Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War - Dark Crusade Review
This terrific update to one of the best sci-fi real-time strategy games in years packs in a great strategic campaign and a grand total of seven different armies.
- Features two great new playable factions that fit in well with the five others
- exciting new strategic campaign offers plenty of lasting value and variety
- excellent presentation quality makes for some most brutal battles
- the original game isn't required to play and enjoy this expansion.
- A distinct lack of Tyranids.
Hot on the heels of its outstanding new real-time strategy game Company of Heroes, experienced developer Relic is back with the second expansion to its excellent 2004 game Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War, and it's a great update. Dark Crusade introduces two interesting and powerful new factions to Dawn of War, raising the total number of different playable armies to a whopping seven. It also features a new strategic campaign structure that lets you direct any of these seven sides in a massive war for planetary supremacy, with shades of the classic board game Risk. Some new units for the returning factions and plenty of new skirmish maps are also included, and you don't even need to own Dawn of War or its first expansion pack to enjoy most of this (you only need the previous games to unlock the older factions specifically for use in multiplayer matches; you have access to every race when playing solo). What with all that it has to offer, Dark Crusade comes across as much more than your typical real-time strategy expansion pack. It's one of the best RTS games around strictly on its own merits.
For the uninitiated, Dark Crusade's gameplay does a great job of putting the focus on vicious front-line combat by forcing you to quickly send out squads of powerful soldiers to claim strategic points spread across each map. Relatively little time is spent building up a base, so you'll wind up focusing your energy and attention on managing the game's exciting, gory battles. You'll command mighty infantry squads as well as deadly vehicles, and though most units do a good job of acting autonomously when engaged, you'll need to carefully use special abilities and keep an eye on your soldiers' morale as they fight. The design concepts introduced in Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War later found their way into Company of Heroes in improved form, but don't expect all those changes in Dark Crusade. For the most part, though, the gameplay still holds up extremely well, as do the game's detailed, imaginative visuals.
Dark Crusade takes place on the planet Kronus, a mysterious world that's drawn out all these different unfriendly factions to set up camp all at the same time. This stroke of fortune promises many brutal battles to come. None of the factions intend to share the planet, not even the imperial guard and the space marines, who've arrived with their own separate missions. As relatively implausible as it may seem for seven different alien races to all be fighting over the same one backwater planet, Dark Crusade does a surprisingly good job of putting its new strategic campaign in context.
You initially choose to command the forces of any of the game's seven factions, as represented by a specific leader character marshaling each of these armies on Kronus. Among the choices are the new additions to Dark Crusade: the Empire of Tau, a high-tech conglomerate of races fighting for what they call the Greater Good; and the Necrons, an ancient and genocidal breed of what can best be described as undead robots. An enthusiastic narrator then explains what your selected race is trying to accomplish on Kronus and what your force's military leader is all about. Also, each time you manage to take out one of the opposing faction's strongholds, you'll get a narrated epilogue that's unique to that combination of races. Then there's an ending sequence for each faction for whenever you finally defeat all six of your opponents, a process that can take a good 10 hours or more, though it'll depend on the difficulty setting you choose. The stories are entertaining and faithful to the spirit of Games Workshop's influential Warhammer 40,000 sci-fi universe, and they make for a compelling reason to play through the campaign multiple times.
The campaign's turn-based layer is very simple, since you have only one army to manage and you normally just take one turn either to move to a friendly province or attack an adjacent enemy province. However, there are a lot of interesting strategic choices packed into this system, in that each province offers some sort of unique tactical reward for when you take it over. Many provinces will grant your faction's leader an honor guard, a military unit that will be ready for action as soon as you begin the next battle--as long as you have enough planetary requisition points to afford it. You can also use requisition points, which are earned each turn, to reinforce your provinces with units that can quickly defend your position should one of the enemy commanders attack.
What's more, some provinces confer unique abilities, such as a space port that lets you attack provinces that aren't adjacent to your commander. Probably the most useful of these is a special ability that lets your commander move twice per turn. Since the Necrons and the Imperial Guard start out closest to the territory containing this power, they seem to have an inherent advantage. However, part of the appeal of playing through this campaign multiple times is having to devise different strategies based on your faction's starting point and closest neighbors, not to mention your faction's inherent strengths. While the campaign map starts out the same way each time, the endgame can wind up varying a great deal depending on the choices you make along the way, especially since those enemies you choose to attack later will only be stronger by the time you get to them. Thankfully, any buildings you've constructed in a province will still be there for you if you later have to defend that province; these types of details help make Dark Crusade's strategic mode even further emphasize combat over base-building and resource management.
- Player Reviews: 309
- Game Universe:
- Warhammer 40,000: Fire Warrior (PS2, PC),
- Warhammer: Dark Omen (PC, PS),
- Warhammer: Shadow of the Horned Rat (PC, PS),
- Warhammer: Mark of Chaos (PC, X360),
- Warhammer 40,000: Squad Command (DS, PSP),
- Warhammer: Mark of Chaos - Battle March (PC, X360),
- Blood Bowl (PC, X360, DS, PSP),
- Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine (PS3, X360, PC),
- Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning (PC, MAC),
- Warhammer 40,000: Kill Team (PS3, X360)
- Offline Modes:
Competitive, Team Oriented
- Online Modes:
Competitive, Team Oriented
- Number of Players:
- Number of Online Players:
8 Players Online