Dawn of War Retrospective Part 2: Winter Assault

Well, due to offline stuff, I wasn’t able to produce this week’s review, so let’s continue the retrospective (don’t worry, this is a one off regarding this week’s review running late: I’ll be making sure it doesn’t happen for this reason in the future)!

Dawn of War: Winter Assault was the expansion/sequel to Relic’s much loved game of 2004. Released in September 2005, it was the very next game Relic released after Dawn of War, so there’s very little to elaborate on regarding Relic’s history. The game (like a lot of games which serve as expansions to other games) was also one which required the previous game to play at all (a trend which was dropped for all later games in the series). Now, of course, this rule does not apply so much now thanks to Steam’s version of the game not having this restriction, so I will have to comment on a few things that hurt this game if approached right out of the box, but, for the most part, the game assumes you’ve played the previous game and most of what I’ve covered for the first game in the series applies here.

With that said, though, there are a few differences between the two games. First of all, the campaign (despite not really having a huge impact upon the series post-Soulstorm) is the first one in the game’s series where you can not only play as armies different from the Space Marines (indeed, you don’t actually play as the Space Marines in the game: you work with them as the Imperial Guard, but you never directly control them). There is some questionable implementation that hampers it a bit (unlike later games, you don’t select a single race to play as exclusively through the whole campaign: you select a side, which means playing as Orks and Chaos if you choose the disorder campaign or Imperial Guard and Eldar if you choose the order campaign, with the final split on which to face the final mission as being on the second-to-last mission) and the difficulty is a noticeable step up from the previous game (even on easy and having beaten the previous game, the game can be punishingly hard, which makes it a very poor game to play right out of the box), but it is still worthy of note. It isn’t QUITE varied enough to warrant more than the number of playthroughs you’ll need to get all of the endings, but there’s definitely more on offer here and it does require you to know the forces well, which makes it surprisingly good fun if you’ve taken time to practice every army and know what the strengths and weaknesses of each race are.

The second noticeable feature is the addition of the Imperial Guard to the gameplay stage (with new units for the other races and a few limits and restrictions added to various units). The Imperial Guard have a very different play style to the other races: your army’s strength is based on how many vehicle commands and infantry commands you have and have access to the tunnels mechanic (which basically means that you can move units from just about any of your buildings to another building, while also being able to defend your buildings with units inside them). This will probably throw first time players off, but it works out surprisingly well in practice. The new units can be a bit iffy (the Chaplain for the Space Marines always felt like an odd choice to me due to his inability to join units, for one thing) and some of the limitations do feel like they’re overdone, but, for the most part, I feel Relic managed to get the balancing down well for Winter Assault: the limitations encourage you to rethink your strategies from the first game, the new race is fairly well balanced and, overall, nothing feels badly done.

So, overall, there’s not really a huge amount to comment on regarding Winter Assault. It doesn’t make a huge impact on the series post-Soulstorm and most of what I need to say about it is what I said in the original game’s look back at. I would say this is more aimed towards the fans that got the first game, so it’s best to wait until you’ve beaten the first game before you check this out, but it is worth a playthrough if you have played the original game!