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Kimberley Ellis
18 Mar, 2011

Dawn of War II: Retribution Review

PC Review | This intergalactic brouhaha is stellar.
Since its initial release in 2004, the Dawn of War games have built a loyal following among real-time strategy gamers. Thanks to its emphasis on combat (over the traditional resource collecting RTS titles) and the futuristic sci-fi setting, many have experienced the intense battles of the series and stayed along for the ride over a long period of time, even as the series has evolved pretty drastically over the years - most recently with the core gameplay shake up in Dawn of War II which saw the removal of the base building aspect of the game. With Relic’s newest standalone expansion, Dawn of War II – Retribution on the scene, we were very keen to see whether Retribution continues the grand tradition of adding exceptional value to an already outstanding game universe, or whether it's another old series that is well past its expiration date (we shake our fist squarely at you Command and Conquer!). After spending a great deal of time with the title, we are of the opinion that this ol' girl isn't ready to be put out to pasture just yet, with Dawn of War II: Retribution offering a whole lot of fun for new players and veterans alike.

Ork pirates? Hell yeah!

Ork pirates? Hell yeah!
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Upon loading up the title, players will find themselves placed in the middle of the fight between the Space Marines and a number of opposing factions in one giant intergalactic brouhaha. Unlike the core game (and the previous Chaos Rising expansion) Retribution offers up the opportunity to play through six campaigns: the Space Marines, the Tyrannids, the Chaos, the Orks, the Eldar, and the Imperial Guard. Each campaign will offer gamers with a different story, which serves to provide them with a new viewpoint into the war at large. For those well-versed in the lore of Dawn of War, Retribution serves to conclude the story arc that was started in the original Dawn of War. This time around, the main campaign will see the Blood Ravens, a chapter of the human Space Marines, fighting against the demonic forces which are plaguing Sub-Sector Aurelia. The clock is ticking as the Blood Ravens attempt to stop the ‘Exterminatus’ - the complete destruction of all life within the sector, which serves as the main plot point of the story. The other factions do have their own campaigns and storylines to track, though sadly many of the missions contained do tend to be similar from one campaign to the next, with only a few minor changes to differentiate them. It is a little disappointing that there aren’t six unique campaigns to play through, but given the fact that there are six campaigns to choose from which will each keep you entertained for an average of eight – ten hours, it’s one loss that we’re quick to forgive. This amount of player choice is one of Retribution’s greatest selling points, and many fans will tend to agree that this move will evoke feelings of an earlier Dawn of War expansion, Dark Crusade. While Retribution brilliantly evokes these feelings, it does so without making the game feel as if it is rehashing content, with the campaigns of this expansion proving to be more story-driven than those found within the content of Dark Crusade. If teaming up with a buddy to battle through the campaign sounds like your thing, you're in luck as Relic has also included online co-op support for the title. We utilised this feature greatly and found that it performed smoothly during our time with the title.

The campaign structure from Dawn of War II and the earlier expansion Chaos Rising remains largely intact. You are tasked with taking a group of heroes throughout the various campaign missions, where you will earn loot and experience points much in the manner as you would expect from a role-playing game, while engaging in battles in a fashion which is distinctly in the vein of the real-time strategy style. While it may throw some off initially, we feel that it's a great combination which works. It’s a neat combination that works and alot of this can be attributed to the sweet, sweet loot found within the title. We found that the most rewarding aspect of the game's campaigns are the experience and bonus rewards that you receive after completing each level. Choices vary from suiting up an extra commander to getting your trigger happy mitts on some seriously damaging weaponry, or stronger units to play with. Veteran players will quickly be able to establish which rewards are tailored to compliment their style of gameplay, while newcomers will probably with the old standard of picking out the option which sounds the coolest. With some unique weaponry and units on offer through these end-of-level choices, players will have a great excuse to play through the campaigns multiple times in order to sample all of Retribution's fun wares for a whole new experience.

