THQ Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War - Dark Crusade review

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This standalone expansion to the excellent Dawn of War RTS game continues the never-ending war in a dark future. It adds two new alien armies to the five forces from the original game and its first expansion, Winter Assault.

The Tau are a high-tech race that excel at ranged attacks and feature anime-styled battle suits that accommodate a variety of powerful weaponry. However, they are poor at hand-to hand fighting and use more primitive races, such as the bird-like Kroot, to supplement their forces. The Necron are the sci-fi equivalent of an undead horde. They rise from their robotic tombs to make a slow but terrifying advance on their enemies. They may be slow, both in movement and in obtaining weapon upgrades, but they are hard to kill.

As well as the new armies, there's an enhanced single-player campaign mode, which takes the form of a Risk-style map of the planet Kronus, with each territory representing a specific battlefield. Conquer new territories by winning battles against the defenders. This gives a nice continuity to single-player games, but can't compete with the deeper gameplay of Medieval 2: Total War.

The battles are immediately satisfying. Dawn of War keeps things quick and violent, with strategic points concentrating the fighting in small areas. The graphics look technically accomplished, and the seven factions vary in their style of play and have genuine character.

This is a bargain if you've never played Dawn of War before. You can use only the Tau and Necron forces in online games unless you have the original game. Still, one of the best and most accessible RTS games of recent years has been polished into something exceptional.

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