Review by kiriyama2

Reviewed: 07/24/08

One of the most satisfying expansion packs ever made

You might recall I was rather fond of the original Dawn of War game. It was really very enjoyable, and I thought that the setting was neat. So, a year or so later I was walking around a game store and noticed that they had a copy of Winter Assault, and thought it looked nifty. So, naturally a couple of years after it’s become irrelevant I’ve decided to review it. What’s amazing about this game is that it succeeds at being better than the original Dawn of War, while at the same time having some problems with it.

Winter Assault is set upon the world of Lorn V where the local Imperial citizenry stumbled upon the remnants of an ancient weapon known as a Titan which is fundamentally a giant doomsday mech. Naturally the Imperial Guard decide that they need to get their grubby little mitts on it. The Eldar once more return to combat a vague threat that gets introduced near the end. The only two races that have no real motive for being on Lorn V are Chaos and the Orks. The Orks are there just to wage war and Chaos… is just there for fighting. Something that this game does better than the original is it offers up more than one race to play through the single player campaign. Instead of just playing through as the Space Marines (who aren‘t playable in the campaign), there’s the side of Order (the Guard, and the Eldar), and Disorder (Chaos and the Orks). Really though the game gets big props from me for including the Imperial Guard, and letting you actually play through the main campaign as Chaos.

Perhaps this is just me, but I think the game would’ve been vastly improved if it didn’t force you to play through missions as the Eldar or the Orks. Not that I hate the Orks, I just think it would’ve been neat to play through as just Chaos. Which, of course, is something that they did phenomenally well in Dark Crusade.

Something that I think Relic did exceedingly well with this game is that they didn’t mess up a good thing. They must have known that Dawn of War was such a good game, they realized they didn’t need to change much of the core mechanics. Though they did manage to fix a number of problems that plagued the original game. One of the problems I had with the game was the poor path finding AI that a number of units had in that game. Here your cadre of Guardsmen, or whatever, will have no problem finding their way around the battlefield. Also, fortunately they will rarely, if ever, get stuck on some small piece of geometry.

Another quibble I had with the original Dawn of War was the fact that for some reason small builder units (servitors, heretics, gretchins et cetera.) would for whatever reason count towards your overall squad cap. Fortunately they don’t in this one, I know it’s a small thing, but something I was glad to see fixed in this.

As I mentioned earlier the core gameplay in this hasn’t changed very much at all. It still consists of your sending out your squads of Guardsmen, or your chosen race, out to capture control points, and exterminating enemy forces. Something that’s worth noting with the Imperial Guard (they’re the new race for this expansion, in case you couldn’t figure it out) is that they’re not extremely overpowered like the marines and most of the other races. They actually start out noticeably weaker than the others. Their weapons are weaker, their armor is downright pitiful, and every other race just steamrolls over them in the initial stages of combat. Whereas with the Space Marines, for instance, they’re powerful enough to be able to exterminate most of the other ground forces of the other races. With the Imperial Guard, you actually do have to be strategic, and plan out your attacks. Which makes it feel somewhat rewarding to raise the Guardsmen to be able to hold their own against the other, more powerful races

As for new units for the pre-existing races, the Space Marines get a new unit called a Chaplain which is a new commander unit, that has a strong range attack. Chaos gets Khorne Berzerkers that have got a remarkably strong melee attack. Orks get the Mega Armored Nobz, who can fundamentally be described as walking killing machines with the amount of damage they can soak up. Lastly the Eldar get the Fire Dragons, who are expert close combat fighters. Of the bunch, I think the Orks got the best deal, as the Mega Nobz are a real pain to kill when used against you.

What the game does differently from the original Dawn of War game is the fact that it offers a number of pitched battle siege missions (“a number“ in this case meaning two). Where it’s just your small amount of Guards, or Chaos soldiers against seemingly every soldier on the opposing side. I can understand why some people despise these types of missions as they are indeed profoundly irritating (at times) but they do provide a large amount of tension. I like the sheer “oh crap, what am I gonna do at this part and still salvage the battle” vibe that these missions give off. Also the game is consistently difficult from start to finish. Sure it starts off with a mission that’s not entirely difficult, after that, however it ramps up and it doesn’t let go. That is actually one of the problems I had with the original Dawn of War it was not especially challenging, it was glorious, don’t get me wrong, but it wasn’t very difficult. Winter Assault by comparison lulls you into believing that it might not be too taxing a challenge, when suddenly it’s just like “didn’t I mention that these guys have a number of nigh unstoppable units, and they’re headed your way. Whoops, oh well, go mess ‘em up boy!”

To extrapolate upon my pitched battle thought: Late in the Order and Disorder campaigns you’re informed that a large number of Orks are headed your way. But, there’s a cadre of Guardsmen en route to your position so you just need to hold down the fort until they arrive. So the game decides that it’ll be decent enough to let you have a few minutes to fortify your defenses before they steamroll you. However some time around the five minute mark a large number of Ork soldiers and vehicles just rush your base. So, you defeat the first wave, and think “I think I can manage for another twenty minutes.” And so you send out a techpriest or two to fix up your turrets or whatever, when off on the horizon you see another Ork force rushing toward you. Maybe just one or two units, nothing major, when suddenly you’re swamped by what appears to be every single Ork in the hemisphere that’s got a thirst for your blood. So you fight the Orks, as the number of Guardsmen under your command slowly, but surely, dwindle. The perimeter of the base is littered with the bodies of numerous dead and broken down mechs and tanks. Then, just as the number of Orks falls suddenly they send in a Squiggoth that just starts demolishing your forces, leaving a lone commander and the scant few remaining tanks you have in your possession as techpriests try to keep them in running order. Things look grim, when suddenly you notice that the timer has run its course, you held your ground, and a large number of Guardsmen reinforcements rush onto the scene, bring down the Squiggoth and proceed to exterminate the remaining Ork threat from the map. Sure the mission was aggravating as hell, but honestly it was one of the more entertaining experiences I’ve had with an RTS in a long while. Also, needless to say replace Guardsmen with Chaos, and Orks with Eldar where applicable for the Disorder siege mission.

Just as in the original game you can of course play as all five of the race online, or in Skirmish mode. Which is still as much fun as it was in DoW. One thing that I think is worth mention about the campaign mode is that both campaigns are just about as long as the original game’s campaign. Which I think is worth noting considering that most expansions are shorter than the base game.

For all the love I give the game however, there are some things that are wrong with it. There are some points, for instance, that while you’ve completed all the goals for the given mission, it just doesn’t end. You just move around from place to place on the mission area while your forces just sit idle. There are also some truly annoying timed missions where you have to kill everyone on the opposing side. You can do just that, yet still manage to fail for no reason. Same for a number of other missions, where you’ll just get stuck with a failure screen for no specific reason.

When it gets down to it, I really do like this game. While it might not be technically superior to the original game, I just find this game to be better than it in a number of aspects. Perhaps it’s just my predilection of the Imperial Guard. However, if you already have the original Dawn of War, there’s absolutely no reason not to buy this game, it’s an excellent addition to the series.

Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Product Release: Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War - Winter Assault (US, 09/21/05)

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