Is Doomed Why Dawn of War 2 Is Doomed
If you plan on playing Dawn of War II multiplayer, prepare for a rough ride at first.

And there lies the problem. The very best multiplayer games allow players of all skills to have a chance. Look at classics like EA’s Battlefield franchise. Easy to pick up and start gleefully driving around jeeps and tanks, but tricky to master. The same could be said of Team Fortress 2 or Red Alert, both of which are both instantly accessible and very rewarding for both newbs and pros.

With Dawn of War II though the single player and multiplayer are so different and the learning curve so steep, that any casual or half interested player will try the game, get whooped, and then likely never play again.

It’s a problem shared with Relic’s Company of Heroes series, which I happily class among my favourite games ever. I’d try and play with friends to get them interested in coming online and schooling some German’s 2vs2, but every time the steep learning curve and dependence on micro management would discourage them – there’s just too much to learn to become a competent player and, for my friends at least, it wasn’t worth the hassle.

The same is true of Dawn of War II and I’ve no doubt that the enormous gulf in skill between rookie and intermediate players will discourage many to play what is a brilliant game.

And that’s why Dawn of War II is doomed – or at least the multiplayer component is. While the best multiplayer games are easy to pick up but deep enough for it to take a while to master, if you don’t fully understand all the elements involved right from the get go you’re going to have a bad time.

Although persevering pays off, delivering a great multiplayer strategy that Relic will no doubt support for years just as it’s done with the original Dawn of War and Company of Heroes, the hostile environment of multiplayer Dawn of War II will likely deter a great many of the less dedicated Warhammer 40K fans from sticking around, playing the game to its fullest and that’s a real shame.
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