Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War Soulstorm Review

Nearly four years after its release, Relic Entertainment’s critically acclaimed Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War RTS series has received somewhat annual standalone expansion packs. Picking up help from defunct developer Iron Lore Entertainment, the third and last expansion pack, Soulstorm, takes the phrase “bigger is better” to a whole new level.

I’ll admit I stayed up pretty late last night playing with the Sisters of Battle through a few campaign missions and getting my butt handed to me in a multiplayer skirmish. Despite providing two new races (Dark Eldar and Sisters of Battle) for a total of nine, more levels and some minor gameplay tweaks, Soulstorm feels a bit dated and worn-out. Yes, this standalone expansion still offers plenty of excellent Dawn of War action, but other than the traditional gameplay, not much else is introduced.

Soulstorm introduces a very large meta-war-game single-player campaign. In the second expansion, Dark Crusade, you could take one of the seven races to conquer an entire planet; in Soulstorm, you have four entire planets, three moons and a total of 31 provinces to conquer. It’s pretty simple, you move and attack nearby territories till you conquer all the provinces and enemy races. As far as action goes, it’s still very thrilling; being a Dawn of War fan, I felt right at home with Soulstorm. One minor complaint is that the campaign map was pretty cluttered with all the new planets, so some things were hard to see.

One of the new races is the Sisters of Battle. Extremely loyal to the God-Emperor, this overly religious female-only sect are in-between the Space Marines and the Imperial Guard in terms of military attitude; if you’re familiar with the Dawn of War series, then they’d play very similar as the Space Marines. To name some interesting units, you have the Death-Cult Assassin, who is the only infiltrated unit for the Sisters of Battle. When her health begins to fall, she’ll utilize some powerful attacks as a ‘last stand’ type of deal.

Also there’s the Penitent Engine, which looks like it was ripped straight from the 1986 movie Aliens – specifically the loader Ripley uses to tackle with the Alien Queen. The most powerful unit in the game is the Living Saint. Not only can she resurrect units, but her powerful melee attacks and her wings give her the edge and final push to end a battle. Note that you need to construct the Shrine of the Living Saint in order to summon her.

One additional resource to the Sisters of Battle is faith. In addition to accumulating resource and power, the Sisters need faith to use their most powerful attacks. In order to generate faith, you can build Holy Icons on listening posts or use heavy infantry or leader units in the battlefield, such as your primary commander unit: the Canoness.

Faith fuels powerful attacks called Acts of Faith; they range from the basic, such as Lay of Hands (used by Missionaries) which heals the attached squad he’s attached too, to the extreme and powerful, such as Ascension (used by Canoness) which summons invulnerable avenging angels to attack all the enemies in the area.

Another new gameplay feature Soulstorm introduces is flying units. For the Sisters of Battle, their flying unit is the Lightning Fighters. These extremely mobile and quick units can fly over terrain normally impassable by walking units, so you have to be on your toes to avoid enemy flanking. I noticed some clipping when air units flew through buildings though; in addition, these air units are the only new units for the previous existing races. My favorite race however, the Necrons, get left out of the cold and don’t have an air unit.

Other minor gameplay changes include that during the single-player campaign. Each race now starts with a specific power; Sisters of Battle have the Forward Bases power while the Necrons can recover lost units and you now have an increased cache of spoils from war (such as additional powers) and honor guards.

Visually, all the expansion packs generally looked the same, albeit with some new textures and special effects here and there so the same can be said for Soulstorm. I imagine Relic will spend its resources on Dawn of War 2 rather than upping the visuals in these annual expansion packs. I feel units got a fresh coat of paint, namely all the primary commander units; some buildings also got some new textures to reflect certain events in-game.

With every expansion pack, the number of multiplayer maps are now over 100, so the chances of finding other players on a diverse number of maps is pretty high. If you’re familiar with the general layout of each map, then the new maps will feel right at home as they feature some predictable terrain and chokepoints for Dawn of War vets.

One of the criticisms I’d have with the game is that if you look deeper into the two new races, they feel old. Take the Sisters of Battle for example. They play like a recycled and repackaged Space Marine squad with new textures and a different unit or two. Many of Sisters’ units are similar with the Space Marines: the Battle Sister squad is like the standard Space Marine squad (complete with similar weapon upgrades, leaders and death animations), the Seraphim squad is like the Assault Marines squad, the Celestian squad is like the Terminator squad and the Sister Repentia squad is like the Assault Terminator squad. The only real difference is that they have females instead of male ones.

If you’re this deep in the Dawn of War expansion packs, you’re either a pretty big Dawn of War fan or just like RTS games, so picking up Soulstorm should be a no-brainer if you’re either or. Since this is the last expansion pack, I imagine the successor game will be announced in the near future. In the meantime, all the new and thrilling, yet somewhat rehashed, content Soulstorm offers can hold you off till then.


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Author: GamerNode Staff View all posts by

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