Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War — Soulstorm (PC)

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Introduction

“In the grim darkness of the far future, there is only war,” is the motto of Warhammer 40k and it’s a little misleading– I mean, there are plenty of hiveworlds filled with paper pushing Imperials who’s only real civil risk is the occasional food riot. That being said, you are not on this rather boring world. You’re in the Kaurava system and shit’s gone whack every since a Warp Storm showed up and started wreaking havoc across the system. The nine factions on the four planets of the system are embroiled in an all out brawl to take it once and for a little while. Choose whichever faction you like most and kick some Xenos and or Heretic ass in this fast paced Real Time Strategy game.

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This is the campaign map. That pink thing would be the Warp Storm and it’s causing a mess of trouble for everyone involved.

History

Warhammer 40k is a table top tactical miniature game in which each player has a series of painted miniature figurines and use a series of rules to destroy each others. Warhammer 40k is based on the Warhammer series which are both produced by Games Workshop and both basically work the same way.

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Pictured: Space Marines (in blue) deploying via drop pod to get rid of some troublesome Space orks (In the greenest of greens.)

It should be no surprise that this game isn’t the first in the Dawn of War series– considering all those subtitles. Each game in the series unlocks playable race and some additional units and buildings. Unfortunately this meant that back in the day if you wanted to play Dawn of War — Soulstorm with your friends and play Tau, for example, then you’d have to have Dawn of War — Dark Crusade as well as Soulstorm. This disgruntled many because it made the previous games nearly mandatory to play who they wanted.

This was also the fourth game in a series and it’s largely unchanged from the previous installments. The only thing that Soulstorm added were flying units, which were hardly game impacting from my casual point of view.

Dawn of War — Soulstorm was realeased on March 4th, 2008. It’s competition was Super Smash Bros. Brawl (Wii), Silent Hill: Origins (PS2), and Condemned 2: Bloodshot (PS3, XBox 360).

Experiences

Despite being released in 2008 this game’s graphics are surprisingly adaptable to a crappy computer. Particularly the crappy computer I was using in 2008– it’s great when a plan comes together. Even though I was graphically challenged I was still able to play with my friends.

I remember one match that ended in a figurative draw. His base was across a narrow bridge and was so well defended that I couldn’t get enough men into it. I controlled the rest of the map and it still wasn’t enough to force my way inside. I was playing my favorite faction, the Orks — I mean they’re the only beings in this grimdark future who are having any fun. They were numberless, they were deadly, they were too dumb figure out how a choke point works. We like to think that they’re still fighting to this very day.

Gameplay

The game is real time strategy with an emphasis on base building– there are no gold mines or trees to chop this time though. In a Company of Heroes style the map is covered in strategic points, critical locations, relic points, and slag dumps. Strategic points, critical locations, and relics provide the player with requisition which they can use to build mostly infantry units whereas slag dumps and power generators create well… power. Power is used to make vehicles.

It’s less of a “base building game” and more of a “get into your opponents head and build a better set of units” game. It’s really hard to turtle because you can only build a limited number of base defense turret and they’ve typically got low health. This promotes focusing on making units and more aggressive tactics.

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Behold, the chaos of war. BTW, Sisters of Battle love fire.

The defining difference between a single match and the campaign is that the player starts with a rather powerful commander unit. These commanders can be decked out with sweet battlegear by taking territory and performing other impressive tasks like defeating 3 times as many enemies as you lost. This battlegear can turn your commander into a one soldier army and it gives the campaign a real sense of progression.

The Gush

The battlegear is a really cool system for upgrading the commander. Besides their mechanical benefit they also usually look badass.

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Behold the Tau Commander in all of his decked out glory.

The campaign also offers the player honor guard units for capturing territory. These units seem really small and not useful but they’re actually really powerful despite being single units sometimes. They’re deceptively valuable.

Each of the factions has a pinnacle unit that’s unleashed when if you claim a relic. These units are extremely powerful and just cool to look at. It’s always satisfying to finally create one and then crush your enemies — even if they get totally destroyed in 20 seconds by a huge wandering army.

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Fun fact, this Living Saint is nearly the size of a tank. I see the Imperium has some new steroids.

The Kvetch

The story element of the campaign is really barebone and shoehorned in to ensure that everyone is fighting everyone at the same time. I know it’s really hard to put nine different giant factions in the same sandbox and make them all have a good reason to fight but it would have helped this a lot.

The only way to see how to get awarded wargear is to catch the awarding messages and bring up their tooltip. It would be nice to know what I was aiming for to turn my Big Ork Warboss into an unstoppable behemoth.

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This is your only opportunity to see the criteria for getting awarded wargear.

The game can be really rushed based. My friends used to call this game “Hell-Hound Rush Extravaganza” it was so popular. I like a short game as much as the next guy but 5 minutes is a little too short for me.

The Verdict

I really like this one but it’s age a little poorly for me. I like playing it but I don’t really get anything out of it. Each campaign’s missions are the same so it feels really repetitive to play through each of them to see the minute changes in story. I’ll give it a play every once and awhile but it’s just for nostalgia’s sake. If you love 40K and want to stomp your friends with you Space Marines then give it a shot. If you’re looking for a great RTS then maybe you should look elsewhere.

Next Week: Bastion

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