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Platform

PC

 

Genre

Strategy

 

Publisher

THQ

 

Developer

Relic Entertainment / Iron Lore

 

ESRB

M (Mature)

 

Released

March 5, 2008

 

 

- High quality visuals

- Excellent sound

- New factions and units add to the growing body of the series

 

 

- Graphics engine is starting to show its age

- New factions might be slightly unbalanced

 

 

Review: Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War (PC)

Review: Command & Conquer 3: Kane's Wrath (PC)

Review: Company of Heroes: Opposing Fronts (PC)

 

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Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War Soulstorm

Score: 8.0 / 10

 

The Dawn of War series has done an incredibly good job of bringing the Warhammer 40K universe to life.  Its fast-paced interpretation of the tabletop game's different races and worlds has always been a blast to play.  The single player campaigns, the skirmishes, the multiplayer games, it's never failed to deliver while Relic has had the reins.  For Soulstorm, Relic turned control over to the now defunct developer Iron Lore, who gave us Titan Quest.  Soulstorm has become their little coda to gamers.  While a worthy addition to the Dawn of War series, there are a few blemishes which prevent the expansion from reaching the level of a masterpiece.

 

dawn of war soulstorm          dawn of war soulstorm

 

Soulstorm continues to use the same graphics engine that all previous Dawn of War titles have employed.  While it's still quite detailed and able to handle a lot of units surrounded by special effects, the engine is beginning to look a little dated.  Since the guys at Relic made backwards compatibility with previous titles possible (though not necessarily required), it has somewhat hampered the potential for the visuals to go much farther beyond their current state.  On the upside, Soulstorm remains faithful to the visual style that Relic has employed, while at the same time giving us some new eye candy to goggle at while we purge (or play as) the alien, the mutant, and the heretic.  When massive numbers of units are on the screen, there was very little slowdown observed, though units can

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occasionally get "lost" when there's a lot of fighting and explosions happening at once.

 

Aside from the natural addition of two new voice over sets  for the new factions, Soulstorm's audio is still the same as it as has been throughout the serious.  Weapon effects are crisp and individualized to the point where you can identify different

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types of weapon just by the sound.  The music is grim and sweeping and still kind of in need of a broader selection of pieces when you're playing as opposed to the music used in the cutscenes..  The unit responses are appropriate to each faction and excellently portray the faction's attitude within the game universe.  The new aerial vehicles have appropriate sound effects.  If there's any complaint, it's that there's not enough new audio, a sense that we've heard this all before.

 

The new campaign for Soulstorm some of the problems that the Dark Crusade suffered from, but introduces a few problems as well.  The map is now put on an interplanetary scale instead of intracontinental. There's a greater degree of strategic thinking and planning involved, though there's also a somewhat greater sense of urgency during the opening moves as you're fighting to gain control of one planet or another.  The new air units for all the factions seem sort of "agile but fragile" so their actual utility is somewhat questionable in single player games, but in a multiplayer game where one teammate is handling one kind of mechanized unit and the other is handling air support, it might be more effective.

 

dawn of war soulstorm          dawn of war soulstorm

 

The idea of broken supply lines has been incorporated, so having control of contiguous territories is definitely something that players need to watch out for.  Defending territories is no longer as easy as it was in Dark Crusade.  Previously, any base facilities that you had built over the course of a battle remained in place on that map, so the attacker was at a disadvantage trying to dig out particularly well entrenched forces.  Now, permanent facilities are only present through the Reinforcement option in the strategic map, and those are only the bare minimum for a base, not to mention they're usually spread out to the point of inconvenience.

 

As for the new factions, the choices given add a new mechanic, but one that is exclusive only to those factions.  The Dark Eldar are to the Eldar what the Chaos Space Marines are to the Space Marines, at least in theory.  In practice, the Dark Eldar have fewer units and somewhat less unit diveristy than the Eldar, but this is offset by the "soul harvesting" mechanic, whereby units killed in a battle with the Dark Eldar can be harvested by builder units, which in turn fuels a series of buffs, debuffs, and special attacks not otherwise found in the game.  A similar mechanic is present for the other new faction, the Sisters of Battle, similar to the Space Marines but composed of all female units.  Instead of souls, the Sisters gather "faith" through an add-on to the  listening posts which secure control points in the game.  These add-ons are limited in number, so the smart commander will keep them built on his rear area control points rather than out in front.  As for the other factions, they get some new wargear options for the hero units along with the air units, but that's about it for them.  I would have liked to see mechanics similar to the faith/soul powered special abilities of the Dark Eldar and Sisters of Battle applied to the other races as well.  As it is, there's a feeling that the two new factions are slightly unbalanced compared to the older ones.

 

While it's getting long in the tooth, the Dawn of War series is nicely expanded with Soulstorm.  At this point, the only factions not represented from the Warhammer 40K universe are the Tyranids and the recently announced Chaos Demons, so there's probably one more good expansion pack left to go.  Let's hope it doesn't mark the passage of another excellent developer if and when it comes out.

 

- Axel Cushing

(April 24, 2008)

 

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