Trent Polack's site for cats, games, game development, and undeniably powerful sociological insight all with a healthy dose of narcissism.
Visceral Real-Time Strategy Done Right
Published on February 9, 2006 By mittens In Real-Time
Over the course of the last week I have become quite infatuated with the popular RTS released early 2005 (or was it late 2004?), Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War. Dawn of War is set in the futuristic version of the pen-and-paper universe (there's also a fantasy version of the franchise, which also has a big-name RTS in development). And while this is all nice and well for people that find themselves getting all sorts of turned-on by that kind of thing, it doesn't really mean much to me other than the fact that it gives developers quite a bit of background material to work with. The gist of the thing is this: Dawn of War is a fast-paced RTS that could best be described as result of a lonely night where Starcraft had its virginity stolen away by its younger, hipper sibling, Warcraft III. What this means, in layman's terms, is that the game puts an emphasis on both large, important individual units (though there are no RPG components) while still making unit diversity and population as important as, say, Starcraft or Command and Conquer. In short: it's damn good.

The game was developed by the same company responsible for Homeworld (both the original and its sequel) as well as the less critically acclaimed Impossible Creatures. I played both Homeworld games and found them entertaining but a bit too slow-paced for my tastes; the completely free-form 3D game space was fairly overwhelming for me as well. I wanted to like both games (though I never gave Impossible Creatures a try) but they were a bit too complex to easily get into and given that I didn't find them that amazing I didn't feel the necessity to force my way into the guts of the game.

I have heard great things about the multiplayer component of Dawn of War but currently I'm quite engrossed in the original game's campaign mode, which consists of eleven missions played from the Space Marine faction's perspective. And, before you get yourself all down, when I say that there are eleven missions, I want you to understand that these missions are nothing to scoff at. The first two missions took me around an hour to complete whereas every mission since then has taken me roughly two to two and a half hours to complete on hard difficultly. These are some pretty huge missions and, despite there only being eleven of them in the vanilla game, it'll take you a nice chunk of time to complete. The story is also surprisingly compelling and interesting, which is a nice change from the highly predictable stories of every game I've played in the last couple months. I just finished up the seventh mission a few minutes ago, and here are some nice little screenshots to give you an idea of how hectic things are at this point:

Did I mention that the game is damn purdy despite the engine being capable of displaying a massive number of units and special effects on the screen at once? Each unit has an unsettling amount of detail paid to it, and the weapons/loadout on the unit will change if you choose to upgrade certain features on it. As an example, there is a tank on the Space Marine side that you can eventually upgrade to have two side laser cannons as well as upgrading the primary gun into a dual-laser turret (I feel nerdy just relaying that) and both upgrades will show up on your unit in-game. Generic tech upgrades will also have a visual influence on your units throughout the course of a match too; for instance, if you decide to upgrade the melee tech of your leaders/commanders, their melee weapons will switch from a kind of chainsaw-sword to an unnecessarily large power-glove with little electrical beams pulsing through it. It's the little details like this, rather than the polygon count, shaders, and texture resolution, that really help make a game stand out all the more in my eyes.

And let me say this now: you've never seen an RTS with such amazing, inventive (and violent) animations as will see in Dawn of War. The game fully earns its M-rating with animations which, as an example, have a very large "avatar" unit that spears infantry units on its sword while blood drips down. There is also a Space Marine mech unit that will impale infantry on its claw-like thing and then beat it to the ground. It's a very neat effect, not to mention jaw-dropping when seen for the first time, but definitely just a bit violent. I personally love it -- not sure what that says about me and I'm quite willing to keep it that way.

Overall though, Dawn of War is the most fun I've had with an RTS since Rise of Nations which was released almost two years ago (and then Warcraft III before that). I liked it so much that I actually went and bought Dawn of War's first expansion pack (as was recently announced, a second expansion pack is also under development), Winter Assault, which is something I very rarely do with games. I'm going to ignore the fact that the EB Games cashier didn't put in the first CD of the game when he was filling the empty box that was displayed on the shelves. Bringing that up just makes me sad.

Now, if only it wasn't currently 4:40am so I could get to work on starting the eighth campaign mission...
Comments (Page 1)
on Feb 09, 2006
Do they pay you by the word? Where can I go to sign up for this gig...I could use some extra pocket money
on Feb 09, 2006
I think they pay him per link he includes I was lucky enough to grab this gem from Target for only $11
on Feb 09, 2006
This is a typical example of the guerrila marketing tactic being exhibited by some new companies. They EMPLOY people to sign up for forums and message boards and discuss games while posing (sometimes covertly, someties overtly) as a member of the forum community.

This is just an example of B.S. marketing tactics by ignorant advertising companies, and should be removed by a moderater immediately.
on Feb 09, 2006
Well, if he is a schill for a marketing company, he's one for pretty much every developer and publisher across the board.

