Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War: Dark Crusade Review

Sci-fi warfare is the name of the game for the Warhammer 40,000 universe. Ever since Relic Entertainment converted the tabletop strategy game to an excellent and award-winning RTS franchise, fans of either spectrum can enjoy what the titles offer. The latest addition to the franchise, Dark Crusade, brings a slew of wonderful additions to the table, including two new races: the militaristic Tau (characterized by their enormous firepower) and the magical undead Neocrons (they have a tendency to rise from the dead). Other additions include over a dozen new multiplayer maps, and a new unit for each of the exisiting five races. For example, the Imperial Guard gains Heavy Weapon Teams, who can entrench themselves to fire their huge weapons.

The single player portion of the game involves the conquest of a planet named Kronus. With Dark Crusade, you can go on your escapade using the 7 different factions; for the sake of the expansion, I chose the new Tau Empire. You’re given command of a specialized unit for whatever faction you choose — for the Tau Empire, it’s a Tau Commander named Shas’O Kais. As you trot through the 25 different areas and earn victories, you’ll gain war gear, specialized units and unique abilities to help out your commander and army. For Kais’ war gear, you can outfit him with different weapons (flame thrower, plasma cannon or a missile launcher), upgrade his health with new armor or get an Advanced Sensory Array to detect stealthy units. As for the specialized units, they include the commander’s honor guard (beefed up Fire Warriors) or specific infantry units for tearing down buildings. For unique abilities, some provinces may include a forward base, where you can immediately churn out buildings and units, or a spaceport, where you can fly armies around the whole map.

The first map is the campaign map (similar to games like the Total War franchise or Rise of Nations) and plays out like Risk. Moving to or attacking an area uses up a turn; attacking an area shifts to the actual battle. The campaign map showcases a few stats, including your army’s position (you can only move/attack land that’s in your path), planetary requisition (accumulates when you take over provinces and is used to reinforce your armies) and a province’s military strength. When your turn is up, the other armies will move, and if they decide to attack one of your areas you can defend in an attempt to thwart their attack, or auto-resolve which lets the computer automatically determine the winner.

By the time you really develop the Tau, their firepower will really help out. Even though they are weak in melee, they have their allied race, the Kroot, to back them up. Hire some Kroot Hounds to boost your melee; when you get the Knarloc or Great Knarloc, you’ll easily see how their dominance can tear through units and buildings with ease. Their large mech suits characterize the Tau. When you create some Fire Warriors, you can "promote" one of the squad members to be the squad leader, and their suit will change to a white color to signify their promotion. Kais is in his distinguished large white mech suit, so you can easily tell him apart from everyone else regardless of their color.

The largest downfall for Dark Crusade is the derivative RTS gameplay, as the gameplay is largely unchanged from the two previous installments. Nothing is really new with the combat, except for new units, so it’s just more of the same gritty warfare gameplay. The visuals are largely unchanged, too; Dark Crusade basically looks like Dawn of War when it was introduced 2 years ago. Nonetheless, the unit animations are still top-notch. When a large battle is going on, I always zoom-in to see what units will do. For example, when surrounded by melee units, Kais will use his jetpack to vault himself up in the air and then fire his weapon at the ground in a large circle.

Hands down, Dark Crusade is a hell of an expansion. It adds even more longevity to the Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War franchise, and really opens up the creativity behind all 7 factions. The replay value is there courtesy of the ever-exciting multiplayer skirmishes, or by just going through the single player campaign with each of the factions. Relic gets thumbs up for not requiring Dawn of War in order to play the expansion, but the downside is that if you don’t own Dawn of War or the first expansion Winter Assault, you’re limited to just the Tau and Necron if you hop online. If you’re a fan of the Dawn of War series or of RTS games in general, you can’t go wrong purchasing Dark Crusade.


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Author: GamerNode Staff View all posts by

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