Mark Marrow
15 Nov, 2006

Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War - Dark Crusade Review

PC Review | Can Relic do no wrong?
Perhaps it’s what they’re feeding their workers, or maybe the grass really is greener on the other side – either way, Relic has released two games this year, and are two potential nominees for PC game of the year. Company of Heroes is a game like no other, and Dark Crusade is the second expansion in one of the most successful real-time strategy franchisers in recent years. Does it live up to expectations? You bet.

Dark Crusade offers a bit more bang-for-your-buck compared to Relic’s earlier expansion, Winter Assault. While still an outstanding game, Winter Assault lacked a significant amount of value: a new race that didn’t exactly employ new tactics, and several new features that didn’t push the series forward as much as we would’ve liked. Dark Crusade is a little different though – a game that features two revolutionary races that add a completely new layer of strategy, a ton of new maps, a distinctive new campaign mode that highlights Warhammer 40,000’s roots, and is a stand-alone expansion that doesn’t require previous versions to play.

Dark Crusade is quite generous in terms of being an expansion. Rather than tacking on small inclusions such as new maps and a new campaign mode, the game includes several new features that, admittedly, push the series in the right direction. First off the bat is the game’s radically new campaign mode that plays much like the classic Risk board game. The action takes place on a planet named Kronus, where each faction is seeking control of the entire planet. Rather than being heavily story driven like previous versions, Dark Crusade focuses a little less on the story and allows gamers to enjoy the fun found in waging war on opponents. Dark Crusade is a more traditional return for the Warhammer 40,000 series, where each faction is constantly competing for territory and planets, which makes this new inclusion a welcomed one amongst fans.

The Risk-like campaign mode in action.

The Risk-like campaign mode in action.
Your faction’s hero, who moves in a turn-based fashion to conquer other territories on the planet, represents your army. Once conquering territories you’ll be able to reinforce them with additional troops, as well maintaining the buildings you built previously. To feed your army you’ll need to use requisition, which is provided from the territories you conquer – the more you conquer, the stronger your army will become. In addition to this, once conquering certain territories your hero will receive bonuses that helps your army succeed. Some territories will provide upgrades such as being allowed to move twice in one turn, as well as being able to space port to almost all of the territories.

To add to this, you can also receive honour guards (elite units of regular units from your army) to add to your faction’s army that moves with your hero. You can also boost your hero’s abilities by equipping wargear that is acquired from fulfilling certain goals (destroying enemy HQs, defending locations and conquering a certain amount of territories) throughout the game. Wargear allows your hero to improve their attributes including health, regeneration and attacks, all of which that help make your army an unstoppable force.

The game introduces two distinctive new races to the mix too – the Necrons and the Tau – that are, undeniably, cool to play as, which wasn’t so much the case with the Imperial Guard. The Tau are ideally a range-lovers dream, with most of the army flexing their abilities with long and powerful rifles. While there are several units to compensate for their lack of skill in hand-to-hand combat, most of the tactics used when playing as the Tau will require you to move hastily and wreck havoc on unexpected enemies.

The high-tech Tau...

The high-tech Tau...
Meanwhile, the Necrons offer a much more drastic change to gameplay compared to any other faction. Instead of relying on the two forms of resources, the Necrons rely purely on power to construct new units and buildings. While vulnerable to being flooded early on, the Necrons are near unstoppable as soon as they conjure up some momentum. Their units are slow, but powerful, and most of their units can frequently regenerate themselves if they die. The Necron Lords also adds a new layer of strategy since you can teach them several techniques such as resurrection spells, slowing auras or lightening blasts. Unfortunately, in most cases, the Necrons are virtually unstoppable and grows as a concern for balancing issues.

And fans of the previous factions aren’t forgotten either, with the inclusion of powerful new units added. The new units improve on the faction’s strengths: Eldar receive a new close-combat unit, Space Marines acquire a new heavy unit, and Imperial Guards receive additional defence units.

The gameplay is very much unchanged, offering the same fast-paced and brutal experience found in previous versions. You’ll still need to capture points scattered throughout the map to boost your army’s power, requisition, and overall strength. Each faction employs different tactics, meaning you’ll be likely to approach each battle differently. Eldar are swift and can teleport their whole army, Necrons require you to constantly move, while armies such as Imperial Guard and Space Marines are superior in building defences for their head quarters. Dark Crusade also retains its simple and accessible multiplayer mode, offering additional hours of enjoyment.

...and the devastating Necrons.

...and the devastating Necrons.
Despite Dark Crusade being largely a near-perfect game, it isn’t without one or two flaws either, especially compared with Relic’s recent title, Company of Heroes. The AI is a bit iffy at times with some units not responding to commands and there being some path finding problems too. And ultimately, for anyone who has played Company of Heroes, the game lacks a few features that would’ve made the game more complete and a little less outdated. Balancing also becomes issue, with Necrons being very difficult to outplay, and computer-controlled opponents offering a number of unpredictable decisions (such as early rushing, and being able to constantly flood you with what seems to be an everlasting supply of resources). These problems are far from game ruining, and some of them can be avoided altogether, however they are worth noting.

Dark Crusade is a fantastic inclusion in the Dawn of War family. Relic has offered an incredibly generous package with the inclusion of two unique races, new features and extensions on previous ideas, making Dark Crusade the best experience yet. This is a no-brainer for Dawn of War fans, and is the perfect opportunity for newcomers.
The Score
Dawn of War was, and still is, a superb real-time strategy experience, and Dark Crusade only adds to what is probably one of the best sci-fi RTS series to date. 9
Looking to buy this game right now? PALGN recommends www.Play-Asia.com.

Related Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War - Dark Crusade Content

Pre E3 2006: Dawn of War expansion entitled
02 May, 2006 Including new details, as well as the new playable race.
Dawn of War to see second expansion
31 Jan, 2006 With new multiplayer content and playable races.
Syphon Filter: Dark Mirror Review
26 Sep, 2006 A shooter on the PSP that works.
7 years ago
Agreed been playing this online since release and even made it into the top 20 players in WA a few times.. great fun!
7 years ago
Should be interesting to see how the balance works out. As I haven't been able to beat AI Necrons with anything other than Necrons. Thankfully they never get their monolith up and going icon_lol.gif
7 years ago
I want more races.
7 years ago
Beepos wrote
Agreed been playing this online since release and even made it into the top 20 players in WA a few times.. great fun!
How does that work if your profile says your from Brisbane?
7 years ago
i should really try some skirmishes with the Necrons vs. Eldar or Tau.

the only race of the others i've had problems with were the Space Marines, i can wipe the floor with Chaos, Orks and Imperial Guard as Necrons, but i have trouble against the Marines.

good game though, and if single-player is your thing, then this expansion doesn't require DoW or WA to play. though you do need keys to unlock the 5 other races in multiplayer.
7 years ago
hehe WA doesnt stand for Western Australia... it stands for Winter Assault.. the expeansion before Dark Crusade. I'd like to think I'm in the top 20 players in Australia though (which isn't saying that much heh), I've even represented in the Europeon Strategy Gamers League tournaments a few times for division A, I just love this game icon_smile.gif
7 years ago
Yes. I had the original game as well and it was awesome. My problem main problem with this game is that the Monolith is to good...
maybe its becuase im no good, but whenever versing a necron race they always win
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