Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War: Soulstorm

Relic Entertainment’s Dawn of War series was one of the first RTS series that I really got into. Its very approachable gameplay, along with its sci-fi universe, really appealed to me along with plenty of other gamers, since the series has gathered plenty of awards and critical acclaim. Since its release in September 2004, Dawn of War has gotten an annual expansion pack.

A third expansion, titled Soulstorm, is currently being produced by series developer Relic Entertainment and Titan Quest developer Iron Lore. The expansion will introduce several new concepts into the series, including two new races, air units, enhanced multiplayer and an expanded metagame.

According to Jonathan Dowdeswell, executive producer at Relic, fans were pleased with the direction Dark Crusade was taking and Soulstorm will reflect some of the praised gameplay decisions. "We really liked how the metagame came out in Dark Crusade, as did the fans, so we decided to take it one step further this time."

This time around, the game’s campaign will feature an entire star system called Kauvara. While Dark Crusade featured one planet with several different provinces, Soulstorm will feature four different planets and three accompanied moons for a total of 31 provinces to explore. While the fundamental basics largely went unchanged, the addition of more planets and places to explore is just one aspect Relic is improving on.

"The play is inherently similar, mostly revolving around strategic choices of which planet and provinces to attack. But the addition of planets does give us more interesting ways to limit how gamers can access certain areas and move around."

The two new races, the Dark Eldar and the Sisters of Battle, will bump up the total number of races in the series to nine. The Dark Eldar have the special ability to consume souls, which are left behind by the dead. Only the Dark Eldar can see the souls, which act as an unofficial third resource to the new race and the souls can be used to purchase some nifty soul powers.

Dowdeswell talked a little bit on what goes into developing a new race. "Every time we start a new race, we think, ‘OK, how are we gonna make this race distinct in a while that is cool, that people are gonna want to play’ — at the same time not unbalancing the rest of the game."

The expansion will also feature more units for existing races. Dowdeswell discussed the difficulty on providing new units for the already-existing races.

"It’s really interesting and difficult part of game development. We keep adding new units to the races, but when we do that, old units can lose some of their unique personality and role on the battlefield. That’s our challenge: to keep all the units competitive and interesting. Sometimes it means we take half of a unit’s purpose away or remove it from the game entirely."

One of the big additions will be the introduction of air units. All the races, except for the Necron, will be receiving air units in form or another. Dowdeswell talked about the potential impact of air units to Dawn of War.

"Obviously, this is a significant change to the game. But again, this allows us to give existing units greater specialization. Units that were starting to encroach on each other in terms of intent now can be tweaked to be strong or weak against air units."

Lastly, Soulstorm will include changes to the series’ multiplayer aspect. For example, Relic is adding an awards system, where players can receive medals or achievements for specific completed objectives. Dowdeswell described the rewards as "bragging rights, for players who’ve committed a lot of time to show off and be recognized."

Soulstorm will be the series’ third expansion pack, which in some gamers’ eyes may seem a bit much and a reason to make some quick cash (see F.E.A.R. Perseus Mandate), but Dowdeswell gives the additive of if the expansion is fun and contains rewarding gameplay, then there’s no problem!

"But I can trace the real answer… back to the very first prototype we did on Dawn of War… And in three months we had this incredibly fun little game that THQ’s QA department had to ban from its computers… It’s as simple as that. And every time we add new features, new armies, it ends up more fun…. If we have something fun and people like it, why would we stop? Why should we?"

Why should you, indeed? Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War Soulstorm heads to PC in spring 2008.

*Quotes taken from October 2007 edition of Games for Windows magazine


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Author: GamerNode Staff View all posts by

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