Suffer not the Alien!
It's hard to imagine that Relic could have made significant improvements to their Dawn of War 2 game, but they have. That's right, the bottom line (or top) of this review is that the stand alone expansion to the highly successful Dawn of War 2 is well worth the money and adds a massive chunk of improvements along with a large single player campaign that continues the story of events in Subsector Aurelia and beyond.
Set one year after the events of Dawn of War 2, the Space Marines are still battling against the remnants of the alien invaders that they protected the sub-sector from in the first instalment. Now, the warp storms at the edge of the sector have receded and the planet of Aurelia, once thought lost for good...has returned and with it a deadly new threat one that is steeped in the ancient tides of chaos.
Those of you familiar with Dawn of War 2 will be able to immediately get to grips with the game. Gameplay remains fundamentally unchanged and it would be a waste to re-iterate the same-old, same-old commentary on that subject, so here's the review of Dawn of War 2 for anyone new to the series. http://www.gamesxtreme.net/pc/game/warhammer-40000-dawn-of-war-ii/review.html
There is a brand new campaign for Chaos Rising, a campaign that is much better in terms of design and structure, with new objectives and a less repetitive feel to it. The campaign allows you to import a previously completed squad from DoW 2 into the new game and bring with them all the experience and some of the Wargear from their previous adventures. The new campaign is also significantly more epic, the feel to it is bigger and the overall plot arc is pure 40K theme with the return of the Space Marines most deadly arch-enemy - Chaos. You once again control the Blood Ravens and must do all in your power to stop the spread of darkness.
If you don't have a previous save, then you can start a brand new character at a higher level complete with some rather nice gear and abilities already. After all, you are aboard a new Strike Cruiser. New to Chaos Rising is the Corruption system brought about by the advent of Chaos into the core story. If you complete the first few missions you'll see a new meter appear on the squad screen, this tracks your corruption and works like this. Every time you equip Wargear tainted by the dark powers of Chaos, you'll gain corruption, if you do actions that are not in theme with a Space Marine, you'll gain corruption and the more you gain corruption, the more you become tainted and gain access to new abilities and more powerful Wargear. You'll miss out on Wargear that requires an uncorrupted soul to use it, and some of your Space Marines might become your enemy.
There's also the Purity trait, a special trait that Space Marine squads have, you are fine as long as the Corruption score isn't 4 or more. Once that happens, you lose the Purity trait and gain the first of 6 potential Corruption traits. Traits unlock and become available every 4 Corruption levels, the max for this is 24 and once you hit that particular max your Space Marine's soul is forever lost to the Dark Powers of Chaos and he cannot be redeemed. There are ways to reduce Corruption of course, some missions will have objectives that do so and there are other ways, you'll have to discover for yourself.
The Space Marines also gain a new unit, the Librarian. Librarians are powerful psychic masters in the 40K Universe, they are extremely adept at changing their power set on the fly by using various tomes and relics, they can be made into an extremely potent ally on the battlefield.
There is a new graphics set to the game, the ice planet of Aurelia. The graphics are tweaked from Dawn of War 2 and have been given an extra layer of polish both in single and multiplayer game modes. This makes an already good looking game into something that is truly spectacular when the battles start raging.
With the advent of the new units across all factions and the new faction of Chaos, there are some tweaks and new animations in the game. Once again, these are fine-tuned to perfection.
The physics have been tweaked a little, explosions are more spectacular and there are some new destruction physics in the game.
The AI has been tweaked to accommodate new abilities, new units and new tactics.
The sound suite remains largely unchanged from the first game, there are new sounds for some of the bigger weapons and the Chaos faction has a whole new sound-set for various weapons and abilities, existing sounds have been tweaked and a couple of sound errors have been debugged.
Once again Dawn of War 2's composer brings the 40K Universe to life with a mix of stirring orchestral battle theme, choral elements and a dark 'stalking' feel to music when dealing with the likes of Chaos. It's great.
The voice work in the game is top-notch with many of the performances conveying the urgency of the Space Marine's battle against their foes, too numerous to full contain. Each voice actor does their part perfectly and it's great to hear old favourites like Cyrus return to the fray.
The Multiplayer has been tweaked and many of the tweaks have been already added to Dawn of War 2, including the new units and the Chaos Faction allowing cross-compatibility with the original, a great idea. Last Stand is included by default in Chaos Rising and brings a small multiplayer team into battle against insurmountable odds. There are two new heroes to use in this mode, the mighty Hive Tyrant and the Chaos Sorcerer.
There is also Free for All, and Team Free for All, one being a traditional style deathmatch with a victory point ticker and the other splits the players into 3 teams of 2. All the factions gain some new units and powers, along with some upgrades to existing abilities. There's new Wargear and the Chaos Faction with its legions of servants ready to join the fray. Joining the Tyranids are the Genestealers...terrifying foes of the Space Marine Terminators and usually found amidst the ruins of Space Hulks. There are also 7 new multiplayer maps plus a host of bug fixes and improvements from Dawn of War 2's core game - such as the inclusion of Observer and Referee modes for competitions and so forth. We gave DoW 2 9.5/10 and it would be a crime if we didn't rate this excellent addition higher.
For the Emperor!
I've got to say that I didn't think it was possible to add this much new content to Dawn of War 2 and I really admire Relic for doing so. They made a superb choice to add Chaos and the new units to the game and by providing an excellent amount of content this expansion is worth getting for fans old and new.