Video Game Thoughts: Dawn of War

Dawn of War was a 2004 real-time strategy game by Relic Entertainment for the PC. I just played this game a few months ago. I got it last year during the church rummage sale, but I was busy playing other games at the time. I installed it to make sure it worked but never touched it after. It took place in the Warhammer 40K sci-fi universe.

A similar real-time strategy game that was out at this time was WarCraft III, made by Blizzard Entertainment. Compared to WarCraft III, Dawn of War was inferior but really in one specific area: the campaign. Dawn of War had four factions to play as just like WarCraft III, but only one campaign featuring the Space Marines. The other three factions had no campaign. Players could use them in skirmish mode and in multiplayer, but the lack of a campaign really hurt. Now that the game was really old, multiplayer wasn’t much of an option anymore. I only played the other factions in skirmishes against the computer A.I.

In the other areas Dawn of War was only slightly worse than WarCraft III. That was very good though considering the smaller size of Relic Entertainment compared to Blizzard Entertainment. They did a very good job for having a smaller budget. They even had some innovations like a squad-based system. Each squad was controlled as a single unit and could be reinforced with more troops and special weapons. They also had a special capture point system to gain resources instead of the usual workers gathering resources economy model. I think they may have put the most time into the Space Marines over the other factions. The other factions didn’t have as refined of game mechanics.

My opinion would probably be different if I had paid full price for this game. It only cost me $10 for the Gold edition, which included the Winter Assault expansion pack. I definitely got my money’s worth with the one campaign and a few skirmish missions with the other factions after.

Winter Assault expansion pack

Winter Assault, released in 2005, was the first expansion for Dawn of War. They actually made two more expansions after this, but the Gold edition I got only included this one. Despite its flaws, the base game had a lot of potential, but Winter Assault didn’t do enough to improve on the formula. It was only a tiny bit better than the base game. The improvements were not enough to bring it to the level of its competition. A big Warhammer 40K fan would probably have loved these games for fleshing out the universe that they could mostly only experience in books and with the little figurines. All other players would be disappointed if they had paid full price.

I liked that they added a new faction in the expansion — that’s pretty rare in expansions — but the campaign was still lacking. They did try to make it better. In this campaign, the factions were split into two groups: Order and Chaos. Order were roughly the good guys; Chaos were pretty much the bad guys. In any mission there were about four factions at play. You could only control one of the factions at a time, but you could switch at will. Each faction had their own objectives, so you could pick and choose which ones you preferred to complete to finish the mission. If you failed the objectives with one faction, you would automatically assume control of any remaining allied factions. It was nice that the same missions could be completed from multiple angles, but the ideal would still be a complete campaign for each faction. WarCraft III’s expansion had a full campaign for each faction. That’s what I expected here as well.

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