Tabletop wargaming is not everyone’s cup of tea. The Games Workshop’s range of fantasy games were always ripe to be converted into videogames though but no-one ever managed to do it successfully. That is until Relic produced Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War, an RTS based on the Warhammer 40,000 universe.
Everything was perfect. The graphics were unprecedented in ability to move the camera and view the impressively animated and gory action from limitless angles. The mechanic was seamless. The idea was to have a resource structure based on territory, just like in the Bitmap Brother’s classic Z. Even the story was laden with intrigue and kept all who played captivated to the end. It also had an insanely addictive multiplayer that rivalled Warcraft 3 for head-to-head RTS action.
Ultimately the main criticisms of Dawn of War lay with what it missed out – the single player campaign had only one main race to play as and many of the races in the 40K universe were absent (only the Orks, Chaos, Eldar and Space Marines featured).
This was quickly rectified with the subsequent expansions – Winter Assault which added more units, a new narrative campaign and the Imperial Guard as a playable faction, and then Dark Crusade which added the Tau and Necrons as playable races and also a new map-based flexible campaign which could be played through as any race provided you had all the expansions installed.
This still wasn’t enough though as it was still battle on a planetary scale and there were still a couple of races missing. Now, to complete the series we have another expansion named Soulstorm.
The new pack takes Dawn of War to a level that the series has been crying out for. The battle is now played out at an interplanetary level. To cope with this the graphics engine has been tweaked and now the action is more visceral than ever before. Two more races, the pious Sisters of Battle and the savage and hedonistic Dark Eldar, have been thrown into the mix as well. Finally, Relic have added air support units to all races which adds yet another tactical dimension to the game.
This is now a colossal game. With every title in the series installed there are now 9 races to play as and the campaign map now covers 4 planets and a handful of moons as well. There is endless replayability here and a lot of time can be spent discovering all the secrets and tactics that the game has to offer.
Soulstorm now makes Dawn of War everything that the already superb original game hinted at. Now for the downside. The game is now so big that loading times are now almost unbearably long especially on lower-spec PCs. Turn off any unnecessary background software before you even attempt to play Soulstorm. Be prepared to tear your hair out.
Loading times aside, Soulstorm is an excellent title. Whether you are looking to expand Dawn of War of just play it as a standalone, as long as you have a decent setup, this is one of the best RTS games on the market. Hell, it might even make you want to dust off that old Space Marine army and crack out the 12-sided dice.