Mark Marrow
31 Jul, 2005

Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War - Winter Assault Preview

PC Preview | PALGN Exclusive: Hands-on with Relic’s latest expansion.
Warhammer fans have had a fairly awkward experience in terms of decent video-game adaptations of the beloved table-top strategy game, and thankfully Relic added a little hope into the franchise with last year’s superb RTS effort in the form of Warhammer 40K: Dawn of War. And many gamers who played the game (fan or not of the franchise) would agree that the game kicked butt. It held it’s head above the rest, and it stood out as one of the best PC titles of last year. With such an excellent reputation, it was just common sense for Relic to go back to the drawing board with Winter Assault and deliver an even more brutal, bloody and chaotic experience for their fans.

In the expansion, Relic is including a number of new features and tweaks that plugs those little holes in the original, as well as offering a fantastic, brutal and destructible new take on the Warhammer 40K: Dawn of War experience. The main inclusion to this expansion is the new race known as the Imperial Guard, who are a bunch of courageous and skilful soldiers sacrificing their lives for their Emperor. Rather than relying on brutal force, like the Orks, the Imperial Guards resolve their problems through striking from a distance, effectively utilising cover and showing their power through an array of powerful machines. One aspect of this team that stands out is that this new race has the ability to add a completely different take on the entire gameplay experience. With their superior ranged attacks, and strength via their machines, exploiting the Imperial Guards’ weaknesses is always going to be a difficult task.

Holding the lines.

Holding the lines.
One aspect of the Imperial Guard that we found to be much more enjoyable than other races, was the variety in their units. For instance, you have your typical soldier who have superb ranged attacks and has an excellent efficiently in their firepower. While on the other hand, you have the fast Sentinels (resemblance similar to the AT-STs from Star Wars) who are ideal in wiping out infantry with ease, as well as being able to swiftly uncaptured enemy strategic points. While the Imperial Guards’ Baneblade (‘Super Tank’ as we like to call them) packs one miraculous punch, one unit that we had the opportunity to fall in love with was the Basilisks, a powerful vehicle that has the ability to shoot deadly shells over long distances. On one occasion, we built ourselves four of these bad boys, stationed them in our base and shoot out a barrage of deadly attacks onto our enemy’s base – wiping out buildings quite easily we might add. After experiencing what the Imperial Guards had to offer, we realised that, when at full force, the Imperial Guards will definitely be a disastrous force on the battlefield.

In addition to the new race, Relic has decided to add new units to the old factions. Eldar has received a welcomed addition in Fire Dragons (excellent against vehicles & buildings), Orks receiving the Mega Armored Nobz (powerful, heavily armoured machines), Chaos receiving the frantic Khorne Berserkers (an unstoppable force in close-combat) and finally, the Space Marine Chaplains (powerful leaders who can dish out a number of destructible abilities). While these might seem like mere extras to make sure everyone isn’t left out, these new units balance the teams out, giving each team some units that were well needed in the original.

Fire Dragons in action.

Fire Dragons in action.
There’s a few new additions added here in there that might not be particularly noticed by the casual Dawn of War gamer, but the fans will definitely find a treat of new features that offers a bit more to the overall experience. While they are only mild changes, for the fans these are truly satisfying. There are a number of changes to the race’s tech trees, which gives you the ability to customise your army a lot more than previously. And the overall world environment is a pretty big step-up above the original’s. Keeping in with the Winter Assault theme, the expansion offers a nice mixture of weather effects and environmental changes that do little to the actual gameplay experience, but they certainly make the game a lot more immersing. The environments are a lot more open and visible, rich in detail and seeing a luscious snow storm hit the battlefield makes the experience that more exciting.

While having the opportunity to play around with the new race, and testing out some of the new units, the one aspect of this expansion that really stood out, and will no doubt excite fans, is the ability to switch teams during the battle. On paper it sounds a little awkward, but after giving the idea a little run through during our hands-on it really opens up the gameplay experience completely. While we only had the opportunity to play one quest with this feature in practice, it was exciting running through it. We began our mission as the Imperial Guards, fighting through the savage Chaos. We fought on until we couldn’t make our way any further because of a force-fielded gate, which is when we switched to a quick briefing and began our struggle to open the gate through the eyes of the Eldar. While our time with this feature was brief, the idea of switching teams mid-battle will no doubt open some fantastic opportunities during missions.


Winter Assault promises to offer a much more complex campaign mode that’ll follow the story of either the order (Eldar & Imperial Guard) or the disorder (Orks & Chaos). In our experience, we had the opportunity to experience one of the Disorder campaigns that showed a completely different experienced not found in the original. In this case, we started out as a small group of Orks and then made our way across the map, flooding out other Ork camps forcing them to join us or suffer death – which was a fantastic approach to the RTS genre.

While we weren’t able to experience the new online interface, Relic has reassured us that the online experience will be a lot more exciting and user-friendly than the original, as well as including a few new features such as an Friends List, Observer Mode, Arranged Team Auto-matching and several other tweaks that will improve the overall experience.

The preview code we received wasn’t the final build of the game, which is satisfying considering that the music didn’t really seem to have any improvements over the original, and there were several problems witnessed here and there that were clearly unfinished and will hopefully be fixed before the game is released.

Regardless though, we came out after this experience with a great insight into the amazing new experience that’ll be witnessed in Winter Assault. The addition of the Imperial Guard is welcomed, although we would’ve liked to see a few of the other Warhammer 40K armies added (oh well, maybe next time), the new gameplay features such as team switching is going to be a fantastic twist for RTS gamers, and the overall experience of Dawn of War feels a lot more cleaner and exciting than the original.
While our experience with the game wasn’t as long as we hoped, the prospect for this title is going to be strong. Gamers out there who enjoyed the original, or for the gamers who enjoy RTS games in general, then definitely put this on your must-have titles for the year. The game is certainly looking promising.

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8 years ago
the only thing i hated about the original was it's length...

1 campaign in an RTS is criminal...

i am so looking forwards to this title... icon_biggrin.gif
8 years ago
is that all the additional units for the old races one new unit for each race
8 years ago
flyguy wrote
is that all the additional units for the old races one new unit for each race
Yes. Unless Relic goes out on a limb to surprise gamers later this month when the game is released, then that's all the additional units featured for the old teams.
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Australian Release Date:
  4/10/2005 (Released)
Standard Retail Price:
  $49.95 AU
Year Made:
System Requirements:
Windows 98.2000/XP/ME
DirectX 9.0c (Included on disc)
1.8GHz Intel Pentium III or equivalent AMD Athlon XP processor
2.5GB free HDD space
4x CD-ROM drive
32MB DirectX 9.0b compatible AGP video card with Hardware Transform and Lighting
DirectX 9.0b compatible sound card, 16 bit sound

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