Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War II - Retribution

Orkward.

I've always been a little frightened by the world of miniature modelling. Not in any kind of derogatory sense - even if I was inclined to do so, I'm in no position to look down on those who engage in obsessive hobbying.

It's a bit like Dr Strangelove's wayward arm. I simply can't imagine investing hours into crafting something so intricate while resisting the compulsion to streak the brush across the figurine with a maniacal cackle - just because I can. "The Lord Commissar inspires the men of the Imperial Guard by executing those who show fear in the face of the enemy."

But here, at Relic Entertainment's Vancouver studio, is something I can get behind. I'm being introduced to the Imperial Guard, the new race featured in the second full expansion for Dawn of War 2. It promises to give the series a fresh twist with an emphasis on defensive gameplay. Good news for those who prefer to stand and fight rather than drown their opponents in righteous destruction.

At first glance, it's tempting to wonder if the focus on the Imperial Guard is an attempt to provide a more human race with mass appeal, the good guys kicking ass in the trail blazed by Jimmy Raynor last year. Producer Jeff Lydell is quick to scotch any such suggestions, however.

"Nobody in Warhammer is the good guy, everyone is in it for themselves," he says. "If you look at the universe and the story in detail, they have to be. It's not just a matter of people being selfish - every battle is for survival."

1

I said left - now we're late for my mother's.

Showing frustration with your comrades by executing them with a swift pistol shot to the head is almost certainly covered somewhere in the finer details of the Geneva Convention. So it's a point worth conceding with regard to the cold-blooded, survivor-takes-all universe of Warhammer 40K.

The battle is about to take a new turn. Previously, races used any old excuse as justification for slaughtering each other - historical wrongdoings, territorial hunger or the theft of Lord Eliphas' last Muller Lite from the fridge even though it clearly had one his sticky labels on it.

Now, the Imperium is launching the Exterminatus - an assault that threatens to wipe out all populations. But don't go thinking former enemies will begin banding together as a result. The warmongering remains. Pausing in your quest for survival to take pot-shots at other races adds a layer of grinning lunacy to the glorious violence of the game, and the frantic race to be first past the post.

2

I think I coughed up one of these fellas on New Year's Day.

This time around there six playable race campaigns for the Eldar, Space Marines, Imperial Guard, Ork, Tyrannid and Chaos forces, spread across 16 missions. As yet, it's not clear how much repetition will be involved - and therefore whether players will want to play through the game as all races.

"Some players certainly will, because the stories are unique - the reasons for each race coming down to that fight are unique," says Lydell. "And the gameplay within the races is very unique. Another option is to play in co-op with a friend or increase the challenge."

One criticism levelled at the earlier release concerned the repetitive use of maps in the single-player experience. This feedback was noted and acted upon for Chaos Rising, and we're assured the sentiment has carried through into Retribution.

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