E3 2008: Dawn of War II Hands-On Preview

The Dawn of War real-time-strategy (RTS) series currently has three expansion packs and is critically acclaimed as one of the greatest entries in the genre to date. Naturally, a sequel, due in 2009, is on the way.

At E3 we were given a private demonstration of the game by one of the lead designers. As expected, the graphics have received a substantial upgrade while still retaining their colorful artistic style. For example, the armor worn by the space marines includes even more damage detailing and the environments accurately reflect what’s happening in the area, sometimes greatly to your advantage. Fire effects cause surfaces to appear charred, buildings can be destroyed, and the craters created by the heavy marines landing from their jetpack jumps can be used as a form of cover. That’s right, Dawn of War II now features a cover system similar to the developer’s, Relic, other title Company of Heroes. From what we saw, the system is already implemented to great effect with allies and enemies alike automatically finding cover points and even fleeing the battle if overwhelmed to either retreat and remain away or to find backup to get revenge on your ass.

One of the most significant new features demonstrated to us was the completely rebuilt campaign mode. No longer are players confined to a set list of missions that must be completed to advance the story. Now, the single-player campaign is more of a world-encompassing push-pull effort between the space marines and the enemy or enemies. The example situation shown to us came in the form of a recently captured artifact, dubbed “flag 2.0” with tongue firmly in-cheek. We were told that although the location was in our possession, it might need to be defended or even retaken in the near or far future, depending on a variety of factors.

This new non-linear mode of play also allows for new storytelling methods. Although we didn’t get a chance to see it, we were told that the story would be told in accordance to the order the missions were completed. Apparently, some elements may possibly never surface for some people because, well, that person might not feel like completing that particular mission.

Relic also expressed a desire for the player to build a connection with the characters seen in the single-player story mode. To achieve this goal, they have included more story characters that can all be upgraded. They may start weak, but through experience gathering, equipment gathering and adding points to one of four talent trees, all of which are individual to the character class, they will grow to be formidable foes for their enemies. Your soldiers may also equip useable items such as magnetic grenades that stick to vehicles.

In the last few years, Relic has made two of the greatest RTS games of all-time. From what we saw, Dawn of War II appears to be the inevitable amalgamation of the two set in the popular 40,000 universe. Based on what we’ve seen, 2009 can’t come soon enough.


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Author: Kyle Stallock View all posts by

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