Hammer time

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

Real-time strategy games typically involve throwing throngs of faceless units into the meat grinder of battle while collecting some generic resource to continue building units. The tide of war is often won through the sheer quantity of units one sacrifices on the battlefield.

While Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War II continues the series' grim future war of humanity battling a cruel universe filled with alien monsters, it changes up this formula with elements borrowed from the action role-playing genre.

The future war of the title is still brutal, but this outing's story attempts to freshen up the strategy game by encouraging players to connect with the leaders of their forces.

Instead of hundreds of faceless Space Marines, Dawn of War II is centered around no more than five small squads, each with a charismatic hero who is capable of learning new abilities through the course of the lengthy single-player game.

During these campaign missions, players will recover new equipment, gain advantages in future missions based on choices made in battle and keep their earned bounties between missions.

The valiant Space Marines fight their way to liberate a number of planets from occupation by the evil Orcs, the insane forces of Chaos and the mysterious Eldar. Eventually a new enemy enters the fray to mix things up - the unstoppable insect-like swarm of the Genestealers.

Dawn of War II is graphically updated from its predecessor. The game now handles destructive terrain and object physics much better. While the view of the battlefield is still slightly removed, it adopts many action-game conventions, such as mid- and end-scenario boss battles and animated dialogue.

The campaign mode is enjoyable, but nothing can match the thrill of competing against another human online. Dawn of War II contains a more limited number of multiplayer maps than usual for a game of this sort, but the maps are well designed they're all equally interesting to play.

Fans of the Warhammer 40,000 series will find much to like in this new game, but the change to more of an action-RPG approach might be jarring at first. Those who dislike the changes will still benefit from the enhancements to gameplay and graphics in online skirmishes.

Even those not enamored of strategy titles will likely find Dawn of War II's campaign mode and story entertaining and a good introduction to the real-time strategy genre.

"Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War II"

System: Windows PC

Players: 1 (multiplayer online)

Price: $50

Rated: M for Mature

Who Should Buy It?: Blood Ravens and Genestealers

GameOn! Grade: A

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