Not a Review: Dawn of War II

College is a weird time in your life. You’re considered an adult by society but you still have a great deal of free time and some money in your pockets. Free time and money that you may spend studying, taking extracurriculars, chasing after the opposite sex, drinking, or, in my case, playing Warhammer 40,000. At one point I had two very large armies, one Ultramarine the other Necron, both were completely painted and I was pretty good at playing at least once a week. WH40k though is an intensive hobby, it requires a lot of time and money if you want to get a lot out of the game. Not to mention the model and rulebook treadmill that the makers, Games Workshop, depend on in order to make money.

College only lasts about four years though, and then you find yourself with a lot less free time, even if you have a lot more money. After graduating and finding a job in my chosen profession my 40k armies spent most, actually all, of the time laying in cases in my closet. It wasn’t just that I couldn’t find blocks of three or four hours to play a game, the mere idea of trying to find or schedule such a block of time was anxiety provoking all on its own! So, the models sat in my closet for years and I got further and further behind on models, rules, etc. It was at the point where if I DID find the time to get back into the hobby I’d have to invest hundreds and hundreds of dollars again to get myself up to speed with the current rules, models, etc. I didn’t want to get back into the hobby. Even though I have great memories of assembling and painting models and playing some fantastic games with friends. I sold my armies off and quietly gave up on Warhammer 40,000.

The problem being I still enjoyed the universe that Games Workshop has spent the last thirty odd years creating. “Grimdark” is a cliché today but it wasn’t always and the universe of Warhmmaer 40,000 is a perfect example of the genre and the game the prefect sandbox for exploring it. I wanted a way to enjoy that universe without having to sacrifice more time and money than I had. THQ’s Dawn of War made that possible when it came out in 2004 finally made that possible! Dawn of War is a real-time strategy game set in the Warhammer 40,000 universe where the player takes on the role of a commander in the Blood Raven company of Space Marines. The game puts a greater emphasis on the combat and tactical aspects of real-time strategy games instead of on resource gathering and management. The game had a clunky interface but I was too busy desolating the Enemies of Man to notice. The game scratched the very itch I had!

The sequel, this game, came out in 2009. I think I picked it up back then but never got around to playing it until this month. Yes, my backlog is vast enough that games I purchased more than five years ago remain unplayed to this day. Dawn of War 2 follows the path that its predecessor laid down, but eschews resource management all together. You are in charge of squads, usually just four, lead by specific characters and these are the only squads you’ll have at your disposal throughout the game. There are no bases to build or protect, no factories or barracks to churn out units, no resources to gather. You begin each mission with full squads and then must fight your way across the map, using strategy and tactics to defeat the enemies in your way. Maps will have various checkpoints scattered about them, if captured, your squads ranks are refilled at these checkpoints, but you never get more than you started with. In a very real sense the only resource you’re tasked with managing is your squads. How will they deploy? Do you they have cover or the high ground? If you are using close combat units do they have back-up providing suppressing fire? If you lose a unit will it be able to safely retreat to a checkpoint and recharge? This focus on combat helps to avoid the problem of rush, turtle, boom that RTS games have. The player must keep moving in order to progress.

Dawn of War 2, does what I wanted it to do, it lets me play in a setting I enjoy. I get to move toy soldiers around a board and have them destroy other toy soldiers. I get to do this in fifteen and thirty minute chunks, and when I’m done there is no take down or putting of models away. I don’t have to glue or paint or put anything together. All of this and I only had to spend $50 once. If I want to play against friends I can do that too, on-line. Dawn of War 2 is the perfect game for me. I don’t know if others would enjoy it though. It’s been so long since I played another RTS I don’t know if it stands up to competition in that area.

All I know is that if you’ve wanted to get into Warhammer 40,000 but have always been turned off by the commitment or you’re a recovering member of the hobby. This is a pretty great alternative. The best we’re likely to ever get…

New Necrons Arrive November 5th

So, while everyone has known this has been coming for the last year Games Workshop has finally gone public. They’re front page’s main story is the new Necrons and the Necron Army section has been updated. There are a number of new models available to Necron players but they’ve also pulled some things as well. I couldn’t find any reference to Pariahs or Tomb Spyders on the site. So, I guess it’s safe to say those are no longer being supported by GW.

