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Glory for the First Man to Die!

The multiplayer beta for Dawn of War 2: Retribution came out today. I'm not much of a multiplayer gamer, but I did want to try it out, so I battled against the computer. Man did it feel good to have my Regiment back. As I mentioned in my first Dawn of War II commentary, I am an Imperial Guard player, and the biggest selling point for me was the return of the IG as a playable entity. I hate Space Marines, and after two installments of those incipid mutant twats, I was happy to be able to go back to my old regiment.

As this was a multiplayer beta, I can't speak to the single player campaign yet. But the skirmish felt a lot like the original Dawn of War in tone and style of gameplay. I did not, however, get my techpriests back. As techpriests still stand as my favorite engineer units of all time, this disappointed me. Instead, the builders were the guardsmen squads, who were able to deploy walls and turrets, building a nice little string of fortifications that reminded me of the good old days. I was somewhat miffed to discover halfway trhough the battle that my tanks and infantry counted against the same population cap and I'd already hit it with guardsmen.

Walking my fortifications forward, I managed to hem in the tyrannids to the northen third of the map, and deny them much of that by interwoven fields of fire from laser turrets. Having decimated their assaults, I decided to try the offensive - and got decimated within sight of their base. My general ran back to my defensive line, which had suddenly developed a hole from a hive tyrant's assault, and summoned up reinforcements, including a tank. As the Lemann Russ crushed my carefully laid walls on its way to the front, I began to wonder why my population cap seemed so low. Turns out my beloved turrets now cost against the population cap too, so the same wall of fire that was holding the tyrannids back was preventing me from buying the forces needed to smash through and destroy them.

I did a quick check of my turret positions and found some that never engaged the enemy. Selling those off, I reinforced again, summoning a swarm of guardsmen greater than my first assault force. Lamenting the fact that only a thin shell held back the swarm, I engaged the enemy one last time. My force broke through to their hive - and pounded on it with their combined firepower for a good ten minutes. The Hive Tyrant respawned and died nine times before this thing went down. Of course, the victory condition was "destroy the enemy HQ", so the skirmish was over.

In all, I'm really much more early awaiting the release of the actual expansion. I never got to call down my air strikes and artillery barrages, but I think that had to do with the fact that I was still learning the game mechanics while fighting a Tyrannid swarm. After the tutorial by fire, I went back and decided to pick my enemy rather than have the computer randomize it. I chose the Ultramarines, because, as I mentioned, I hate Space Marines. Compared to the Tyrannids, the Ultramarines were pushovers, and I had them bottled up in no time. While calling in artillery barrages was vicerally satisfying, it didn't seem to do much damage to the turrets blocking my path, so I entrenched with concrete barricades and laser turrets while waiting for my resource count to reach high enough to buy the reinforcement I most wanted to see in action, my Baneblade.

For those of you asleep at orientation, the Baneblade is a super-heavy tank with more firepower than I can personally quantify. The problem is, it's expensive, takes forever to build, and takes a quarter of the population cap. But I had the Ultramarines bottled up with only a single requisition point under their control, so they couldn't mount too many assaults against the fortification lines holding them in. Once the Baneblade finally arrived, I assaulted the Ultramarine base. The first thing I noticed was that the main guns took noticable amounts of damage off of the buildings (which regular units can barely scratch) allowing me to have the Baneblade shell the structures while the guardmen fought off the marine counterattacks. Because the Ultramarine hero unit brough a power sword to a gunfight, he died twenty two times trying to throw back the assault force. His most effective attack came when he landed a drop pod atop my general, but even that failed to do much good. The marines that spilled forth were at point blank range with the Baneblade and got cut down fast.

The fight against the Ultramarines, however, did prove one thing - the computer is STILL a cheating bastard. For the majority of the game (over 80%), the ultramarines held a grand total of ONE resource point, and I held everything else on the map. And yet, in the final tally, the Ultramarines were shown to have collected more resources than I by nearly 25%. Thus, the computer must have some sort of resource multiplier which gives it more than it can legitimately collect.

So far it looks as though Retribution might turn out to be what Dawn of War II should have been from the start. Though it's major shortcoming is its population cap. I run out with only three guardsmen squads, six turrets and a tank. The way I played the original, that would be my recon force, sent to secure strategic points. I'd never assault with such a paltry group, I'd wait until I had a platoon of tanks and a platoon of Karsakins (renamed Storm Troopers in Retribution). This, however, is more than triple the population cap for Retribution. I get nervous going on the offensive with such a paltry force.

-- Rober McCarroll