Upon its initial release, Dawn of War II was quickly criticised for being on too small a scale, and it’s quite an understandable criticism. For a genre that has built itself around the expectation of epic battles with enough units to fill your screen (or crash your computer, depending on which option would happen to you first), Dawn of War II rarely allowed you to have more than ten units at your disposal at any given time. Relic has always kept an open ear when it comes to the constructive criticism provided by the series' fans and they have taken that criticism on board for Retribution. After playing through a handful of missions you'll notice that the the scale of the battle has been increased drastically. At its heart, you still have a small band of heroes to deck out with fancy wargear and weaponry, but you're now given the opportunity to capture bases and relays to call down more troops onto the battlefield as you progress through the campaigns' missions.

Epic battles live here.

Epic battles live here.
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Another choice that players are given is the ability to swap out heroes and deploy replacement 'Honour Guard' squads in their stead. Again, if you've been blessed to spend some time with Dark Crusade, you'll know that Honor Guards could be found in that title in a slightly different format (in Dark Crusade, they were powerful units that you could build on the campaign map and bring them along into battles with you). In Retribution, the 'Honour Guard' are affected by the experience levels of your heroes. And if all these extra troops aren’t enough for you, Relic has seen fit to include super-heavy units for all races that didn’t already have one. For example, the Space Marines are now able to access the Land Raider Redeemer, a tank with a stack of health and an armoury of guns attached, waiting to do damage to your opposing forces. Again, like being able to deploy extra units to the battle, being able to access these powerful vehicular units adds to a greater sense of scale for Retribution, one feature that should give Dawn of War fans something to smile about.

One element of the game that hasn’t seen a great change is the multiplayer side of things. Those that are already playing Dawn of War II in some capacity will know that Relic are constantly updating the multiplayer component of the game; with the current offering proving to be vastly different to what shipped with Dawn of War II upon its release some two years ago. Essentially, it's exactly what you've been playing, but we can recommend Retribution purely on the basis that it adds the super-heavy units and the Imperial Guard as a playable character to the multiplayer mix.

The Dawn of War franchise has been around for quite a few years now, and part of the reason for the series’ longevity is the fact that the team at Relic have always understood that the key to drawing in new fans to Dawn of War has been through the combination of great storytelling, a user-friendly interface and gameplay so fun that it’ll keep players entertained for hours on end. Dawn of War II – Retribution offers both and will allow new fans and veteran players alike with a compelling reason to delve into the action. If you’re an RTS fan, there is really no series that comes close to topping what the Dawn of War franchise has and with its undeniably gripping gameplay and decent price rag, Dawn of War II – Retribution is one battle you won’t want to watch from the sidelines.
The Score
Through a combination of great storytelling, a user-friendly interface and gameplay so fun that it’ll keep players entertained for hours on end, Dawn of War II – Retribution offers both new fans and veteran players with a compelling reason to delve into the action. 8
Looking to buy this game right now? PALGN recommends www.Play-Asia.com.

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7 Comments
3 years ago
Still waiting for my copy to arrive. Cant wait.
3 years ago
I'm enjoying it a lot. Dawn of War II's RPG/Diablo/RTS gameplay is so unique and fun.
3 years ago
Been looking at Dawn of War since the sequel (finally) introduced Tyranids, but been holding off due to other commitments. Maybe it's finally time for me to give it a go?
3 years ago
Heads up that Retribution is much cheaper straight from thq.com (US$30-40) rather than Steam or in store (US$60+)
3 years ago
I think it's still only $60 retail, I don't think they're charging $100. But yea if you buy it from overseas you can get it for about $30.

I bought it off steam for $60 when it came with every other dawn of war game a few weeks back.
3 years ago
benspyda wrote
I think it's still only $60 retail, I don't think they're charging $100.
Complete Pack is US$100 on Steam. Edit: just realised this is for the three DoW2 games.
3 years ago
PALGN wrote
If teaming up with a buddy to battle through the campaign sounds like your thing, you're in luck as Relic has also included online co-op support for the title. We utilised this feature greatly and found that it performed smoothly during our time with the title.
The on-line co-op feature has been in all of the Dawn of War 2 games from vanilla through to Retribution. The only difference with Retribution is that multiplayer/co-op is now handled by Steamworks rather than Games for Windows Live (which also worked really well).
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