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Dawn of War: Dark Crusade pages!

Dawn of War (DoW) is developed by Canadian developers Relic Entertainment and published by Californian publisher THQ. It's based on the Warhammer 40,000 (W40K) tabletop and figurine hobby/gaming system that has been doing the rounds for well over two decades. A venerable franchise, produced by British outfit Game Workshop, W40K is arguably the most popular tabletop wargaming system on the planet. Its players are renowned for the colossal amount of time and effort they put into assembling and painting armies of figurines, and then pitting their creations at each other on battlefield dioramas. W40K tabletop games are turn based, dice throwing, and ruler measuring affairs that can take either several hours or a long weekend to resolve, depending on the scale of the game concerned.

Warhammer 40,000 is wild space opera, but it feels more like Tolkien in space with a gothic horror feel. References include pop culture, Lovecraft's Cthulhu mythos, the Alien films, Anime (Japanese animation and manga [i.e. comics]) and classic science fiction, bolstered with strong historical references. Set in the 41st Century, the entire galaxy has been waging total war on itself for tens of thousands of years. There's a huge library of game lore (known as fluff to Warhammer fans) accumulated over the years, and a bewildering menagerie of military figures, monstrous creatures, arcane Gods, demons, strange aliens and killer robots fighting for survival. All the armies are essentially your classic fantasy races transplanted into the future: heroic space knights, the Space Marines, the armies of Man called the Imperial Guard, the turncoat Chaos in league with the devils, brutish hordes of Space Orks, and the refined but fading Elvish Eldar. This is a bleak future, with little or no hope. The forces of Order and Chaos have replaced Good and Evil. "Order" is nothing more than a corrupt totalitarian theocracy, and "Chaos" is wanton and self destructive nihilism.

The original Dawn of War in one of its quieter moments. I'm serious.
There's well over a dozen major races in Warhammer 40,000, each with its own culture, clans, tribes, Gods, histories, heroes and campaigns. The Space Marines, for example, are W40K's signature hero units. They are like twisted paladins crossed with Special Forces: the elite of humanity's space forces. By far the most popular and extensive forces in the game, the Space Marines come in dozens of separate armies called Chapters, each with their vehicles, weapons, heroes, storylines, and elaborate colour schemes for you to collect and paint. Each race gets their own special game rules book (called a Codex) which is used as a guide to assemble their forces, fill in back story, create colour styles and resolve tabletop battles. Customising models and painting them up is just as important as actually playing the game, and "kit bashing", or customising is all part of the game and its appeal. Its a collectable hobby as much as anything else.

Dawn of War itself is a translation of the original tabletop rules (or TT). Its a simplified version of Warhammer 40,000, opened up to mainstream players, and adapted to fit a fast moving, real time engine. Relic apparently had free reign to interpret and adapt the game as they saw fit. They seem to have largely succeeded: Dawn of War brings W40K battles startlingly to life. All the units have a surprising amount of charisma and appeal (in the animator's sense of the word). Relic's enthusiasm for the subject was almost palpable during its release - a rare thing, indeed, these days - and it shows. There's a real sense of vigour with this one.

While DoW is ostensibly a WarCraft clone when you look at its structure as a game and its internal logic, there are three things that make it stand head and shoulders above its rivals and push the genre forward. The first big thing you notice is the use of the Capture the Flag game to build your economy. Your front line troops must set aside their weapons occasionally to capture Strategic Points around the map to generate Requisition Resource, your primary building resource. The more flags you control, the more Req you get to play with. Literally, map control is synonymous with a major economy. Its a welcome change.

Up close and personal: you really do see the whites of their eyes. Dawn of War finally gets us inside the big fights. Units are amazingly detailed, charismatic and fully animated. You can freeze the action, move around just about anywhere and save out game recordings in all their glory. Incidentally, eye colour is customisable in the game's Army Painter menu.
Secondly, Squads are the heart of DoW's game, along with its Strategic Points. While most modern strategy games use squads, none have gone anywhere near the level of detail and control that DoW offered. (Relic has extended their squad model with Company of Heroes) You can build them up, equip them with heavy weapons, assign leaders to them and have them fight either hand to hand or stand and shoot at range. Unlike most games, you can reinforce on the fly, rather than wait for reinforcements to struggle to the front lines from their barracks. Its a beautiful mix of resourcing and front line tactics, streamlining gameplay no end without dumbing it down. The way you move your squads on the field and how and when you deck them out is critical to success.

