Thursday, 17 February 2011

My sins will know retribution

"Whether I am victorious or slain, my sins will know retribution." - Gabriel Angelos

A rather fitting line for Gabe to finish off the Chaos-styled trailer for the up and coming standalone expansion pack to the much loved Dawn of War 2 series, Retribution.

For all of you who have been awake for the past month you will know that Retribution closed beta started on the 31st of January for those who were registered on the official Dawn of War II forums before some date and the floodgates opened on the 8th of February to anyone who had a Dawn of War II product registered on Steam, so basically anyone who had DoW II or Chaos Rising.

First off the bat, Relic have ditched Games For Windows Live (GFWL) *hooray!* and now use Steamworks for matchmaking and multiplayer stuff. The beta has nicely tested the gaming system and despite a few expected beta testing hiccups, things have been quite impressive and the changeover has been successful. The Emperor has brightened up our day by granting our flamers the power to burn the heretic GFWL in some sort of great conflagration.

This latest installment adds in the Imperial Guard to the existing 5 races. The backbone of the Imperium, the Imperial Guard are mainly composed of your average joe public human armed with basic weapons and body armour, then pushed out to fight rather superhuman monsters with an insatiable appetite for war, killing, mutilation and other deathly pastimes. To back them up, the Imperial Guard sport some of the most kick-alien-buttocks tanks and armoured units, of which we see plenty in Retribution.

The Imperial Guard, backbone of the Imperium
Our three heroes are the Inquisitor, the Lord General and a Commissar Lord, fulfilling the roles of Offense, Defense and Support respectively. Relic are doing an amazing job of fixing balance issues and bugs as fast as we can find them so I cannot truly comment on any of the OP/UP units or skills as by the time you read this, it could have all changed. Needless to say, I have had most fun with the Commissar Lord and his rather devastating Power Fist options.

The new super units have caused quite a commotion in the beta and have been subjected to a multitude of nerfs and buffs until Relic are either peeved off or have got things just about right and the people who complain need to 'learn to play'. All of the super units have glaringly obvious counters and will die horribly quickly if they are unescorted.

The Baneblade is rather satisfying though despite being 'nine guns of hurt' with it's two large barreled guns being cooldown skills with a resource cost however it is very weak to a melee charge and needs to be supported by anti-infantry units.

Baneblade meets Tyranid. A good picture showing the sense of scale.
The Landraider Redeemer is a curious little toy. It is a very handy anti-infantry unit, though it has recently lost it's suppression ability, and it's mobile base function that allows nearby squads to reinforce themselves make it potent when combined with a synergy of anti-vehicle fire and some additional anti-infantry, suppression or disruption infantry.

Due to forces beyond my control, I haven't really tested out the other new units in any depth. yet I have played against them and they all seem pretty nifty, feeling rather unique and powerful but not necessary or overpowered to a game-breaking degree.

A Landraider Redeemer supported by Assault Terminators
Each race will have it's own campaign and the setup is going to be slightly different, allowing you to drop heroes for normal units which can be earned during campaign missions. The squad-based combat with limited drop start still applies but it is bringing in some more traditional RTS values to help round off the singleplayer missions a bit better. I'm a Space Marines fan and despite them being a lovechild chapter I am very much enjoying the Blood Ravens story and my biggest hope that these changes do not serve to dilute the story, the crecendo that Relic have been building up to ever since Dawn of War 1.

Overall the beta has been quite successful from where I stand. Despite the continual spamming on the official forums of 'This unit is not balanced' and 'The Inquisitor feels tacked on' threads, the game has quite a good feel to it with Relic doing a good, if not perfect just yet, job of balancing SIX full races in a multiplayer setting with each Commander wading in with their own unique, game-changing superpowers. The transition from GFWL to Steamworks has been a good one and leaves me feeling positive for the future.

Retribution is due out in America on the 1st of March and in Europe on the 4th of March. Direct2Drive has pre-orders available now for the Space Marine, Eldar, Chaos Space Marine and Imperial Guard packs ($29.95/£29.95). Each pack comes with 4 bonus items for your selected race's single player or co-operative campaign which sounds pretty darn good to me, being a single/co-op player in the main!

The Collector's Edition of the game contains all 6 of the special racial pre-order bonuses with some nice extras too and is available to pre-order at Amazon.com ($28.95) and Amazon.co.uk (£29.99)

Check out my other previews and reviews here