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Dawn of War retrospective: ten years of war in the 41st millennium

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Dawn of War retrospective: ten years of war in the 41st millennium Dawn of War retrospective: ten years of war in the 41st millennium

Dawn of War retrospective: ten years of war in the 41st millennium



The Wraithlord is a twelve-foot tall monster crafted from psychic bone, imbued with the spirit of an ancient warrior who exists to only to kill. The Space Marine Captain is the champion of a barely-human warrior caste who runs around in power armour that compounds his ridiculous strength. When these two meet on a battlefield, something messy and exciting ought to happen.
In Dawn of War, it does. The Wraithlord burns the Captain with his fist-mounted flamethrowers and then crushes him with the squeeze of a single hand. The Captain pops in a cloud of red goo that Relic refer to as the “blood pinata” effect, and the Wraithlord throws his broken corpse out of the melee leaving a messy trail across the map. It’s grim. It’s perfect. Dawn of War is one of the few games to get close to delivering the spectacle the Warhammer 40k universe demands. In pursuit of that fantasy, Relic also challenged the RTS format created by Dune 2 and proliferated by Command & Conquer, StarCraft and Age of Empires.
“One of the expressions on the team at the time, as was related to me, was ‘in the 41st millennium, no-one chops wood.’” says Phillip Boulle, campaign and narrative designer on Dawn of War and its subsequent expansions. “It was all about going out, all the ways you got resources were points of conflict. Go out, fight with the enemy early.”
Wraithlords. They do one thing and they do it well.
Dawn of War does this by inverting the traditional RTS map, which tucks static resources into safe corners behind each faction’s base. Dawn of War ties resources to capture points in the battlefield, a move inspired by the original Warhammer ruleset. “In the tabletop game, there isn’t really any resourcing,” says Ian Cumming, artist, modeller and art director on Dawn of War and Dark Crusade. “It was all about combat and the variety that comes from that, from the different races. Putting the resource system in the field with the control points really served that.” It also granted Dawn of War’s battles a refreshing sense of immediacy. At the time the RTS relied heavily on the hypnotic rhythm of mining and building. The base-stomping final third of an encounter served more as a congratulatory firework display than an expression of combat. Dawn of War is about aggression. From the opening seconds of a fight you’re taking, holding and repelling. The Warhammer fantasy demanded a game about conquest, not administration.
This aggressive intent even surfaces during base-building. When the Space Marines order a new building, it crashes in from orbit and unfolds into a factory. “Most other games previously had put all of the pizazz at when you finish building something. The problem there of course is when you finish building, you’re not looking at it,” says Boulle. Even small touches like this reinforce the idea that the player should be busy waging war. Onl...
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Source of news: PC Gamer
Source of publication: 20-09-2014 09:04
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