Just like Blizzard keeps polishing its titles until the fan base goes berserk and EA milks the last drop out of its licenses, so does Relic Entertainment always comes up with well-designed expansions for their games, and it seems that there aren’t many universes which have received so much attention like Warhammer 40.000. Chaos Rising is a very good example in this respect, and now we are again invited to fight in Retribution, the latest stand-alone expansion for Warhammer 40.000: Dawn of War 2.
Ten years have passed since the events in Chaos Rising and sub-sector Aurelia is again in turmoil, thanks to the lovely concept of everybody fights everybody. The Ork pirates are only looking to pillage and loot everybody they come across, the Eldars are interested in retrieving a particular artifact, the Tyranids are rebuilding their forces and trying to contact the Hive Mind, the Space Marines (Blood Ravens) are still trying to get a hold of Chaos Marines nad kick their bee-hind, while the latter have returned under the Black Legion banner in order to settle the score with their untainted brothers. Like I said, Free for All.
This time however we also have the Imperial Guard, a well-known faction in Warhammer 40K which makes its debut in Dawn of War 2 by sending an impressive force under the command of the Inquisitor Adrastia. Sick and tired of all the noise in the sub-sector, they have decided to apply Exterminatus, a nice little procedure out of which there is little to no chance of escaping alive, not even for the planet which hosts the ceremony.
As such, we will again venture on all the planets of the sub-sector, such as the jungle-infested Typhon, the cold world of Aurelia, Tyranid-filled Meridian or the barren Cyrene. What’s changed is that in Retribution we are allowed to play all six races in single-player, which may sound like a godsend for the replay value, if it weren’t for the virtually-identical campaigns. Aside from the dialogues and heroes there are little differences between the factions when it comes to single-player, which becomes obvious when you try to complete a mission with the faction that attacked you the first time around. Playing with that particular faction will not open new objectives or objectives, but instead you will face a different enemy in the same setting.
Furthermore, the cinematics in between missions (and during them) cannot be skipped and as such, we are forced to watch every dialog. Which can be tiresome, to say the least, especially because there are little differences between campaigns. Yet there are reasons to try out what Retribution has to offer in the single-player portion.
First of, the endings are different according to which race you will be playing and if you are a fan of the Warhammer 40K Lore, you will have betrayals, last-minute-rescues and well-known characters, things that shouldn’t miss from any respectable universe. Each mission has its share of interesting loot which can be used to upgrade heroes or units, and we will need to choose between the two at the end of it, thus giving us the chance to finish the game with a monster of a hero or more conventionally, with a bunch of nicely upgraded units. You can also receive various resources during a mission which can be used to upgrade the attributes of your heroes, such as increased hit-points or damage. Keep in mind that you don’t have a magic pot of gold, so you have to carefully consider your options before making a choice.
Speaking of the ones who came to burn down the entire sub-sector, the Imperial Guard is a faction of neat uniforms and perfectly-arranged helmets, with its leader (General-Lord Castor) being a perfect example of a British aristocrat. Since their large numbers are their strong-point, Imperial Guard units are rather fragile (compared to the Chaos Marines, for example) and can be sacrificed at any time (an idea perfectly underlined by the Execute ability) but they have a large number of entrenchment options and access to one of the most powerful armored units in the game.
As a result, it’s easy to build turrets at key points as well as bunkers, which can be modified to heal infantry or repair vehicles, not to mention the armored infantry transport or the mighty Baneblade tank. In multiplayer, the Imperial Guard has a rather limited in mobility, but it’s very effective at locking down an area, so it’s highly sought-after in team games. However, if you had hopes for old-school base-building, you will be again disappointed, since you have the same, lonely headquarters from which you recruit all the units, and the gameplay is still based on capturing victory and resource points.
The co-op mode is still present, adding some spice to the otherwise dull campaigns. As opposed to Chaos Rising, quantity was preferred over quality, but this issue becomes more bearable if you have a mate to yell at or blame him in multiplayer when you fail. Yet Relic did a little more than that and worked on the suspense of each mission, and here I’m talking about the boss-fights. It was a real pleasure to evade a Baneblade tank all over the map, without anti-armor weapons, or to find out that the Orkish tank I was shooting for 20 minutes with conventional weapons could have been easily destroyed by tricking it into a pile of burning fuel barrels.
However, I have also noticed Imperial Guard-specific bugs, such as the lock down of units in a no-exit area, or the dropping of tanks (Lord’s Castor ability) into an area of the map where the game didn’t know what to do with them. Not really game-breaking, but annoying nonetheless. Also, the pathfinding system can still be rather annoying, with heroes and units walking astray.