Warhammer 40K: Dawn of War - Dark Crusade (Review) Print E-mail
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Written by Christophor "SuperGuido" Rick   
Sunday, 13 August 2006

[PC] [Review]

Warhammer 40,000 Dawn of War: Dark Crusade is actually called an expansion pack. But it is a full stand-alone game. As I was just checking out the demo I don't know if it will install as an add-on to an existing Dawn of War installation or if it will want to reside in its own location on the drive. At only 395MB installed I was quite surprised to find a nice intro film as well as some short cut scenes in the demo. I feel that was time they should have spent polishing up the game play and not making short films. But what it should be called was a big waste of time. It is beyond difficult I must say. The third try was the charm to crush the AI on the first level (20 minutes of play where 7 minutes was simply holding strategic points.) You need to build and build quickly while continuing to run your units all over the board to take control of the strategic points. To keep the points you need to station units there or build a listening post with a turret on top.

Some sites have called the demo 'challenging' but I would call it 'insanely difficult' if I needed to put a short tag on it. Some sites have called this a 'gateway game' to get new players into the fold. I would call it 'off-putting' because of the unbalanced nature of the second mission and the total lack of attention to detail overall.

Graphics/Video (75%):
The game really looks good, don't get me wrong. But if you want a destructible environment in your RTS go look at Faces of War and completely skip this game. The unit models are nicely rendered and offer all the variations available in the original tabletop game of the same name. The landscape is somewhat bland and uninteresting and often quite flat. When things explode they semi-scar the landscape but it doesn't actually create craters or anything generally. It's just a table on which to move your pieces around and not much more.

Audio (60%):
The audio is dull. There are plenty of war-like background noises. But the unit responses are limited and redundant. Nothing new there really. I actually just sat and listened to the game for a while with my eyes closed to see if I could picture the action in my head. It was uninspiring to say the least. Sure the explosions off in the distance made it sound like a war zone, but really it just didn't do much for me.

Controls/Interface (75%):
The controls are standard RTS style. Left click activate unit, right click for action. The camera can be controlled by both keyboard arrows and mouse which is handy. You can't spin the camera and sometimes it feels like the camera doesn't move high enough to see a good deal of the action. As I said, standard RTS controls replete with keyboard shortcuts. On the lower left hand mini-map you have some quick links to next unit and next research which is good for a quick check. That is, if you manage to find the time. The build scheme is also quite standard. Build X building to get access to N unit and Y building etc.

Game Play (60%):
 This game is lacking in so many respects. The demo levels give you a small taste of what the game will be like. In the second of the two missions you are basically outnumbered a million to one. Well ok maybe not a million but it sure seems like it because before you even manage to gain control of your immediate area the enemy is swarming over you like ants to a spilt picnic basket. Unfortunately the ants are not only gifted with superior numbers but with superior weapons and armor as well. Imagine trying to fend off an army of ants with a can of Raid when they have gas masks and rocket launchers and you get the picture. This game is not groundbreaking; you can't even break the ground in the game. It's plain and flat and while quick and action-packed I can see it getting old and monotonous rather quick. The sounds are so bland I often completely blocked them out. The action is fast and furious but redundant and boring. I would not invest anymore time and certainly no money into this game. If this is indicative of what the entire game is like then I have no interest in even wanting to see the completed product. The demo does give you a taste and feel of the game play but the balance is so off in the second mission that I wouldn't even bother stealing it. As I stated in the blurb earlier on Tuesday, the enemy troops even shoot THROUGH the ground to get to you. Talk about totally blowing the feel of the game, that did it right there. I actually paused the game and walked away for several minutes because I was so aghast that they had missed such a simple little thing like that in the game engine.

Summary (67%):
Blah. If I were considering what RTS to drop some cash on this season, it would not be this. I would rather have something with some real kick and guts to it. I think from the looks of the demo so far that game is going to be Faces of War which I will have a review for within the next week. Yawn!

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