Thursday, 23 July 2009

For the Emperor

I was browsing around Amazon last night, and came across the page for Dawn of War II. I couldn’t believe the number of people who had rated the game lowly, so I looked into why so many 1 Star reviews had been logged. Further to my post the other day about RTS games, I thought I would talk about it here.

The bad reviews boiled down to 3 basic reasons:

  1. Bugs and glitches in the game
  2. Problems running Steam
  3. Problems with the lack of base building

The first one I don’t have an issue with; I never encountered any bugs or glitches, but I have encountered them in the past with other games and it can be frustrating… I’ll give people the benefit of the doubt with this one. Some people are complaining about the high system requirements, which really doesn’t belong in the review… But, whatever, you get that point of view all over the place on Amazon.

The next two points are where I have my real problems.

First, Steam. Now, Steam may have been contentious when it was first released, but it is now a permanent fixture on most gamers’ desktops. I registered the game on Steam, and it was so quick and painless I actually can’t remember doing it. Steam keeps all my games up-to-date without my having to think about it, doesn’t hog system resources, lets me see what my friends are playing (and jump into their games if I want), has community features, lets you buy games and download demos with a few mouse clicks… In short, it’s what Games for Windows Live should be.

Anyone who did have problems would have had to simply spend five minutes looking on the Steam Powered forums for help. I agree that it is annoying having to connect to authenticate your game (well, only if you don’t have a net connection), but it has to do it precisely once per installation; you can then even download the game again if you lose the disc, and you can download it onto alternate PCs if you’re at a friend’s house for a LAN party; in short, unlike pretty much ANY other form of DRM, it adds value to the original product.

To reiterate, you don’t have to be online to play games on Steam. And, for the record, you don’t have to be online to play through GfWL either, or even to register.

Next, people complained about the lack of base building, how it removed tactics and variety from the game. This just shows how narrow minded and conservative people are; the only ‘tactics’ it has removed are the choices between rushing, turtling and teching. Apparently, removing bases removes the ‘epic’ feeling the original Dawn of War had.

I think this is rubbish. Let’s leave aside the issues with the game now being about actual tactics rather than rushing, multiplayer feels a lot more like a small skirmish in a much wider war. Smaller unit caps encourage you to think about how your forces are distributed; do you blob them all together over a central Victory Point, or do you spread them out to try and capture a large number of points? A game makes you do something different to what people are used to doing, and it gets abuse for it. Pathetic.

Any excuse to use this picture

Dawn of War teaches you to think about your units; yes, Warhammer 40,000 is about death and destruction on a massive scale, but Space Marines are supposed to be genetically engineered supermen. Losing just a single marine is a blow to the Imperium, equivalent to tens of thousands (if not hundreds of thousands or even millions) of Guardsmen; the same goes for the Eldar. The small scale lets you focus on each unit and their personality (which, lets face it, is what WH40K has in buckets), and encourages you to keep them alive. And besides, as the Total War series has shown, base building and epic games aren’t mutually exclusive; in fact, it’s very hard to find an RTS game that’s more epic than any of the instalments in Creative Assembly’s masterful series.

Finally, to the guy who bought the game for his 7 year old son, the game has a 16+ rating for a reason…

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