It’s been a long time coming. For years, thousands (more likely millions globally) of people you may have judged to be anoraks at school, have been waiting for the chance to recreate something special. With ease, style and without inhaling a ton of paint fumes.



You’ll be hard pressed to talk to someone that isn’t at least aware on an unconscious level of Games Workshop. Buying, assembling and painting horrendously large, miniature armies with which to play strategic battles against others has found such a unique niche it has flourished into one of the most popular and widespread past times of modern…times. With an age range from pre-teens to embarrassingly ‘mature’ players, Games Workshop have made a lot of people both happy and frustrated. Games Workshop has several different game cultures. Warhammer - a medieval based game of more traditional armies and, Warhammer 40,000 - a game set in the 41st millennium, so expect ultra futuristic styles.

Dawn of War sits in the Warhammer 40k universe and manages to turn the popular tabletop strategy game into a massively entertaining Real Time Strategy game, and a very stylish one at that.

From the very start I had high hopes for DoW. It has what is simply one of the best introductory videos I have ever laid eyes on. Managing to convey in a short pre-rendered scene the whole concept of DoW. Going from the blood soaked carnage to the futility of war that has bathed the universe. I dare you not to grin when you hear the chainsword. With a good tutorial included, and pointed to when you first start the premise is good for a well-structured game.

The engine feels very Warcraft 3 with (obviously) improved visuals and a higher unit cap (part of game mechanics, more later). It runs like a beaut. On an almost minimum spec machine it managed to run on medium details at 800*600 resolution with a perfectly acceptable framerate during hectic online play. No less on a 56k modem too.

Detail matters in this game as you’re unlikely to find as much love put into a hand to hand combat scene as this. Units duck and stab, slash and falter in a variety of ways. Many time you want to forego the ranged engagements just to watch you units get into a decent melee with each other. With the bigger units taking advantage of their larger presence and bloody showers are not uncommon.

You have four races in DoW, the Space Marines with their religious zeal, the horde of Orks, the evil Chaos and the enigmatic Eldar. Each race has the same high amount of attention levelled upon them, with Space marine characters with glowing halos, Chaos marines cackling with obvious insanity, Orks chanting their war-like ways and Eldar playing to their role of only taking action that is necessary. The character of each race is displayed almost perfectly. For those GW fans this is true to its own. All of the squads present are all found in the latest edition rules and true to each race’s codex. Special mention has to go to each force’s special characters. Be it a Bloodthirster, Eldar Avatar or an Ork Squiggoth, these units are an awe to behold.

For those out to get a decent, chunky single player campaign, look elsewhere. The campaign is the one part of this otherwise superb game, where you can tell it wasn’t in development for very long. Not long after hearing of the game, 8 months later it was released. The length of the campaign is short, and the missions, although varied, are solvable in around 30 minutes. Take two determined nights’ play and you will have completed it. In spite of the game’s quality, it’s a shame that the piecemeal approach has been taken, with the next bundle of missions sure to arrive in a mission pack.

Of course this doesn’t mean those missions aren’t fun. Far from it, but don’t buy it on Singleplayer merits alone

Verdict

Multiplayer is where this game shines, the only way I can describe it is that this is the single most 'fun' RTS I've ever played, and from the lowest spec machines you will be ordering bloodbaths with the rest as the difference in performance between 56k and BroadBand is minimal, although I wouldn't recommend hosting if you're still on dialup. Multiplayer is catered for by an inbuilt gamespy system with all its bells and whistles, including an auto-patching system and integrated ladder for automatch games, which once you've clicked on ‘automatch' will match you another player that has matched your criteria, and off you go.



If you ever had any interest in Warhammer, and some mates then be sure to seriously check this out. And grab the demo to quell any worries