It’s been more than ten years since Starcraft first saw the light of day, and ever since that time all sorts of producers have tried to come up with a title that could compare to its sales or popularity. Few have succeeded, but Warhammer 40.000: Dawn of War managed right off the bat to create its own strong fan base, without offering revolutionary concepts or never-before seen strategic possibilities; Relic Entertainment won the hearts and minds of the fans with an easy-to-grasp but hard-to-master gameplay, by shifting the focus from base construction to capturing and holding strategic points on the map, with infantry micromanagement and constant harassment of the enemy.
The success registered would have determined any company to follow-up with expansions, and Relic soon did just that. Less than a year from the first game Winter Assault was launched, introducing a new faction (Imperial Guard) along with a few touches to the old ones, while in 2006 Dark Crusade entered the market, bringing two more races to the battlefield as well as a substantially changed single-player mode. Considering that the announcement for Dawn of War 2 was just around the corner, THQ could have easily settled for Dark Crusade, but the American publisher had other plans and called on the now-defunct Iron Lore studios to squeeze what was left on the “old guard” with one last expansion, called Soulstorm.
The story takes us to Kaurava system, where a strange Warp Storm gets the attention of all the races in the universe, which arrive one by one at the site, aside from the Necrons which are dormant everywhere and are unhappy with the commotion. However, the Warp Storm wreaks havoc on everyone’s navigation systems, scattering the foes over the four planets and three moons in the system. As such, the single-player campaign takes place in a full solar system, with each of the four planets having up to eight territories that need be conquered, while the moons are usually the home bases for one race or another.
This meta-game is basically identical to the one in Dark Crusade, with only one difference that certain territories contain “jump gates” to other planets, and therefore become more strategic, but aside from that, not much has changed. The number of territories is not considerably larger, but their placement is somewhat different, as the panoramic 2D view has been replaced with a spatial view, just as 2D. Only one side of the planets is shown and it cannot be rotated (although sometimes you feel like you want to) and all territories are visible from the start, so there are no hidden surprises “on the dark side of the moon”.
Unfortunately, unlike Dark Crusade, where the base you constructed when attacking one territory would still be there if the enemy decided to take it back, in Soulstorm you will have to start from scratch if under attack, which isn’t very nice. True, you can reinforce conquered areas with troops, by using Requisition Points generated by each territory that you own, but that remains little comfort for losing such a nice feature. The Wargear and Honor Guard were kept, however, and a campaign ability was added for each race, such as unit discounts, the ability to attack any territory regardless of borders or a fierce cannon to soften up the resistance before the battle.