Dawn of War II: Retribution Review
A wealth of high quality content across all modes makes Retribution a great addition to the series, despite having a weaker story and a few technical issues
Given their track record, it is safe to say that Relic doesn't subscribe to the saying "don't fix what ain't broken." With Chaos Rising, the first expansion to 2008's Dawn of War II, the developers found a great balance between fast paced gameplay, a strong narrative and tight, tactical combat. Yet Relic still made a large number of significant changes to the formula with the second expansion, Retribution. This second addition to Dawn of War II isn't the big step up that Chaos Rising was last year, but it's still a very high quality package filled with more content that you could possibly hope for from a $30 dollar expansion. The most notable new feature is that you can now play through the campaign as all six races, including the all new Imperial Guard, although there have been content additions and gameplay tweaks across all modes that make the experience feel fresh as new and more fun than ever.
40th Millennium space heating
The only real drawback of having six playable races in the campaign is that the story had to be made vague enough to apply to all races. The setup for the game's campaign is that Gabriel Angelos, Captain of the Blood Ravens, accidentally released a demon during his interplanetary battles, and the demonic forces are taking control of a number of planets forcing each race to fend for themselves in the face of impending exterminatus; the mass-destruction of life on all of these planets. The campaign lacks the intricate role playing elements of pure and corrupt that were featured in Chaos Rising, but the narrative serves its purpose well enough; to give a vague background to your endeavors. The design of the missions themselves is top notch, perhaps even better than in any previous Dawn of War II game, and you will have a ton of fun playing through the campaign no matter what race you choose. The levels remain the same when playing through the game as different races, but the enemy race, cutscenes and some of the plot events change from playthrough to playthrough. Each time you go through the campaign it will take about 6-10 hours depending on whether or not you do the optional missions (which you absolutely should), so even if you only play through the campaign once or twice its a decent length for an expansion. The first few missions, which act as a kind of tutorial for the games basic mechanic, are tedious to play through more than once, and start to grate after the second or third time you run through them as a different race.
The ability to play as a race other than the Space Marines in the campaign isn't the only change the mode has see; a number of smaller adjustments and tweaks have added a bit more variety to the formula and do wonders to increase the replay value even further. If you so wish you can play with four heroes as with the previous installments, pouring resources into making them stronger and more effective in combat. However, you now also have the option to deploy units for that race in addition to, or even instead of, your heroes. Now when you play through missions you will try and capture resource points like in the multiplayer; they will grant you a chunk of resources in either the form of Requisition or Power which can be used either to further upgrade your hero's health, damage or energy, or build new units at the bases you capture along the way. This gives you more freedom in how you approach each mission, and if you disliked the action-RPG gameplay of the previous installments you might find this style of gameplay to be more to your liking.
Hint: Daisy is not a flower
The Last Stand mode, introduced as free DLC for Dawn of War II over a year ago, has finally received a new map as well as the addition of a hero for the Imperial Guard. The new map is much more challenging in the early levels than the original one, which makes it a much faster paced and exciting level top play on. The new hero is terribly weak to start out with, probably more so than any other low level hero, but as you level up you gain access to an interesting variety of deployable turrets and supporting units that make him a much more viable choice for surviving to later waves. This mode might not have the longevity of the competitive multiplayer, but it's still a lot of fun for a while.
The excellent competitive multiplayer that gave Dawn of War II its longevity has returned, but thankfully it has shed the shackles of the Games for Windows Live matchmaking service in favor of Steam. The new skill rating system is ladder based and similar to that of Starcraft 2, albeit without the leagues and ladders, and once you get through your placement matches you will find matchmaking to be much faster, and much better at creating even teams. Once I got up to what seemed like my correct skill level almost every single game was very close and tense; such matches were the exception with the previous system so it was definitely a wise decision on Relics behalf to change over to Steam. The downside of this shift is that you cannot play the game with the people who still only have Chaos Rising/Dawn of War II, but it's hard to imagine that fans of those games won't be buying Retribution anyways. This matchmaking service swap also means that you get all 6 races and last stand heroes with Retribution, even if you don't have any of the previous Dawn of War II games, so even if you haven't played the previous titles in the series Retribution is a great entry point.
The stealth attack failed; it's time for plan B
The other major addition to the games multiplayer is the new race, the Imperial Guard. The IG play fairly differently than the other races, with large numbers of weak ranged units making up the bulk of their army. You need to be very careful with your forces early on since they go down easily, but the standard troops also have the ability to put up cheap defenses that help them defend strategic points early on. Once you get to Tier 2 you gain access to some beefier units and vehicles, including a mobile artillery based vehicle that is devastating at range but extremely slow and fragile. The Imperial Guard also have access to the most powerful tanks in the game if the match lasts long enough for them to see light, so it's safe to say that early game micromanagement is the most difficult part of successfully using the new race. The other races have all seen new units, with the Orks, Tyranids and Space Marines all receiving Super Units and the Eldar and Chaos getting lower level, but still useful, additions.
The presentation of the game remains largely the same as with previous Dawn of War II installments; the graphics look great from both a technical and an artistic standpoint, and the sound design is of very high quality. The voice acting has seen an improvement in quality, as has the writing; both are especially entertaining for the Ork and Imperial Guard campaigns. I did experience some loading issues where after completing a mission or multiplayer match I would get stuck in the screen that loads the mission debriefing section for way longer than I should. This can be a real issue in the competitive multiplayer if you were hoping to link up with your team for another game, but find they have left by the time you finally load to the post-mission screen since this issue only seems to impact some people. It should also be noted that it can take a very long time to find matches early on when you are still in placement since not many players will be in your skill range. Still, these are minor complaints and Relic has already released two patches for the game since its launch, one of which addresses the long wait times for matches for some users.
Orks wearing pirate hats demand to be taken seriously
If you enjoyed Dawn of War II and its first expansion, you will almost certainly enjoy Retribution as well. If you didn't like Dawn of War II or Chaos Rising, or just didn't get around to playing them, Retribution makes for a great entry point into the series, and the option to deploy normal squads instead of heroes in the singleplayer campaigns will likely make the game more appealing to fans of more tradition real time strategy games. There isn't a single component of Retribution that falls flat; it succeeds in every aspect except for maybe the story which is a bit vague compared to the previous installments. Once again Relic has proven that traditional expansion packs are not necessarily relics of a past gaming era.