So I went to my local Best Buy today to get Dawn of War, and was pleasantly surprised to find that a couple copies were bundled with a free copy of the pre order bonus box, since they had a few extra. Hoorah, free poster!! I never really thought the game would be any good, seeing as how the last good use of the Warhammer license was about 10 years ago, but after hearing a lot of people saying how fun the demo was I decided to try it myself. Much to my surprise, it kicked major amounts of rump, so for about a week I was basically playing Skirmish mode in the DoW demo multiple times a day, impatiently waiting for the retail version to ship. Having played the demo to death, and finally haven gotten my hands on the retail version, I can safely say that the full version game is all I could have hope for, and then some.
The setting for Dawn of War is amazing. The Warhammer 40 000 universe is simply perfect for an RTS, and finally someone's done justice to the license. The opening cinematic intro is outstanding, and is quite representative of the actual gameplay. The single player campaign totally captures the grim harshness of Games Workshop's 41st millenium. The voice acting is all very convincing and appropriate sounding, and the game features a suitably epic soundtrack. Dawn of War also has superb visuals, even on the lowest setting, and the idle animations really bring the units to life as they shuffle around, check their gear, and survey their surroundings. The combat looks outstanding, as countless bullets, rockets, and lasers fly across the screen as units close in on each other to engage in brutal hand to hand. There's literaly dozens of different animations for each strike, stab, or parry, and watching a hero unit smash into a squad, tossing soldiers aside with terrific blows is a joy to behold. The maps are detailed and breathtaking as well, with humongous statues of Imperial heroes, blasted craters, and lush vegitation. Dawn of War is definately the best looking RTS out there.
I'm going to go ahead and say that Dawn of War is my favourite game this year, and the best RTS I've ever played. Maybe it's not as perfectly balanced as the Blizzard games, and perhaps it doesn't offer as much choice as some of the other RTS games out there, but damn it, it's just too fun to put down. The game basically does away with intensive base management and resource gathering aspects that dominate so many other RTS's out there, and instead focuses almost entirely on combat, and that's where the real fun is to be had. In multiplayer, the game really forces the players to go on the offensive and move around the map, so conflict is inevitable early game, and the fighting doesn't stop until one player emerges victorious. If there's a break in the fighting, it's probably because you or your opponent are putting together an offensive to go attack somewhere else. There are parts in the map that offer defense bonuses for being in cover, and strategic use of cover can totally change the outcome of a battle. Moving to and fleeing into cover plays an important role in the game, though it's often hard to simply sit in the cover zones, since movement is key, and whoever is taking more ground on the map isusually winning.
Dawn of War is, in a word, fun. Everything about the game is just so overwhelmingly enjoyable. I've played quite a few RTS's, but Dawn of War is definately the most entertaining of them all. The focus on combat and controlling your squads ensures that there's never a dull momment. Although there are only a relatively small ammount of troops available to each of the game's 4 races, the customization of their armament adds huge ammounts of depth and options when it comes to army composition. I'm still working out my Build Orders for each race, and I'm not too far into the singe player, but the game has really impressed me. The multiplayer is terrific, tonight alone I've spent at least 4 hours playing multiplayer matches against friends and random bums, and each game has been exciting and enjoyable. If anyone reading this is even remotely interested in Real Time Strategy games, I strongly urge you to at least check out the demo of this fantastic title.