Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War II Updated Q&A - Multiplayer Details, Customization, and Beta

We get into some in-depth multiplayer discussion with lead designer Jonny Ebbert, and also talk character customization and the upcoming Dawn of War II beta.

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GameSpot: Now that the cat is finally out of the bag and multiplayer has finally been revealed, what are the primary one or two improvements that Dawn of War II's multiplayer will make over the original game?

Jonny Ebbert: Dawn of War II's multiplayer takes everything that was great about the original and combines it with the best that Company of Heroes had to offer: brutal melee combat, cover-based ranged combat that lets you use the terrain to protect your troops, and fully destructible environments.

On top of that we're adding some new innovations, like unique tech trees that are focused around a particular commander type, and a new co-op mode that lets players focus less on the pressure of winning and more on playing the role you want to play on the battlefield. We're hoping that this new co-op mode will draw a lot of new players to play online.

Dawn of War II's multiplayer will be highly streamlined and focus strongly on fighting, fighting, and more fighting.
Dawn of War II's multiplayer will be highly streamlined and focus strongly on fighting, fighting, and more fighting.

GS: The original Dawn of War was designed from day one with a very strong focus on competitive multiplayer, not just for hardcore fans, but even for professional competition. Has the same degree of focus gone into Dawn of War II's development? How will the sequel stack up as a hardcore multiplayer experience?

JE: I mentioned above that we're introducing a new co-op mode that targets casual players. But we still have our traditional one-versus-one ranked mode. Competitive players have always been our core online audience, and we've designed the multiplayer from the ground up to appeal to them.

As for how our new multiplayer mode will stack up against the original, only the players can say for certain. They're the final judges. But we're hoping that they like the changes we've made--the greater focus on frontline action, the streamlined tech tree, and the tactics that come with cover-based combat.

GS: The original game also had a great nod to the tabletop games with the ability to paint and color your units. We understand that Dawn of War II's multiplayer also lets you choose different chapters or clans for whichever faction you play as, but will the sequel have all the same or better unit customization?

JE: Slightly better, I'd say. All the races will have access to different materials to paint your army. You'll be able to choose matte, glossy, and reflective materials. Space Marines will also be able to choose different patterns for their color schemes.

GS: We understand the multiplayer will let players start with a hero character, or commander. Let's get in-depth about commander selection. How will your choice of commanders affect players of each faction? Give us some specific examples.

JE: Your commander determines your role on the battlefield. You can choose the force commander if you're the straight-up fighting type. Or you can choose the apothecary to heal if you prefer a support role. The techmarine is for players who prefer a builder role. He can build turrets and reinforcement checkpoints all around the map and help you lock down an area defensively. We also have teleporter and infiltrator commanders for players who want to cause trouble for the enemy.

The game will have multiplayer base-building, but your structures will be on the front.
The game will have multiplayer base-building, but your structures will be on the front.

Each commander also has access to unique units and abilities that only he can call on. The force commander, for example, is the only one who can use assault terminators. And the techmarine is the only one who can use venerable dreadnoughts. We really love the diversity the commanders add.

GS: Will your choice of commander affect only the first, say, 10 to 15 minutes of play, after which it all kind of evens out in the later game once all players have reached higher tiers of units? Or will your choice be central to your entire multiplayer strategy throughout an entire multiplayer game? How so?

JE: Your choice affects gameplay early, and also in the late game. In the early game, the abilities can really help turn the tide of battle, and in the late game, a commander's access to unique units really defines your strategy.

One thing I want to add, though, is that commanders don't dominate the action. Commanders are there to support their army, not vice versa.

GS: Tell us about the decision to cut down on building structures in multiplayer and focusing primarily on the stronghold structure. Was this all about cutting out building and focusing just on combat? Was losing the economic and building strategy that extensive base-building provides (which structures to build in what order, where to place and face buildings, and so on) worth it?

JE: We haven't eliminated base-building. We've streamlined it and moved it out to the front lines (where it actually matters). You do still build structures in Dawn of War II, but you now have to build them on the front. We like this change because it increases the action and excitement and because it adds more targets of opportunity and more opportunities to defend.

GS: We've talked extensively about the unique single-player campaign and its role-playing-game-like structure. We understand that it's being designed with an eye toward accessibility by keeping scenarios nice and concise for players with limited schedules. How, if at all, is it being used as a primer for multiplayer? How much of what we see in the campaign will be carried over to multiplayer--for instance, will there be multiplayer maps based on certain campaign mission maps?

JE: Single-player never fully prepares you for multiplayer. The online experience is always more fast-paced, more hair-raising, and more unpredictable. That being said, the single-player game will teach you the basics of cover-based combat and building-based combat and will give you time to familiarize yourself with the basic unit roles of each race.

GS: We understand that the game is going beta and will be bringing in testers. What can you tell us about the beta? Now that the game's development is more or less complete, what's the purpose of beta?

JE: The single-player campaign is more or less complete, but the multiplayer game is just getting started, as far as we're concerned. A quality multiplayer game is a living thing that needs a lot of support and attention. The multiplayer beta is our chance to see what tactics evolve and get ahead of the curve on the first balance patch.

Dawn of War II's multiplayer beta begins soon.
Dawn of War II's multiplayer beta begins soon.

We just recently announced information regarding the beta. Starting January 21, anyone who owns Dawn of War: Soulstorm will get access to the beta one week early. The beta is being hosted on Steam, so Soulstorm owners can go there and input their CD key to get access. Starting January 28, the beta will be opened globally to the public. The beta will feature all four playable races on five different multiplayer maps.

GS: Finally, is there anything else you'd like to add about Dawn of War II's multiplayer, single-player, beta, or anything else?

JE: Just that we're really excited to kick off the multiplayer beta and that we can't wait to see what kind of crazy strategies our players come up with.

GS: Thanks, Jonny. Good luck with the beta.

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