You can't toss aside everyone who writes reviews online now as being a marketing plant.
on Feb 09, 2006
You sure can, when the write reviews for a game on a FORUM and even include screenshots, especially when that forum is for not only an entirely different game, but a whole other GENRE!
on Feb 09, 2006

Actually Trent's been around for quite some time now and is definitely not a paid shill. He's just a passionate gamer which some people apparently take offense to these days.

Dawn of War is a fantastic game, certainly the very best that's been made to date for the Warhammer 40K universe. I've found the expansion pack to be less enjoyable, however. It's just really difficult to the point of not being fun.

on Feb 09, 2006
I think it's safe to say that this is the first time I've ever been called a shill. And if I'm a shill, then I certainly am a shill that writes a lot about games, my personal life, and trips to internship interviews at Stardock. I'm quite certain I've written about a date or two in the past as well. Man, am I a failed shill or what?

And wow, do I ever wish I was paid by the word for these. Even if it was just a penny a word, I'd be sittin' at a comfortable 8-12 bucks per article. Anyone think Stardock is listening? I just write these articles for my own entertainment. Each one takes me about a half-hour to an hour to write, and it's generally how I relax before getting to sleep every night. Last night, for example, I finished up a campaign mission for Dawn of War (the seventh campaign mission, as I mention) at 4:10-4:15am but wasn't quite tired enough to go to sleep. So, in order to keep semi-productive, I just wrote the above article which I posted at about 4:40am, and then I proceeded to head to bed. I generally receive positive feedback from these articles and I enjoy just writing them, so it all adds up to: "Hey, why not?" Plus, what kind of shill has a personal website linked in every post? Silly kids.
on Feb 09, 2006
Id like to apologize a bit. Ive just realized that Stardock "cross pollinates" their forums posts between the dedicated GC2 site (where I saw this) and the more general forums on TGnet, where something like this may not seem quite as out of place. Still, gamers are becoming increasingly aware of all the coordinated non traditional marketing strategies, AIs and IRC bots out there. Its hard to know who to trust anymore. One generally comes to a forum for a more informal, personal interaction.

That being said, if youve just written a blog post on the game, why not mention it, and link back to the blog? Something that shows up in a forum, written up formally, with pictures and links sort of screams "Adspam".
on Feb 09, 2006
I think some people have been reading Penny Arcade.

I completely agree with Trent on Warhammer. Absolutely fantastic game. I've not even tried it's multiplayer ('cause I always get whipped like a flea-bitten mongrel on ANY MP), though the AI in the skirmish is suitably aggresive for my taste.

The campaign maps and scenarios are just right in my book. It allows you to form choke points and sit back for a breather, so long as you don't ignore your defences completely.

Actually, listening to your little review is whetting my appetite for it. Time to reinstall methinks.
on Feb 09, 2006
Bingjack - Through all the SD sites, there is a blogsite, Articles posted there to the gaming category also cross-pollinate to the other game sites. So he did write a blog about it, it just showed up a bunch of different places, as is the goal of connecting up all the sites.
on Feb 09, 2006
I suspect many of us are flocking to GC2 as a welcome breath of fresh air from all the same old, same old RTS games that are saturating the market right now, of which DoW is one, even if more polished than many. Its definitely the best warhammer licensed game ever made, but you know as well as I do...thats not saying very much at all.

But again, if this was posted on the more general forums on TGnet, and wasnt really targeted specifically at the GC2 crowd, I apologize.
on Feb 09, 2006
I thought it was a good write up.

I generally don't like RTS and I've only played the demo for this game but it was very enjoyable and I'm still tempted to buy it.

But, the only RTS I've ever really loved is Rise of Nations (and the T&P expansion), because you can pause at any time while retaining full command control (which leads to a more relaxed feel), and because it blends typical RTS elements with Civilization-like elements. I'd actually put RoN in my top 10 games list. It's one of those games I can dink around with at any time (when bored or burnt on other games) and have fun. In most RTS games once you expand a bit, and especially after you have more than one production center, the game gets to be out of control and very difficult to manage - but RoNs interfaces and gameplay allow you to easily manage a multi-production point empire very easily.

Dawn of War is fun...but it's just not the same type of game as RoN. It still has the hectic, out of control feel of any other typical RTS that just isn't that fun for me.
on Feb 09, 2006
I'm defintely looking forward to (RoN)Rise of Legends! Cant beat the concept, and it boasts some more new features to try and invigorate the stale RTS genre. By the time that comes out, I may be able to pull myself away from GalCiv 2
on Feb 09, 2006

Rise of Legends should be outstanding.

Getting back to DoW, if anyone's gotten past the expansion mission where you have to guard the Space Marines across this huge map controlled by Orks and Chaos (and can switch to the Eldar), post how you did it.

on Feb 09, 2006

Yea, a post on can show up in many places.

I got into a serious flame war last year because I wrote a post on my JoeUser blog criticizing someone over at Valve and my post ended up on Totalgaming which in turn got propagated elsewhere.