If you are going to war, make sure you bring firepower…Chaos!

When Dawn of War II was released in 2009, the real-time strategy sequel offered an outstanding competitive multiplayer that experienced fans really enjoyed. Except that Dawn of War II lost the sinister Chaos Marines from the original game. All that’s about to change with the Chaos Rising standalone expansion pack, which will restore the forces of Chaos in all their glory, add new heroes and powers, and plus offer plenty of new gameplay features for all Dawn of War II players regardless of whether they actually get the expansion. We recently had a chance to play through some multiplayer sessions with the expansion, particularly as the forces of Chaos, and have much to report.

Check out this teaser:

We should mention right off the bat that although many new changes and additions are coming with Chaos Rising, the only one you have to pay for is the Chaos faction. Every other addition will be made available for Dawn of War II owners free of charge. These include, first and foremost new multiplayer free-for-all victory point mode that will challenge you to scramble for control of seven strategic locations on a map in either head-to-head matches or two-on-two-on-two team matches. Capturing and holding a strategic location will add to your ticking point count, and the more locations you control, the faster your point total will tick up to the magic number of 1,000. In addition, the launch of the expansion will add seven or eight new multiplayer maps (one of which will take place on an abandoned cruiser-class ship, inspired by the classic Space Hulk tabletop scenario) for all Dawn of War II owners. Multiplayer will plus be fully updated to be compatible with the expansion so that no one will need to play on a separate server whether you don’t have Chaos Rising–you’ll even be able to play multiplayer matches with Chaos Rising owners (you just won’t be able to use the Chaos faction yourself).

Additionally, don’t forget the psychic powers that augmented the Warhammer future realm. Those who don’t get the expansion will additionally still get the five new multiplayer units for the sequel’s four factions (each faction gets at least one new unit), which were added to the game to fill in key gaps in each side’s strategy. The Space Marines will receive the assistance of the Librarian, a wizardly fellow with a knack for hurling lightning bolts; the Orks will receive the Weirdboy, a long-range support unit whose powers come directly from the heated shouts of “Waaagh!” from other Ork troops; the Eldar will receive a much-needed heavy infantry unit that can take some real punishment in the Wraithguard; and the Tyranids will receive two new troops in the durable Tyrant Guard melee warrior and the Genestealer Brood (another reference to Space Hulk), a swift melee warrior that automatically infiltrates (becomes invisible) after remaining still.

[The forces of Chaos are preparing to take Dawn of War II’s multiplayer by storm. (image courtesy of GameSpot)]

Our day with the multiplayer included plenty of quality moment with the mighty forces of Chaos, which, like the other factions, have multiple options for commanders (Dawn of War II’s hero units). Interestingly, even though Chaos is already, according to Warhammer 40,000 fiction, arguably the most malevolent and evil force in the universe, the Chaos faction in the expansion will be aligned with one of three Chaos deities with different portfolios. The chaos lord, effectively the Chaos version of the Space Marines’ melee force commander unit, will be associated with the god Khorne, the deity of melee combat and blood. The defensive commander, the plague champion, worships Nurgle, the Chaos god of death and decay, and has a variety of defense abilities such as healing powers and defensive auras. The support commander, the chaos sorcerer, is a disciple of the deity of magic, Tzeentch, and is described by the Relic team as a “toolbox” character with a bag of very interesting tricks, including mind control and teleport abilities. Just like in the original Dawn of War II, you’ll start each competitive multiplayer match as Chaos choosing one of these commanders to bring into battle, equipped with various types of equippable wargear items that supply miscellaneous bonuses, expendable items such as grenades, and usable abilities–that’s on top of additional global abilities which different Chaos commanders possess.

From what we’ve seen, even though the Relic team remains committed to maintaining a strong, fair balance of potential amidst each faction, it has additionally gone out of its way to load up the commanders of Chaos with an

embarrassment of riches in the profile of loads of interesting new abilities and strategic combinations. While we’re assured that Chaos will be a well-rounded faction for players of all skill levels, and the faction does, indeed, seem to have a good mix of melee, ranged, and vehicle units with suitable inherent potential to get the job done, Chaos plus seems to have plenty of interesting details that will help skilled players who take the moment to learn these nuances excel in matches.

For instance, the faction’s marine units (which include basic space marines, havoc heavy infantry marines, tactical plague marines, and dreadnought walkers) can be upgraded to align with one Chaos god or another, which will change their operate to be anti-infantry or anti-vehicle, or to focus on ranged or melee. In addition, several units and abilities seem like they’ll reward players with excellent micromanagement skills, such as the tier-two bloodletter daemons, which are already-powerful melee units with a limited teleportation ability, and the Great Unclean One, the faction’s top-level unit and something of an avatar of Nurgle–a giant, bloated daemon which can vomit bile on its enemies or lasso them closer with a strand of its exposed intestines. The faction’s commander abilities seem very useful, but several of these will plus be best used by skillful micromanagers, such as the plague champion’s “mass warp” teleportation spell and the chaos sorcerer’s “noxious cloud” (a swirling green cloud that damages any foes it touches, but persists for several seconds in the world and can be given continual move orders like a regular unit to chase down enemies on the move).

Dawn of War 2 for PC - screenshot

[Oh, hi. that is the Great Unclean One (image courtesy of GameSpot)]

We had the opportunity to play through a handful of head-to-head skirmishes and some free-for-all matches as well, and found Chaos to be a faction that seems to benefit from leapfrogging from expansion to expansion, capturing a key strategic point and fortifying it as soon as possible. Although the faction has supreme military units, its basis of support lies with heretic units–these are now used to build supporting shrine structures (best placed near control points), and can next be used to worship at these shrines. Depending on which commander you’ve chosen, worshipping at a shrine will produce different effects–chaos lord shrines will briefly summon some bloodletter melee daemons that will vanish after a short period; plague champion shrines will heal nearby allies; and chaos sorcerer shrines will cause nearby units to infiltrate and can additionally fire energy bolts like a turret. Chaos seems to have a very even mix amoung forceful melee and vigorous ranged units and will afford players more than decent opportunity to mix and match to their tastes.

Our most memorable match was a four-player free-for-all multiplayer skirmish in which we played as a plague champion hero and focused primarily on ranged units and vehicles. Partially fueled by the desire to take good notes for that preview, and partially fueled by the desire to not be crushed in the first five minutes of the match, we played it safe, quietly nabbing the nearest strategic points and energy generator points and fortifying them with heretics while waiting for other players to either clash among themselves or to come to us. Defensively “turtling” will only take you so far in free-for-all, however, since your victory will depend on how many points you can earn by capturing strategic locations on the map; the more locations you capture, the more quickly you’ll earn your points. However, controlling strategic points plus still limits your unit cap, so whether you hang back and hide, you’ll not only be surpassed in point counts by more-ambitious players, you’ll additionally limit the size of your armies and won’t be able to really mass troops. next again, in free-for-all, whether you assemble too aggressive a push too early and take a quick point lead, you’re basically painting a giant bull’s eye on your forehead as being the separate biggest threat whose point advantage must be neutralized.

Dawn of War 2 - another screenshot

[Chaos will be a well-rounded faction with strong ranged units and strong melee warriors, like these bloodletters (image courtesy of GameSpot)]

Regardless of what anyone thought of the single-player campaign in Dawn of War II, most fans agreed the multiplayer was great. And Chaos Rising will add a whole lot more to the already-excellent multiplayer with new units for all four base factions, a new multiplayer mode, a fistful of new maps, and a new faction with a whole lot to offer. The expansion will ship in March.

Read more at GameSpot

February 4, 2010 · PC
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