Saturday, 13 June 2009

My favourite levels of all time, Part 3

Between a Stone and an Axe - Dawn of War: Winter Assault

A strange one this; probably not what most people would consider a particularly groundbreaking or innovative level. I'm not hugely familiar with single-player campaigns from other RTS games... To be honest, I always found them too difficult! The Dawn of War games have been the first in the genre I have really made an effort to push through the campaigns, and I have found them an awful lot of fun indeed.

This mission is from the first expansion pack to Dawn of War, the pack that introduced the Imperial Guard as a playable race. It was also the last pack to keep the structured single player campaign before moving to the (in my opinion, the much weaker) format of linked skirmishes with an overarcing planet/system map. I'm not a huge fan of resource gathering or base building in RTS games (the phrase 'Space Marines don't chop wood' has always stuck in my head), so the scripted battles of the campaign in the original game and expansion are far more fun to play; you can concentrate on the actual strategy of moving your troopers round.

The mission sees you playing as both the Eldar and the Imperial Guard; as it starts, you take control of the Eldar and have to escape from an endless horde of attacking Orks. Slowly, you teleport your way through the webway away from the marauding Orks, but they slowly begin to catch up with you. Eventually, control switches to Imperial Guard holed-up in a nearby base; striking a quick deal with the Eldar, they agree to defend them until they can teleport their buildings into the safety of the Imperial fortification.

Once they do this, the fun really starts... A tide of green begins to sweep towards your base, and you have a scant few minutes to arrange your defences as best you can. The idea is to hold out until reinforcements can arrive to relieve you; I think it takes around 15 minutes. The first few waves fall fairly easily, and the Ork corpses begin to pile up; as the game can be set to keep all bodies rather than have them decay, you end up with a huge pile of corpses at the entrance to your base. I used two Hellhounds (anti-infantry tanks which shoot twin jets of fire) around the base entrance to hold the enemy off...

After a few minutes, tanks start turning up, and still wave after wave of Ork attacks; you slowly have to fall back inside your own base, abandoning lines of defences as you go. Just when it seems like you're done for, when Ork Stormboyz are raining down from the sky and looted tanks are shelling you from afar, the reinforcements arrive. And what reinforcements. A Baneblade rumbles on to the screen, your first sight of one, and starts to lay waste to the besieging army.

I've picked this level as it really showed me that RTS games can be as exciting and tense as any first- or third-person action game. I was on the edge of my seat throughout, desperately ordering troops to hold their positions against seemingly insurmountable odds.

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