Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War II - Retribution

I happened to notice an oddity in Dawn of War II - Chaos Rising's Steam global achievement stats as only 7% of people have the most unlocked one. I wonder if they were added later when Games For Windows Live got ditched because that is a really low percentage. Usually at least 40% of people have the first achievement of any given game on Steam from what I have seen.

Retribution, the second and final stand-alone expansion to DoW2, is of the more typical type in this regard, although the achievements are mostly unlocked via multiplayer and the Last Stand mode. I got only 16% of them by going through the campaign, which makes me feel the focus for the game was not on the singleplayer.

The campaign can be played with all the six factions present -- like in the expansions to the first Dawn of War. It differs somewhat for each race but mostly you play the same missions in the same order. I of course continued with Space Marines.

I wanted to see how the story ends from their viewpoint, even though it is necessarily not canon -- Warhammer 40k games seem to have bit of a habit going for the grim and dark. Like, for instance, the Kaurava system campaign lead by Gabriel Angelos in Soulstorm apparently ended up in a complete catastrophe for the Blood Ravens with a large part of the chapter killed in action.

I am all right with such but not quite so when Martellos the Techmarine appeared well and alive in Retribution even though he was killed in Chaos Rising as a traitor. Your commander and Thaddeus are gone in this expansion without too much of an explanation as well, and instead you control the honor guard captain Diomedes (introduced in Retribution) as your main hero. While having a non-mute hero made more sense, the continuity problems bothered me a bit.

The story ended with Blood Ravens securing the system and Gabriel Angelos becoming their new chapter master after the traitorous old one had been killed. I recall reading years ago some short Blood Ravens lore article that claimed Angelos to be the chapter master. It is considered conflicting lore, however, as he had only appeared as the captain of the 3rd company until the end of this expansion. I wonder how canon the Space Marines ending is this time -- did Angelos really become the chapter's leader. I guess the only way to know will be when/if a third Dawn of War game ever happens.

Retribution's gameplay -- at least in the campaign -- takes a step back to the first game. By gathering resources and capturing locations, you can field more units in addition to the four heroes you already have. I was not very keen on this change. Micro-managing 10+ units kind of breaks the tight tactical action that was previously going on. They should have at least made the squads be joinable by the heroes.

You can also choose not to field the secondary heroes and instead take their honor guards. Many of the hero traits also give bonuses to other squads when they are not fielded. If not for gaining levels faster, I almost did not want to use the heroes at all because a few of the inheritable traits seemed so good. Like the one for The Ancient that removes setup time for him or for all devastator units when the sergeant is left home.

The skill system was streamlined a bit for Retribution by removing the no-trait points. A smart decision, I think, though many of traits do seem to fit even less under the category they are in now -- strength tree's traits improving ranged combat etc.

All in all, I did not enjoy Retribution as much as I did Chaos Rising. The technical issues added to that. I expected the same problems continue as the engine for the expansion is the same. However, the old blackouts and hard drive torture were not as much of a thing -- I even played on higher than medium settings. Instead, there were these straight-up crashes that were always preceded by game sound (apart from music) disappearing a minute before. You can save the game but of course the crashes mostly happened during boss battles and such when saving is evidently not a thing you can do. Replaying the maps was quite the annoyance to say the least.

Also, one small thing I find amusing are the titles of the Warhammer games on Steam. Games Workshop are known for their zeal of guarding their IPs aggressively and this expansion's full name kind of gives it out: Warhammer® 40,000™: Dawn of War® II - Retribution™. I mean, even the Roman numeral would probably have a trademark icon on it if GW were allowed to do so. I do not think it is necessary to have the symbols on a game's title on the Steam client, especially if the name is long enough already.

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