Warhammer: 40,000: Dawn of War: Dark Crusade Exclusive Hands-On

This stand-alone expansion will add two new races and a turn-based strategy layer to the popular Dawn of War formula.

While Relic's superb Company of Heroes is currently the talk of the strategy genre, the company hasn't forgotten about its acclaimed Warhammer: 40,000 series, either. Relic is currently putting the finishing touches on Warhammer: 40,000: Dawn of War: Dark Crusade, the second expansion to the hit 2004 real-time strategy game set in the brutal Warhammer 40,000 sci-fi universe. Dark Crusade packs a lot of content for an expansion pack, and it introduces a number of new features, not the least of which is a turn-based strategic layer to the campaign game. We played around with a work-in-progress version of Dark Crusade to see just how these new features are coming together.

The mechanized tau are one of the two new races in the expansion, along with the necrons.

Dawn of War's success can be attributed to the fact that it captured the violent nature of Warhammer 40,000 combat and set it in a challenging real-time strategy environment where capturing territory was just as important as base and unit building. The game featured four playable races in the form of the space marines, the orks, the eldar, and the chaos space marines, while the Winter Assault expansion introduced the Imperial Guard. Dark Crusade introduces two new races, boosting the total to seven. If you don't own Winter Assault or even Dawn of War, don't worry--the expansion packs all seven races in it. New here are the necrons, an undead army, and the tau, an almost mechanized race that uses seemingly anime-inspired battle suits. However, all the existing races get new units, as well, so there's something for everyone in Dark Crusade.

The significant new addition in Dark Crusade, though, is certainly the strategic campaign. Turn-based campaign layers in real-time strategy games are becoming more and more popular, since the strategic layer can make the real-time battles more meaningful, as there's something at stake besides simply crushing the other guy on a battlefield. The ultimate goal in Dark Crusade's campaign is to conquer the planet Kronus, and you begin with just a single territory, which is home to your stronghold. Every turn, you must decide where you want your army to attack next. Win and you seize that territory, but lose and you'll be rebuffed that turn. If you ever lose your stronghold territory, you lose the campaign. On the flip side, that also means that you don't have to conquer every territory. By fighting to capture enemy strongholds, the gameplay focus will be on these strategic locations, so the game shouldn't get bogged down in a long campaign to conquer the entire map.

There's a lot more to the campaign than just worrying about strongholds, though, as there are plenty of strategic implications on the map that may affect your war. Territories are rated by military strength, so it's wise to avoid heavily defended territories until you can build up your military forces and your strength. Meanwhile, some territories convey strategic advantages to whichever faction owns them. Possessing the Eres Badlands, for instance, gives you control of the chaos god's relic, which lets you launch two attacks per turn, where before you were limited to only one. Or, gaining Pavonis gives you control of the planet's space port, letting you use transports to leapfrog and attack any territory, even those that aren't adjacent to your borders, though you can't use it to attack strongholds. These bonuses can make non-stronghold territories a tempting target.

While the tau are more tech-heavy, the necrons are more magic-based.

Other territories will let you recruit honor guard, which are elite units that can accompany your commander from battle to battle, ensuring that you don't have to start from scratch and build up an army every time you invade a territory. You're only allowed one army on the map, as well, since armies are centered around your unique commanders, so the makeup of this army becomes even more important. The challenge is that all units use up planetary requisition points, so you have a population cap that limits the size of your honor guard, as well as the units that you use to garrison territory. Do you spend requisition points on defending an important territory or to bulk up your commander's army? It's your call.

Your commander is a powerful unit in the campaign, and you can outfit him with a variety of war gear, which consist of weapons and equipment that you earn through conquest. Whenever you're rewarded for your performance, you can purchase a piece of war gear that's unique to that commander's faction. So the necron lord can earn a reinforced body of living metal, making him tougher in combat, or a death shroud, which increases his speed and reduces damage from attacks. On the other hand, the tau commander can be equipped with missile pods, a jetpack, or even a shield drone that draws enemy fire away from him. Each commander has up to 10 potential unlockables, so you can tailor the war gear selections to your style of play, be it offensive or defensive. These selections also change your commander's appearance, so the more war gear you unlock, the more powerful the commander looks on the battlefield.

