This week I 'ave mostly been playing ...

I've been playing quite a few games recently that are newish and thought I'd go over them.

Last weekend I played through Dawn of War 2 which is relics latest warhammer 40k squad based RTS game. I don't really know the 40k universe but it seems to be lord of the rings in space. In the single player campaign you take on the role of a force commander in the blood marines who are all big macho men who wear big bulk armour and beat up girly elves and uncouth orcs and the squad leaders of which all bafflingly fail to wear protective head gear with their bulky space armour despite their subordinates doing so. Someone must have told them it isn't cool to wear the helmet that would have saved them from a head shot.

Anyway the game is squad based so there is no base building or unit generating or what have you, and you start off with one force commander who is essentially your game avatar and then a squad of generic marine types you can command. As the game progresses you pick up other types of squad which range from stealthy infiltrators scouts to dreadnought badass walking tanks. You can have up to 4 squads on anyone mission and you can customise their load out with items you collect in game either as a reward for missions or off the bloody corpses of your enemies.

You command in the normal click to move click to kill that sort of way from an almost top down view most of these games use. You can scroll around but there seems to be no way to rotate the camera which is odd but usually not a problem. The environment offers a variety of cover that you can take advantage of as well as building you can hide in. Almost all of this is destructible so you have to pick your cover carefully building can be blown up or sometimes just mowed down by the more powerful weapons like the assault cannon of the dreadnought. So the tactics come from using the environment and the various skills of the squads to take various key points and enemies.

Some of the squads are a single unit (like your avatar and the dreadnought) but others have a number of minions. They can loose members as their health drops and eventually they are reduced to a single hero unit. These cannot be killed but can be incapacitated assuming you have another active hero they can revive them. Then the squad can be reinforced to regenerate its minions at buildings or com relays which are capture able points on the map. If all your hero units are incapacitated you are evaced back to your ship with xp intact but you lose a day and some missions are time critical.

Each squad has there own specialism and special abilities that you can use like as long as they have supplies and energy. Some of their skills can be swapped out for new ones you get as the game progresses like grenades or various calls for support. Some items can be replenished in the game world others are usable only for a set number of times.

These different squads lead to quite different tactics you could take the infiltrators to sneak in det pack the fortifications then snipe any targets or go for a more heavy squad with more powerful weapons but which have to be locked down before use meaning they are less mobile and if enemies melee range they are toast. There are even jet pack troops who can jump in amongst the enemies which is always fun.

As you progress each of the squads earns xp and can be further customised that way. I tended to focus on damage output but you could as easily choose to make them more robust with more health or increase their pool of energy to allow them to use their specials more often.

Some of the buildings in the game are capture able (factories, imperial shirnes, com relays) they provide some benefit like better communications or powers from the emperor or better equipment. As the game progresses you get more freedom to choose what missions to do some missions are optional offering some piece of better equipment or are defend missions which protect captured buildings from being taken back. It leads to quite a rich game played across several planets with tactics of picking and choosing which missions to take.

The graphics are good the units detailed and well modeled the voice acting is a touch on the ham side of things but that's par for the course. The story is unlikely to win any awards it's run of the mill sci fi tropes but it serves to add good background to the game. All in all its a very fun game and well worth picking up. I suspect there are many ways to play it through based on the squads you pick and the tactics you use I went for brute force tooling my guys up with the biggest guns I could find and using the heaviest units for full on frontal assault but there are probably many ways of approaching it.

The other game I picked up last week is the addon pack to Sins of a Solar Empire called "entrenchment" it adds some new tech and weapons to the established game and some new options to how to play. Sins for those who don't know is a 4x game a real time space based game. It has a story but it is fairly irrelevant it doesn't have a story mode or anything you pick a universe size and parameters, one of the three sides, and some win conditions then it generates a game. It is a game of managing your resources trying to expand researching new tech and building massive fleets headed by devastating capital ships to win by force or cultural means.

With Entrenchment the two major additions are starbases and defensive mines. Right away mines make a great difference to how things work. A system with it's entry point defended by mines is quite a lot harder to take. You jump a fleet in and immediately you have lost a load of your ships and damaged others. They've added new skills to the scout ships to compensate.

