Retribution is a promising game that will let you down if you're expecting too much from it.
Dawn of War has been a happy addition to my gaming life for a long time now, and I can be easily labeled as a fan. Though, being a fan I don't take everything that's given to me as if it were touched by King Midas. Instead, I think it's more important to think even more critically, as a fan. Like any other series, they have their rises and declines in quality.
Dawn of War: Retribution is one of those declines.
I can't say I totally enjoy the ideas that Retribution upgraded into, namely the injection of army building as part of the last expansion to the DoW II series. In fact, I think it's unnecessary, and changing the way the game plays like this works against the spirit of DoW II. I rather enjoyed leading units that all had a hero that interacted as part of the plot and made me invest time into. Now, we're back to churning out nameless guys who disappear at the end of every mission. To me this is the first step backward.
The first Dawn of War II game that has multiple race plot lines just does not stack up to its predecessors. The first installment of DoW II was the best, in my opinion, having a beefy plot that was lengthened by a great deal of defense and other side-missions where you had the opportunity to collect loot. Loot was great because it let you customize your units to the specs you desired, making your commander a ranged expert or melee specialist. It had a bit of a limited scope, however, and did not take advantage of the full arsenal of weapons and upgrades that are in the IP's armory. Despite the little hang-ups I had about it, it felt really really good to play.
Choas Rising was a slight step down. Though the missions became more diverse and interesting, the game was shorter and the choices made, either good or evil, had no effect on the plot until the closing cinematic. This was a chance for the developers to create a two path storyline, one for Chaos and one for Space Marine, for the player to follow after some critical in-game decisions. It didn't happen. Chaos Rising is still a good game, though not as good as it could have been.
Retribution is another step further down. The plot of the game is designed to be a bit generic and vague in order to serve the cross-race story the game wants to tell. You will play the same missions and maps no matter which army you pick, just from a new point of view. This can be somewhat refreshing, but it's also a little repetitive. I don't know why, but it doesn't feel as invigorating as Dark Crusade's map replay, which kind of had the same idea without base building. Where Dark Crusade got it right, and still the best DoW game of all time, Retribution's replay of the maps does not.
The plot makes connections back to the original Dawn of War game where Captain Angelos had been involved first hand. To understand the references, which are both fleeting and vague, it's best to actually have played the original Dawn of War game. It will explain why Angelos is so troubled, how the problem got started, and even cover Cyrene, which has no new back-story other than a quick mention in Retribution.
Retribution is also very short. Very short. This is to accommodate the multiple races, at least that's my guess, but it is to the game's disfavor. As an expansion to the original, okay, the length is justified by the price paid for the game, but overall it leaves a player wanting.
And a final disappointment is in the units themselves. Where the original DoW II had all of your hero units surrounded by some nameless support units, Retribution does not offer the same. It made sense to have Cyrus in a group of three scouts and Tarkus in a group of five tactical marines because those are unit sizes you would find in the tabletop game. There are some specialized units throughout the armies that offer a few followers as part of the unit, but overall it comes down to one-man-armies which are. Even the traits of these units are simplified and cut down. Ten levels are quick to reach, as is the end of the game, and the simplification of the point system feels a bit... cheated.
I can't say I didn't totally enjoy this game, because that would be a lie. The sounds, graphics, and basics of gameplay are still very enjoyable, but the ability for this game to expand falls short. I'm a Dawn of War fan so I will always find the IP enjoyable to some degree, and this is not the worst they could have done to the game. Still, I hold to the rule that every expansion and sequel should innovate and be better than the games that came before it, and by that regard, Retribution does not make the grade.