This is a guest review by Ludovic
Retribution is a must for fans of the Dawn of War series, peppered by various elements bound to make fans of the series grin with joy, the new campaigns being the least of such. It is not without some flaws, but in favour, the flaws are very easy to overlook in light of all that the game does bring, and that is good.
First of all, let me start this review by saying that despite all changes, Retribution hasn't reinvented the wheel. Rather, what we're looking at is still nonetheless a radical streamlining of the campaign's mechanics and structure, as well as quite a few nice tweaks and additions to the multiplayer, a notable addition being the new Imperial faction, the Imperial Guard. Still, all in all it remains quite good fun and though the campaign has its good and bad points, in my opinion Retribution is certainly a fun and most entertaining romp.
The single player campaign is solid. In fact, this is probably where Retribution departs the most from previous Dawn of War 2 releases being where the more radical changes to the game can be felt. In fact, the rest of the game actually did pretty much remain the same with the exception of the single player, though there have been tweaks here and there and some additions, I will begin with the change to the campaign's mechanics.
Let's start by saying again they are big.
For the very start, you aren't restricted by playing only the Space Marines for this campaign, now you have the choice to play all six races, the new Imperial Guard included.
The way you play the campaign has also changed. Like in the old games, you have many champions with unlockable abilities and wargear to outfit them with. Notable additions is the streamlining of how abilities are unlocked.
On another note, the only thing that slightly bothered me was how only a very few characters would now change appearance when equipping new armour, unlike Dawn of War 2 where all armour had a unique appearance, further adding to the customization of a hero through their visuals on top of their stats. Being only a minor cosmetic issue, this is far from spoiling at all the game. Another tweak is the fact that you now lead a full army, allowing you to recruit "conventional" units to fight alongside your heroes on a mission, summoning them through reinforcement points and with new "Stronghold" capture points allowing you to recruit vehicles as well for the mission.
But if this was all, it would make for a poor campaign if the missions themselves were lacking. Fortunately it is a nice thing that another area to see a lot of revamping was the approach to the missions themselves.
I won't say much, as to not spoil it for people who haven't played through the campaign yet, but where Dawn of War 2 had much more missions, many amongst them actually lacked a fair bit in variety, ultimately often summing themselves up to a romp - smashing mobs standing in your way until an eventual mission's "boss"... only to rinse and repeat the same process the following mission.
Retribution has a much more linear progression, most missions even being shared between all of the factions (though played from different viewpoints). This time each of the missions actually have unique goals and events occurring throughout the mission when compared to the sometimes "cookie cutter" missions of the original Dawn of War 2.
I won't say much, but expect to be chased by monstrously huge nigh-invulnerable units, escape inevitable destruction and to listen to most amusing quotes in the Ork campaign (one of, if not my single most favourite take on the campaign so far, starting with the first mission introducing you to it)... all of it leading to a much awaited showdown for first-time fans of the series toward the end of the campaign.
I realized that giving the same overall campaign to all races wasn't necessarily a bad move. To put it in another way, the campaign can be indeed seem as a game mode of varied challenges, like a multiplayer game. And like in a multiplayer game your choice of race thus comes to preference rather than their campaign. Each race plays differently thus it forces you to also think differently to tackle the various challenges of a mission. An example was when I played again as Chaos on a mission I had beaten in the Space Marine campaign already, due to the different hero, units and wargear selections I suddenly found myself having to think much differently once I remembered that Chao did not have access to a jump capable hero or a heavy weapon commander like I had geared my Force Commander as the Space Marines - due to the differences between Eliphas and Appolo. All in all, it has only served to better my opinion of the design decisions that were made for the campaign play in the expansion, and with the different hero -and- unit customization (each completed missions, you are generally given a choice between unlocking a new piece of wargear, a new unit, or an upgrade to an existing unit), it only adds to the replayability by taking a specific global strategy in one playthrough and then switching it to an entirely different one with a radically different choice of unit unlocks the next.
Compared to the single player mode, multiplayer remains quite close to the Dawn of War 2 formula, victory point and annihilation's game modes - though that isn't necessarily a bad thing. Nonetheless, it is far from being unchanged and still has many additions in the form of new units for all factions, a new faction altogether, one new Last Stand hero and a new map for the Last Stand game mode.
So, we'll begin first with the biggest addition: the new Imperial Guard faction.
If the Space Marines, made from genetically and bionically enhanced superhumans in power armour wielding top of the line weaponry, are the Imperium's Finest... the Imperial Guard is their polar opposite, an army made from mundane humans who, with generally only very standard weaponry, still somehow have to face the same foes and horrors their Space Marines allies must. However, to make up for this the Imperial Guard has one big trick up their sleeves - and that is manpower.
Back in the days of Dawn of War 1, the guardsmen unit had a quote which said "For each of us who fall, 10 more will take his place". This is even more true in Dawn of War 2 where, next to reinforcement points, guardsmen with the proper upgrade can now reinforces up to 3 men per reinforcement, the only unit capable of such in the game. You might think them pushover when in the open, but guardsmen squads cornered on their own grounds will be, for most players, surprisingly resilient as reinforcement will just keep rushing out without cease.
But if it were up to only the guardsmen, Imperial guard players would rarely win the day. Fortunately, they make up for this with a diverse amount of relatively versatile vehicles from the fast sentinel, to the troop-carrying chimera or the deadly manticore missile artillery... and then is there also fan-favorite Baneblade making a return. Add to that the ability of building their own cover and bunkers (the later via the global ability bar) the "meek humans" faction suddenly become a force to be reckoned with, excelling at creating chokepoints for the enemy to break themselves on.
Other factions are not without their own additions, the Chaos Marines getting the disruptive noise marines, whereas Orks and Space Marines respectively gets the battlewagon and land raider superheavy units to deal with all the other "heavies" out there as well. Eldars themselves get one of the more unique additions in the new Eldar Autarch, a secondary commander requisitioned not from the HQ but from their global ability bar summoning her to the battlefield in a rain of grenades as she jump into the battle from the sky, being able to return to the global ability bar with a "sky leap" as she leaves the battle to be able to be re-summoned later at a cheaper price.
Graphics remain standard to Dawn of War. There is nothing too spectacular to note, though the new models are nicely done and do the job of representing what they are meant to represent. Many of the locales for the campaign have been beautifully crafted, however, making for some truly amazing scenes to wade and battle in as you progress through the single player story of your choice. Saying more would spoil some of what you will see, but be prepared for at least one of the most unexpected battlefields to play in the Warhammer 40k universe... to not say one of the deadliest environments by the very nature of the event it links to. A minor addition now also comes with the ability for those of the creative sort to create their own custom badges for their custom unit colour schemes, an ability harkening back to the first Dawn of War and missed by players in Dawn of War 2's previous iterations.
Sounds follow graphics in term of quality. Like them, they do the job they need to and quite decently. A very special mention needs to go to the new chaos unit, the noise marines. Their sonic weaponry often being described as capable of both melting brains and rending flesh in the tabletop game, their Dawn of War 2 incarnation has masterfully designed audio that truly makes you believes that they can indeed do just that, literally making you dread to go up against them when you see them.
Games for Windows Live is dead, long live Steam
One of the more notable, and welcomed, change to Retribution in multiplayer actually does not have to do with gameplay directly. Rather, it was the decision to stop using Games for Windows Live for matchmaking in favour of using Steam only. A change much welcomed by the now quite easier and smoother logistic of playing in multiplayer and performing simple things such as merely inviting someone to one's game without the hassle of having to deal with both Games for Windows Live and Steam at the same time as was the case in the past.