And thirdly, this title sports some of the most startlingly detailed and richly animated RTS units in any game. It has an amazing sense of solidity, although the game engine cuts corners everywhere to be able to draw all those characters and effects in action. Its a selling point in its own right, and presentation is just as important - and affects gameplay - as much as your tactics on the field. While you can't pause in a network game and you'll almost certainly spend most of your time in the default view, you do have the luxury of wallowing in the action replays of game recordings. Like Relic's previous effort, Homeworld 2, the camera can move around most angles and give you some amazing close ups. You can follow a single unit fighting its way through a big scrum, or freeze the action and see an instant Warhammer diorama from all angles. Dawn of War simulates the intensity of the Warhammer 40,000 battlefield like no other.

Its the multiplayer Skirmishes and the networked gaming that you're really buying this thing for. Be warned: it requires some of the most aggressive play for an RTS out there; many seasoned RTS veterans have crashed and burned trying to play it. Relic designed it to be easy to pick up, but hard to master - and they've succeeded. Its well worth the time and effort to invest your time in, but you really do need a good circle of trustworthy players to really get the most out of it. Dawn of War has always suffered from innumerable balance issues, given the vast and varied line up of armies you get to mess with - but its still by far the best translation from what I imagined the tabletop game to be. Even if it does break Warhammer canon doing so. And finally - a title that gives those stupid Orks what they've desperately needed: a vintage 2000AD comic book flavour. Grud on a greenie! Its all good.


Notes: Dark Crusade

Without the first two games, you can only play the Necrons and Tau. You can still play against the other five races in the single player campaign or in Skirmishes against AI's or other people Online. Keen beginners can pick up the entire series at once with the Dawn of War Anthology package. If you already bought Dark Crusade and want to catch up with the first two packages, you should be able to find them bundled together.

If you have the original game installed, then the first four races unlock.

If Winter Assault is installed, the Imperial Guard also unlock.

These requirements are purely for copy protection purposes, since all seven races appear within the Dark Crusade package.

Dark Crusade will ask for those game's disk registration numbers if you have them, and also double checks to see if the main executables (i.e. the actual program files you run) for the old games are present. If you have no intention of playing the first two games anymore, then there's no point in cluttering up your hard drive with what effectively amounts to a 5Gb CD key. Follow this excellent tutorial to on how to remove them and still access all the goodies in DC.


Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War OVERVIEW
Version & Install

DC 1.2. Simply install Dark Crusade, then install the two patches for the game.

The original Dawn of War (DoW) presented gamers with four distinct races: the Space Marines, Chaos, Eldar and the Orks. It covered versions 1.0 to 1.3.

The first expansion, Winter Assault (WA), updated the original game to version 1.4, rearranging it considerably. It added the Imperial Guard and gave the first four races an extra unit each. DoW and WA were two concurrent packages that updated in parallel to version 1.51.

Dark Crusade (DC) is the second expansion. It installs independently of the first two, resetting back to version 1.0. It adds two new races: the Necrons (zombie killer robots of doom) and the Tau (Warhammer goes anime) rearrange the rules a bit more, and adds an extra unit or two to the existing five races. RTSC is still covering Dark Crusade - mainly because its the one I'm still playing with all my mates.