Despite the fact that I rarely, if ever, play the 40k anymore. I’m still excited about this release and will, bare minimum, pick up the new codex.

Space Marine: Not a Review

Picture taken by Trent over at Random Musings of a Gamer

Games Workshop’s Warhammer 40,000 is a tabletop war game. Actually, for all intent and purposes, it is THE tabletop war game. Other war games exist, historic and otherwise, but people outside the hobby? If they know about tabletop war gaming at all they probably know about Games Workshop’s Warhammer (Fantasy or 40k). I started playing 40k over a decade ago and I love it. I love the hobby, the models, the fluff, etc. I wouldn’t call myself a fanboy (I own their competitor’s products and have some complaints).

As fun as a table top game is to play, after the game is over and you’re packing your models up and collecting stray dice, you have to admit that tiny metal and plastic models pushed up against each other and hundreds of dice roles doesn’t quite convey the frenetic pulpy action of the fluff:

…The attack was defeated, but there was no doubt there would be many more before the day was out. Less than a fifth of the Ultramarines who had begun the operation were still alive and Idaeus knew that one more push would see them defeated. He ignored the pleas of his sergeants and set off alone in a suicidal attempt to blow the bridge.

Sprinting through the bullet-chased and smoke huanted rubble, Idaeus reached the first of the demolition charges just as the retrieval Thunderhawk touched down beyond the bridge’s western approach and out of range of the enemy’s anti-aircraft positions. Triggering the commes-net Idaeus ordered the remaining Ultramarines to retreat under the command of Sergeant Uriel Ventris as the Night Lords began yet another assault. The surviving Ultramarines withdrew under fire to the Thunderhawk and Idaeus waited until the last possible second before detonating the first charge. In a catastrophic chain reaction, the remaining charges exploded, destroying Idaeus, the briddge, and much of the Night Lords’ oncoming assulat wave in a searing blast that shook the earth for Leagues around.

Excerpt from Idaeus’ Last Charge, Codex Space Marines

I have plenty of imagination and that is generally what I use when playing 40k, but now thanks to Relic and THQ I don’t have to always imagine and I don’t have to rustle up a table, and opponent and three to four spare hours. Instead, I can play Space Marine:

Space Marine is a middling action title, it isn’t great and it isn’t bad. The game  does a decent job of delivering  fast paced, violent action set in the 40k universe.  For people who don’t know anything else about the 40k world that is all the game can be. For players of Warhammer 40,000 and fans of the world Space Marine is quite a bit more. It takes all those static images of models on a table and brings them to life! Here we can experience the destructive power of a Lascannon or the tremendous might of a single Space Marine against Xenos hordes. I especially appreciate how faithfully they portrayed the weaponry in the game. I  kind of understood how a plasma gun differed from a melta gun; I understand the basics of a bolter (standard, heavy, and storm.) Space Marine, just as it does for the titular characters, brings this aspect of the 40k universe to life.

The best sections of the game are when you have access to a assault jet pack. I wish they had used the pack more or simply designed the game around it. Every jet pack level adds a vertical component to the game that is much more complex and compelling than the standard horizontal lay out of the rest of the game. I enjoy going from kill room to kill room as much as the next guy. But, in a 10 or so hour campaign it can get boring. The Jet pack allows for much more creative level design as well as giving the player an out when they are outnumbered. Hopefully, if there is a sequel the assault pack can play an integral part of it.

The only complaint I have with the game is how it handles your character’s life bar. While your Space Marine has a regenerating shield his life force is static and can only be regained by performing an “execution” against an enemy (canned animation kill) this would be fine except for the fact that some of these kills can last 3 or 4 seconds and you take damage while performing them!? I lost count of how many times I died while being stuck in the execution animation that would have healed me had it not gone on for so long…

Space Marine is a fun game, I hear the multiplayer is especially exciting, (and allows for creating your own Space Marine chapter!) for those looking for a shooter and aren’t already occupied with Gears of War 3 (I will never understand why this game was released a mere week before the most anticipated third person shooter of the year.) If you are a 40k fan though this game is indispensable!

Now I Feel Like Doing Something!

Khorne: helping you get things done since forever

I don’t know how many of you will get this… But, I found it strangely motivating.