The battles remain as visceral and fast-paced as ever, and the focus remains on capturing and holding strategic points that are dotted across the map. Possessing a strategic point generates requisition points, which is one of the two primary resources in the game, and this means that, once again, you can't afford to "turtle up" in a base and build up an army. If you do so, you'll be crushed by the other team. Instead, you must venture out early and capture and defend as many strategic points as possible, shifting forces around the map, since you can't build a large enough army to defend every point equally. The artificial intelligence looks like it'll keep you on your toes, though, as we saw the computer adapt to our tactics quickly. After trying to attack us with a large force, it switched tactics and employed hit-and-run attacks and stealth units to try and whittle us down. It's rare to see an AI actually respond correctly to what you're doing to it.

Dark Crusade is a stand-alone expansion, meaning you won't need to own Dawn of War or the first expansion to play.

Since Dawn of War's release two years ago, Relic has diligently balanced the gameplay through patches and updates, and the payoff is that the core gameplay is sharper than ever at this point. Still, whenever you introduce two new armies and new units, there's always a risk of unbalancing the sides, but from what we've seen so far, both the tau and the necron feel like solid additions to the game. The tau are the mechanical faction, from the mechanized battle suits to the way tau structures are bolted into the ground. The necron, on the other hand, display an appropriately morbid look for an undead faction. The necron structures rise out of the ground and appear as sinister memorials, almost like tombstones.

Aside from the new turn-based campaign, the familiar skirmish and multiplayer options remain about the same, though there are a dizzying number of skirmish and multiplayer maps at this point. We lost count at more than 60, but that should provide plenty of replay fodder whether you battle the AI or other players in multiplayer. The rules are fairly customizable, and you can play to assassinate one another's commanders, destroy each other's headquarters, play for an economic victory, and more.

There's simply an impressive amount of content in Dark Crusade, and this is almost a whole new game. The turn-based campaign changes the way you play Dawn of War. No longer will you have to go from mission to mission in a scripted, linear campaign, but you will be able to decide your own fate, and that should appeal to the many Dawn of War fans out there. The fact that the expansion is stand-alone should also make it accessible to newcomers, as they won't need to worry about owning the original Dawn of War to play it. Relic looks like it has another promising strategy game on its hands, and coming on the heels of Company of Heroes, the studio could very well be on a hot streak. Dark Crusade will ship in October.

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82 comments
rasik
rasik

The games awesome.. playing it for like hours... tau and necrons are good in their own way but the freaking necrons sre so hard to kill.. lol!! all the factions have some advantage and some disadvantage.... u just need to learn to play with one :D

halox2020
halox2020

Hope that they will balance all the seven races in the game.

Wej_accept_it
Wej_accept_it

This game will **** ROCK!!! (Go the Tau & Space Marines, own all other races!)

madmatt1788
madmatt1788

can i install DC then WA then dow? or DC DOW thn WA?

maniaka
maniaka

1. DC is STANDALONE. 2. DC Single player: Campaign or skirmish you may play as ALL 7 races. (Not online) 3. WA needs DoW to work with DC 4. You must own DC to be able to play with other DC players online. For example: Player A owns DC. He can play as Tau or Necron online. Player B owns DC+DoW. He can play as Tau, Necron, Orks, Chaos, SM, Eldar. Player C owns DC+DoW+WA. He can play as all seven races online. If you only own DoW, you will only be able to play with DoW players. If you own DoW+WA, you will only be able to play with DoW+WA players. If you only own DC, you will only be able to play with DC players. Relic are Tha Best

Destman
Destman

So everyone understands that this article is wrong, and you will have to buy both of the origional games to be able to play as the other 5 races, I will present you with this offical chart made by relic. http://www.relic.com/misc/buggo/dcfaq.jpg I hope that clears up the fact that when you buy this expansion, you are not getting the origional game and it's first expansion for free. You will be able to fight against the other 5 races, just not play as them.