The starbases are also very interesting they start off as a ship that is sacrificed to build them and can be built anywhere. This means they can be used to control previously uncolonizable systems but they can also be built in an enemy system assuming you can defend them in their building state. They can be customised to suit with 8 slots that can be filled with your selection of modules. These include laser cannon arrays, enhanced armour, drone hangers, meteor control planetary bombardment, and the usual array of trade and culture modules. It makes them a powerful addition to your arsenal. Drop one near the warp point your enemy will use to enter your system and increase their firepower and they will chew through enemy fleets that warp in. Add loads of drone capacity and they can launch huge fleets of defensive drones. Or drop them in an enemy sector equipped with meteor launch and they will bombard the planet into submission.

It adds just a touch more depth to the game which is nice.

That'll do for now on games, I might talk about the tower defense game defense grid which I've been playing a lot of a bit later.


The WH40K game does look good but there is too much that I want to do to make room for it! I always liked the 40k universe. It's quite daft and very camp but cool and tongue in cheek nonetheless. Do you get to use Librarians? They were rock hard. Sounds like the squad based combat mimics the tabletop game, which is cool.

Does it feel like just another RTS?

I might get to check out Sins when things get finished off - which may be never. It does sound cool, though.

brainwipe's picture

It certainly doesn't feel like a classic rts of the red alert/C&C/Dune2 mold and the strategy element of it sort of creeps up on you slowly. First it just seems to be a run of the mill squad shooter game with indirect controls but gradually it expands and the strategic elements come in, which of the buildings do you choose to capture do you want more imperial boons or better weaponry?, what focus do you give your various troops and what load out?, do you pimp out your avatar with the best stuff or load up the squads first?, melee or ranged or a bit of both?, and eventually which squads and missions to use.

No librarians that I saw. Think they popped up in the previous dawn of war tho.

Evilmatt's picture

Do you like it, though? Is it something you think is worth the money? Do you froth at the thought of playing it?

brainwipe's picture

Yes, I played it almost non stop from friday to sunday

Evilmatt's picture

How does it compare to actually playing a game of 40K as a boardgame?

I've never been a big fan of RTS games, however would quite happily spend hours on some turn-based version of 40K Online, and re-live my mis-spent youth intricately planning the death of my opposition over several hours (and 2 gallons of coke, while munching jaffa cakes).

babychaos's picture

No idea as I say the only thing I know about 40k is that it seems to be lord of the rings in space

The only thing I can say is this is real time rather than turn based

Evilmatt's picture

I really liked DoW2, and am thinking of starting another run through tonight on a harder setting. Which I pretty much never do.

No Librarians in there, although Terminators are on the menu, which made me happy.

In terms of how like 40k it is, I think it's probably the most wargame-like rts I've ever played. As Matt said, there's no base-building and you're more or less stuck with the resources you started the mission with. There's no unit building either (short of healing up squads,) so the tactics come from putting the right unit in the right place at the right time; cover is critical in the early game (less so once your force is a hero-level commander, a dreadnought and two Terminator sqauds,) and making sure your troops are put to their best use (assault marines jumping in to break up enemy formations while scouts lay down suppressive fire, until your devastators get the heavy bolters set up and into hose mode, for example) is the difference between winning and getting smushed.

Ways it's less like a waregame are the mechanism for building up your force; you have a set selection of squads to choose from: Assault Marines, Tactical Marines (who do feel a bit like a generic default, as Matt said, rather than the elite force they should be,) Devastator Marines, Scouts, a Dreadnought and your force commander, who is always deployed. You get to pick three squads to take. Their equipment (oddly) is looted mid-mission, like an MMO. It's even colour-coded Green/Blue/Purple, like in WoW to let you know how good it is.

On balance, I think for a real time game, it did a pretty damn good job of evoking 40k for me; it was suitably squad based and tactical (rather than strategic,) but bear in mind I'd stopped playing it before you started, so our memories of it might be a little different. ;)

I will say that It's a bit easy on default difficulty; I don't think I lost a mission. Oh no, that's not true; the first time I met a Carnifex, it ate my whole force, but that was the only time.

AggroBoy's picture

I lost a couple but mostly because I would take defend missions and try and send half my troops off to capture the other building mid game.

Evilmatt's picture