Soulstorm (SS) is the third expansion, released in 2008. It installs independently of the first three, resetting back to version 1.0. It adds another two new races: the Dark Eldar (a Chaotic version of Eldar) and the Sisters of Battle (female Inquisitors of the Human Imperium, sitting somewhere between the Space Marines and the Imperial Guard). Soulstorm has had a bit of a troubled time: it was farmed out to a third party developed, Ironlore, who didn't quite "get" the whole Dawn of War thing. The new forces were so overpowering as to be utterly broken in game balance, aerial units were added (awkwardly it seemed, and there didn't seem to be much point to them) and irate fans had to wait the better part of a year before any patching address the avalanche of issues. Ironlore also folded (which might explain the delays and "broken" game) and Relic seems to have resumed

Demo

Yes! The 319(!) Mb demo from THQ or from Relic itself.

Also: DoWFiles link to DoW and WA demos.

FAQ's

Relic Entertainment's Dawn of War FAQ

THQ's version of the same

RelicNews's excellent Technical Assistance Forums.

DoW uses UDP port 6112 in network games. Check your port forwarding via RelicNews technical thread with test applet. The test applet can also be found at dow.lerp.com.

Game Workshop's downloadable Warhammer FAQ's.

Excellent descriptions of Dawn of War and Warhammer 40,000 from the Wikipedia, the Open Source Encyclopedia of the Internet. This is an good start for any paranoid teachers, rattled parents or other normal human beings.

Networks

Up to 8 human (or AI's) on LAN TCP/IP, Direct TCP/IP or via Gamespy's online gaming service.

If you go to www.gamespyid.com and log in then you can edit your profile there as well as your nickname.

DoW multiplayer games use very little network bandwidth - 56K modems can play with full broadband connections. Lag in DoW is usually caused by computers with their graphic settings set too high. The game syncs to every frame, so if someone's machine renders at only 10fps, then everyone will slow down to match it - regardless of how powerful their T1 connections might be.

Maps

Maps can't be uploaded in a game lobby. You'll need to download them separately and then rejoin.

You can play foreign language versions of the standard maps, even though they might appear black in the game lobby screen.

All maps are faux-3D environments, making use of cover (in craters or under trees) or exposed "anti-cover" in open shallow water.

Armies

Space Marines: powerful starting race for the beginners. The Space Marines are like the Special Forces of the Human Imperium; a flexible, hard hitting army of all rounders, enjoying many perks and overlapping advantages.

Chaos: Space Marines gone bad, working in league with the Gods of Chaos and Demons from the mysterious Warp. Chaos is a hard hitting assault force with a soft underbelly. Short on vehicles, long on demons.

Orks: soccer hooligans from outer space. The Green Horde is a melee orientated swarm of cheap cannon fodder and scrap yard salvage. Their economy takes some getting used to, but they can deliver a serious whumpin' to their enemies.

Eldar: ancient and failing alien empire with some serious tricks and psycho-powers up its sleeve. Elves in space, basically. Light, fast infantry - difficult to master.

Imperial Guard: the regular footpads of the Human Imperium. They are expendable light infantry, and rely on tanks and fortifications to obliterate their enemies with.

Tau Empire: a young, Anime flavoured coalition of high tech shooters and vehicles, and feral close combat troops. The Tau have a primitive companion race called the Kroot, who deal with all their close combat work, and the Vespids, an insectile race of flying assault troops.

Necrons: a millions of years old race of cadaverous robots driven by lost souls within them. They use no Requisition, start off very slowly and then building up into an implacable juggernaut.

Units

Ground units only.

Vehicles play a support role only, generally trumping infantry, and have their own Vehicle Cap.

Resources

Requisition Resource is the primary fuel of your economy, obtained by capturing and fortifying strategic points around the map.

Power is the secondary resource used to gain heavier weapons, vehicles, upgrades and is generated by Plasma Generators.

Ork Resource is a unique resource that only affects the Space Orks.

Necrons have a time and Power based economy, with no Requisiton.

Research

Base building follows the usual conventions of the WarCraft clone's build tree, but with many variations: each side has the equivalent of a Headquarters, Barracks, Research Buildings, Vehicle plants, lone workers, etc.

DoW build trees work roughly in Tiers, where higher tier units and builds will trump lower ones, even if they wield superior numbers. Units can become obsolete in DoW, unlike many other RTS games. More details.


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Last modified Wed, Dec 10 2008 by Lindsay Fleay