Rizvan007
Rizvan007

Both new races are going to add alot to the game!... I cant wait to play the campaign Total war style! hehe.. well not exactly the same, but i love the idea of costumizing my commander to be a close combat god!.. hehe. The gameplay will also change with the adition of units that can fire / cap while cloaked... if this means the imperial assassin will be able to do that?!?!?!. Anyhow I cant wait and I am very excited.. I also play TT, and I have been with this game from the very beggining!. Go reliq> Kudos to all, the wirk put into this game has been awsome.. 7! unique races... 7!. heheheehe.... cant wait tor DOW 2 ;)

SonofNurgle
SonofNurgle

Highelf-tau, the Tau are not that powerful. It took a long time for a fire warrior squad to kill some space marines in the demo, as they do on the TT. I have had the missfortune to play with tau against marines many times on the TT, and the only sure fire way to beat marines is to include several chrisis suits with plasma rifle, and although chrisis suits cannot be given them in the game, the suits still kick there a88 faster than the basic fire warrior team ever would. If you want to show off tau power, you would fight some Imperial Gaurd and shred them with your pulse rifles. And as for customizin, colourz, i am sure they would. And if not.........

Amrikove
Amrikove

Looks like they used the company of heroes AI code ... smart move

l3loodAngel
l3loodAngel

And this is supposed to be Hands on? Only few things are new...

Aertalron
Aertalron

aaaaaaah, i hope it'll be released soooooooooooon !!!!!!

telekinesist
telekinesist

Dude chill, every army can be beaten by another when the right tactics are used, such as artillery or whirlwinds out ranging the fire warriors or using assault marines early on to tare them up with their 6-7 man squads, besides I like the fact that turrets can now see stealthed units, so that old online tactic for using assault terminators and stealthed scouts may well become obsolete, even more so when you think the kroot hounds can do more damage in CC then them. This looks to throw so many new dimensions into the game I just cant wait for its release, and am pre-ordered and ready for it :D

highelf_tau
highelf_tau

I like the game anyyway but i have these questions: CAN YOU PAINT TAU can you paint them with: armour (dur) cloth (under the armour) sept colour (if they're a shas'ui team leader you'll have this on you shoulder pad, weapon, and helmet panles) detail (like on bonding knives and words ah, and on ethereal gems and stuff) skin (dur) ALSO please check out my latest raving (HighElf_Tau's Third Raving on Choosing Factions Because They're Good it should be below this post

highelf_tau
highelf_tau

[This message was deleted at the request of a moderator or administrator]

ImperialDane
ImperialDane

Well Dark Crusade has gone gold. It is official.

Typocalypse
Typocalypse

The new images looks like its in 3D, this is going to be good

glitchgeeman
glitchgeeman

It's stand alone? Nice. :D I'm buying this game. Can't wait to try out that Giant Knarloc (The dinosaur looking thing). By the looks of it, it'll be able to eat any enemy that's dumb enough to get close to it. But I can't wait to try out this commander customization thing. It's sounds really cool and tailored to fit the Tau, who are all about weapon customization.

Edot0
Edot0

I cant wait til this game comes out! I went to gamestomp last week and bought it ( pre-order ). this will be expansion game of the year for sure. the demo was sweet, tau pwns at long range. i just cant wait to see what the necrons can do. no matter what i will stand by the SM forever. lol

Binzen
Binzen

I know, raltoren. Exactly my point.

tau1234
tau1234

lol, i downloaded the demo....AWSOME! even tho u only get to play tau. TAU KIK ASS,let me tell you this, they ripp apart the space marines with ease! therefore this is one of my biggest fears....first it was the chaos, everyone played them, now it will be the tau, they are simple to frikking powerful (i think) but on the good side, relic has really made tau who they are in the table top game....in the TT tau can slaughter anything at long range and power wise, but at close combat, just let them die...dont even bother, just retreat lol, but then again, tau slaughter anything before any enemy gets too close.... **sigh** we'll just see how it goes !

