Saturday, 3 November 2012

It Came From the Backlog: Warhammer 40K: Dawn of War II - Retribution (Part I)

Hunkering down in a bunker
Bunkers are handy for taking a defensive position when lots of enemies
are incoming

I started "It Came From the Backlog" focusing mostly on Geneforge, but I have a tendency to play multiple games together, bouncing back and forth between them, so I'm going to be mixing it up a bit, adding a couple of other games to the fray. Variety is the spice of life and all that, so why not? The best part is that I don't even need to worry about losing track of where I am in a given game because, hey, I've written it all down!

The other game I plan to talk about here for the time being is Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War II - Retribution (sometimes game titles can be so wordy these days). I've had next to no exposure to the Warhammer universe outside of some very limited futzing around in Space Marines. After seeing all sorts of screenshots and discussion for the Dawn of War games over the years, though, I've been really curious about the series. The way it focuses on combat, and does away with much of the resource management of an RTS looked neat. So now I'm finally going to take the time to try out one of these games. I chose to start with Retribution because it is one entry in the series that doesn't have GFWL, something that I'm not at all a fan of.

Bluddflagg talking with his crew
Chatting it up before a big fight
When starting up and looking through the available races to play as in the campaign, I eventually settled on the Orks. The big, green guy's wearing a pirate hat for crying out loud. How can I not choose them? So far, they're really growing on me. They're space faring pirates, and a bit loutish, but they way the get on together and deal with other factions is pretty funny.

Their ship got shot down, now they're stuck on a jungle planet trying to find a way to get off, and back to their pirating. They've come across another race called the Eldar who seem fairly technologically advance, but have largely been cannon fodder with the exception of their leader. She took a bit more work to take down, but there were a pair of bunkers conveniently nearby that I was able to send most of my units into so that they could hunker down and blast away at her from relative safety.

After the battle, I found out what the basic premise of the game is: kill this really bad fellow and his cronies before he does something exceptionally evil, consequently destroying the entire sector. Not exactly the most complicated plot from what I can see so far. Thankfully Kaptin Bluddflagg's antics are great, so I'm willing to overlook how plain the story seems. When he demanded Inquisitor Adrastia's hat as part of his payment to kill Kryas, I actually smiled a bit. Adrastia's reaction to the proposal was also kind of funny. There's a nice layer of underlying humor playing as the orks that I'm quite enjoying.

First stage boss fight
Facing off with the Eldar's
commander
The actual gameplay has been pretty good as well from what I've experienced to this point. It's nice to be able to focus a lot more of my attention on combat here, and not worry about resource management. I just march my troops through the level, complete objectives, and secure way points where I can recruit new troops, and fall back to when things get dicey. When I played stuff like Starcraft II, I was terrible at the micro aspect of the game, controlling my various units, getting them to use special abilities, or go to specific areas. For whatever reason, though, I find everything clicking a lot easier here. I'm able to call up my specific hero or unit with relative easy, issue specific commands to them, and they've responded quite well to them. I'm usually focusing on Bluddflagg, making sure that he tanks stuff, and puts out the occasional heal to keep the rest of my troops healthy, but now and then I'll hop on one of my other guys when I need them to do something really specific like lob grenades, or send a bunch of orks to hunker down in a bunker.

I'm also liking the leveling up system, and the gear my guys can use.  It's probably the RPG fan in me that this appeals to.  It's fun trying to figure out who should get what piece of equipment, and how I want to go about distributing points in the characters' skill trees. For now I'm going with lots of tank traits for Bluddflagg, while my stealth guy is going support, and I'm having my last two characters focus on damage. In some ways I feel like I'm making a party for an MMORPG here with everyone having fairly defined roles to play.

Kaptin Bluddflagg talks with Inquisitor Adrastia
Kaptin Bluddflagg is a bit of a hat connoisseur it would appear
Right now I'm toward the end of the second level, running around the jungle, and being chased by this giant tank. It looks like I just need to use the "Fall Back" command to get away from the thing whenever it shows up, but I wouldn't be surprised if the thing turns out to be the boss for the level. It does a lot of damage to my orks unfortunate enough not to escape its attacks in time, so that fight should be an interesting one if the tank is indeed the end boss for the level.

Anyway, so far so good for Retribution. I'll probably just do a playthrough of the campaign as orks for now, then move on to something else, as I'm not sure there's a huge difference playing it again as a different race. The overly serious tone that the Warhammer series is known for gets nicely softened by playing as the orks.  I'm thinking that this is a universe that I would like to see more of.

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