Warhammer 40.000: Dawn of War – Soulstorm
Warhammer 40.000: Dawn of War gets a new stand-alone expansion: Soulstorm. After the preview some weeks ago, it is now to time to see what has become of this game.
Two new races join the Dawn of War universe: the Sisters of Battle and the Dark Eldar. Next to offering a female touch, the Sisters of Battle are also very religious, which is noticeable in their units and buildings. They want to purge the worlds from all heretics, which practically means everyone except themselves. The basis for their unique powers is their faith. That resource can be gathered by placing a cross on their ‘listening posts’.
The Dark Eldar are, like the name says, the dark version of the Eldar and collect souls of those fallen in battle. That ‘soul essence’ permits them to activate their unique spells. Another hobby of this race is torture. The seven other races get something new too: flying machines. However, it is not a big deal. They are just vehicles that happen to float a few metres above the groudn. They are not especially fast or strong and usually are even inferior when comparing with other units.
The campaign keeps the standard approach: a turn-based map with skirmishes fought out in real-time. There is no place for diplomacy, everyone fights everyone. The map consists of some four planets and a few moons that are connected with each other through ‘warp gates’. During battles you usually have to take half of the critical points on the map or annihilate the enemy. Sometimes there are special missions with several secondary objectives, but only when you attack the main base of a certain race. Then the narrator reappears to continue the (meagre) story a bit.
When taking away a territory from another race, that (computer)player will immediately attack that same territory, so you will have to replay the same situation. Luckily you then have some ‘pre-knowledge’ thus enabling you to end the battle quicker. That is the biggest problem of this game: after replaying the same map several times with the same objective (usually being annihilate the other player), it all starts to become quite boring.
Each time a fight is over, a summary of what you have earned appears. This could be a bonus for conquering the main base of a certain race, or a fighting bonus (for instance a killratio of 3 to 1) allowing you to add some more wargear to your hero. These attributes make the hero stronger allowing him or her to serve your faction even better in battle.
The A.I. is aggressive, which means you have to stay on your toes all the time. However, the actions of the computer players are not alway that logical. I was for example very often able to destroy the HQ of the enemy because most his troops were attacking strategic or critical points in my possession and kept engaging instead of retreating to their HQ to help defend it. The pathfinding has not been improved a lot. Vehicles easily get trapped between buildings and units often take a strange route (like straight through the enemy camp). Luckily this can quickly be solved by manually guiding the units.
What makes this game, and in addition the original and all expansions, worth it is the unequalled atmosphere. The various factions are all incredibly different in units, buildings, music and even voice acting that it is quasi impossible to not get carried away by it at all.
Dawn of War – Soulstorm still has that unrivalled atmosphere that weakens the cons. You won’t play this game hours in a row (for that it is too repetitive), but it is still worth your money.