Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War II – Chaos Rising
This standalone expansion does everything necessary to recreate and enhance the excellent small-squad role-playing/real-time strategy hybrid gameplay of Dawn of War II. It’s obviously more of the same, being an expansion and all, but it’s the kind of add-on that fans of any title hope for.
Chaos Rising’s lengthy co-op enabled campaign features similarly stupid boss battles to the original, but the much greater variety of maps and mission objectives is a major improvement. Exploring the decrepit space hulks of the Judgment of Carrion ghost fleet and battling through the Warp-corrupted ice fields of the lost planet Aurelia are pleasantly novel compared to the endless slogs through the same handful of maps that Dawn of War II’s campaign often devolved into. The new character, a psyker Librarian, allows for interesting new strategies with his diverse array of quasi-magical abilities.
Also new to the Chaos Rising campaign is the Corruption mechanic, where failing secondary objectives or using Chaos-tainted equipment corrupts the souls of your Blood Ravens. Penance in the form of accessories that penalize your abilities or completing side-missions can bring them back to the path of righteousness. The trick is, Chaos grants nifty powers to its disciples – for instance, the moderate-cooldown, unlimited-use full force revival is unbalanced as hell. This is far from a Mass Effect-style morality play, but it does add replay value as welcoming or avoiding corruption noticeably changes your playstyle during the campaign.
New maps and champions refresh the multiplayer scene. The Chaos Marines are a nice addition to the roster, with their daemon-summoning rites and strong, multi-purpose infantry. I salute Relic’s decision to give away the new maps to all Dawn of War II players in a patch, and for allowing original and expansion players to play together (though Chaos Marines are only available to expansion owners). Chaos Rising is good news for DoW II multi fans.
The fundamental experience isn’t noticeably different, but the breadth and variety that Chaos Rising adds are solid improvements to an already good game.