Honest Opinions: Dawn of War 2 Multiplayer Beta and Halo Wars demo

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This week has been a great week for RTS fans. First, the DoW 2 Multiplayer Beta was released and I have been playing that like a madman. And then last night I finally had the time to download the Halo Wars demo on XBL. I was very skeptical of Halo Wars, since I have tried out RTS’s on a console before. But, I was surprised. So for a long time RTS fan, it’s been nice to have some RTS’s to play. And of course, like any good journalist(read: blogger), I just had to write up my opinions on these two games as seen through the betas/demos.

Opinions after the jump.

Dawn of War 2: Multiplayer Beta

I loved DoW 1. Let me state that again, I LOVED Dawn of War 1. But, for whatever reason, probably through sheer laziness on my part, I never picked up the expansion packs for it so I never played Soulstorm or the others so I can’t comment on how those games might have improved the game and led to the choices Relic made in making Dawn of War 2. Just keep that in mind as I talk about DoW 2. Also remember I’m speaking about just the multiplayer aspect.

DoW 2 takes the economy building of traditional RTS’s and says, “That’s boring. I would rather shoot things.” You still have two resource types, energy and power (I think that’s what they are called), but you can only increase these by capturing points around the map. What I have found is that this forces you to keep your units moving and it also makes it hard to build the large armies most are accustomed to. In fact, the most units I’ve had on one game so far is six or seven. Oh, and you can’t build defensive structures.

This game is all about squad tactics and taking advantage of your surrounding. There is a cover system that is new and easy to implement. Simply click on the object and holding down your right mouse button brings up a direction arrow you use to tell your units where to points when they are in cover. And believe me, using cover is essential. Also, each race (there are four, Space Marines, Orks, Eldar and Tyranid) has 3 hero units you can choose from. Usually a front liner, a healer/caster and a support type. Each come with their own abilities, so learning what abilities each one gives you is important.

Look ma, I can fly!!!

All units can level up through kills, which means that if you can keep the same units alive the whole match, they’ll be pretty strong by the time you get to the end. Upgrading units with weapons, armor or abilities is back as well.

There are still several bugs left to be worked out and I think the pricing structure of the Space Marines needs to be worked on, but if you like mirco management of units vs. large scale economy and armies, than you should give Dawn of War 2 a shot. I liked World in Conflict so I know I’m not your typical RTS player. But either way, don’t pass this one up just because it’s different.

The release date for Dawn of War 2 is February 19th.

Halo Wars Demo

When I first heard that a company was taking the Halo universe and turning it into an RTS, I was skeptical. When I heard it was a console release, I was even more so. I’ve tried adaptations of RTS’s from PC to console, and they are horrible. It’s a littler harder to select units quickly with a control stick than with a mouse. And though that problem still persists in this game, the dev’s have come up with an easy solution. USE THOSE BUMPER BUTTONS. Left bumper selects all units you have builts and right bumper selects the ones on the screen. The game also places all units of the same type into the same group so if you select your marines, you will select all of them. While this might be annoying for those micro pro’s, for the rest of us, it’s nice. Oh and by the way, this game is GORGEOUS. Absolutely beautiful, especially on my new TV. :)

Every unit has a normal attack and a special attack. Special attacks can be upgraded with resources back to your base. And speaking of your base, here’s how it works. Resources are gained by building support pads, which can be upgraded to provide more resources faster. Other than that, there are boxes scattered around the maps you can collect for more resource goodness. The initial base has five spots around it to build additions such as barracks, vehicle pads, armories etc. Once you upgrade to a fortress, you have two more pads to use as well as new buildings. Each base also comes with four turret emplacements. And that’s it folks. Simple, clean and easy.

As for the menu system, once again, they found an easy way to do it. Clicking on a building brings up a ring menu with options presented in points around the proverbial compass. Select the unit or upgrade you want and you’re done. It’s fast and easy and with practice, you’ll be a pro at it. The last thing to mention is the support from your space ship, the Spirit of Fire. The ‘Fire has basic support options such as healing units, dropping some ODST into the battle field, bombing runs and the ever-popular MAC cannon attack.


A typical Halo Wars battle

After playing this demo, I was really impressed with what Ensemble has done. It’s a shame they are closing their doors, but hopefully a good support team will be put together. The current release date is March 3rd for the US and February 27th for Europe.

I know both of these games are different than what most people expect. I mean, you have an RTS that only has about half of what makes up an RTS (according to most players) and another one that is actually good on a CONSOLE??!?! Most people are probably wondering if I smoked something while playing these games (which I might have done, but who’s telling?), but give them an honest chance. Download the demo/beta and see for yourself. We as gamers are always complaining of game companies giving us the same rehashed theme/mechanics, so how about trying something that’s different for once.

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