Chainblast
Chainblast

I like the turn-based campaign spin, I think it'll help bridge the gap between the turn-based nature of the table-top game and the excellent RTS Relic has created. Even though I own both the core game and Winter Assault, the idea of Dark Crusade being stand alone is quite awesome. I would definetly like to see Relic continue adding to the Dawn of War games, whether through expansion, new games or downloadable scenarios, campaigns and armies. The source material available is almost limitless.

sharkinc9
sharkinc9

Speed up release date please. Ive played Dawn of War a hundred times now. I hate waiting it takes to long.

j0na8aca
j0na8aca

Wow. It's stand alone. I'm buying this game!

raltoren
raltoren

tau dont use magic at all

Binzen
Binzen

Well, when comparing the Tau to the Necrons which of the two seem to use less "Magic"? From what one would gather it would appear that the Necrons are, incidentally, more magical. I don't think Jason meant entirely magic-based, but just more magical than the Tau.

Karl319
Karl319

I want this game so bad =(

wheater
wheater

One problem with this. This says that you dont need DoW and WA to play all 7 races. It was confirmed by Relic thereselfs on the Relic forums that DC only allows you to play as the Tau and the Necrons not the other 5 races. If you want to play as the other 5 races you NEED to have WA and DoW installed. This game is going to be so amazing! I cant wait!

shozzi
shozzi

Whoa, settle down. It was a mistake. Jeeeeeez...

ljohnson88
ljohnson88

Necrons - magic?!?!?! Since when??? Sounds a bit dodgy-ish faced.

Dasc00
Dasc00

WTF WHY ARE NECRONS MAGICAL

taggataggatagga
taggataggatagga

necrons based on magic???What a fluff noob wrote this bulls**t,necrons are pure technology so advanced that consider to be impossible to reach to the other races...

Metal_Rodney
Metal_Rodney

Wow. Relic are the daddies of the RTS genre, aren't they? As much as I want Supreme Commander to kick several shades of ass, it'll have to be pretty impressive off the shelf to tear me away from the sheer joy that is Dawn Of War. Best. RTS. Ever. Of course, there's always Mark Of Chaos...

DontEatCream
DontEatCream

Awesome. After getting this, I can finally delete the original 40k and Winter Assault, thus freeing up some massive space on my HD. Good going, Relic, for making this a standalone expansion.

kaziechameleon
kaziechameleon

i'd actually pay 50 for a stand alone expansion this big. i'm playing company of heroes right now and i can't wait to get my hands on dark crusade. god i love relic.

Dr_Frat
Dr_Frat

Should be a good one.

Agent_Orang_
Agent_Orang_

The pricing is pretty ballsy, too. Amazon is pre-ordering for 30$, instead of the usual 50$ for the "complete" version. Clever fellows, those Relic chaps.

Jsnuk
Jsnuk

awesome this is shaping up to be great

LGC
LGC

I'm actually impressed from reading this, Relic has clearly shown that they can keep up with the trends and has added a strategic layer to the game. The fact that they've chosen to make the expansion stand-alone also speaks in their favour. I can't do anything but to tip my hat, good work.

Bavoke
Bavoke

it looks AWESOME :D i have to own this game :evil: TAU RUULEZ :twisted: :P ;) Bavoke

dirtyfunkmaster
dirtyfunkmaster

For those who think the Necrons are an undead army, you could not be more mistaken. The Necrons are a fully machine based army that harks back to ancient almost forgotten evil. The only non-mechanized unit in the army list ( whether or not this will part of the game or not is unknown but it should be) is the necron gods, yes they can field GODS. Not representatives of gods like the bloodthirster of chaos, or the god-eqsue avatar ( debate on whether or not it is a god) but actual, full fledged gods, which is damn cool. Definatly an excelent choice for the new evil army/

bioshockt
bioshockt

I WANT THIS GAME NOW BAD!!! it looks so awsome!

EmpororChampion
EmpororChampion

If you don't own Winter Assault or even Dawn of War, don't worry--the expansion packs all seven races in it. New here are the necrons, an undead army, and the tau, an almost mechanized race that uses seemingly anime-inspired battle suits. However, all the existing races get new units, as well, so there's something for everyone in Dark Crusade. Why does everyone think you need Dow and WA?

tom_1986
tom_1986

Yea Tau rock, they kick ass at long range!!! I wonder that the necron style of play is like though?

xCamilitox
xCamilitox

Ever since i played the demo for this i've been in love with the Tau, all i can say is that they should see how popular the Warhammer: 40,000 world is and make a MMO :D

hub0
hub0

can't wait, Necron rules!!