Soulstorm

24 01 2009

I got the steam deal of Warhammer 40k: Dawn of War Soulstorm, since it came with the Dawn of War 2 beta. Also, being a fan of Company of Heroes, i decided that $7.49 for another Relic RTS isn’t a bad deal, with the game’s 9 races, that boils down to 83 cents per race, which is a steal. I got the impression, fro reviews that the core game is pretty good, with the expansions improving the experience little by little, culminating in Soulstorm adding two races to the mix, merely to have a bullet point of 9 races, without improving anything else. I have played this game a few hours a day for the past few days, so take this with a grain of salt, but i do feel i can make an opinion about the game.

I do realize that the races are from the Warhammer 40k universe, but the Sisters of Battle are not an entire race, they were a sect, of sorts, of the Imperial Guard. For those not familiar with the game, the focus is kept on squads and combat by having the player capture control points of different kinds on the map, and the more you have, the faster your resources will come in. It truly keeps your mind focused on always upgrading your squads and expanding rather than building a second base closer to a geyser so you can build starships faster.
However, having played Company of Heroes and loving the crap out of it, i thought i would be getting into a similar experience: minor emphasis on base-building, combat-centric and no dirt farming, all with squad-based gameplay. That seems like too many hyphens for one sentence…
In short, i got that, and am having fun with the game. I couldn’t imagine paying the full $30 for it, especially if this is my fourth purchase for this game. Company of Heroes made me look again at all the strategy games i’ve played in the past, Dawn of War does to a much lesser extent. What hooked me into CoH was how clearly defined the units were, this might say something about me, but i liked having the tooltip say “good vs vehicles” instead of four sentences total saying that the unit “can have a flame weapon which make it good against infantry”.
In CoH, sending a few groups to attack is an exercise in coordination, how well you can flank the squad of infantry equipped with flamethrowers matters more than you having a bigger gun, for instance. In CoH, units can be pinned if a tank rolls into the scene, and they can retreat out, so losing units is most always a result of bad planning from the player.
In Dawn of War, there is no such mechanism, which makes that tank surprise give you an exercise in tab-cycling through your groups and constantly reinforcing them all (reinforcing units is cheaper than building a whole new squad and doesn’t add to your population cap). Also, in CoH, multiple upgrade options to infantry, as well as vehicles, allow you to accomodate your units for specific battles, such as a Sherman tank with a mine flail can make infantry really easy to deal with. In Soulstorm, there are options, however they are not as immediately different, and it doesn’t effect your whole squad, just a few units within. For instance, my battle sisters squad, which is the basic infantry unit for the Sisters of Battle, out of a total of 10 units in the squad, 5 units can be upgraded with an anti-vehicle gun, or a flamethrower. This makes them a little better against vehicles or infantry, however it’s a marginal difference since that is only half of your squad, which isn’t a lot of units in a battle.
While there are things to bicker about, moreso when you compare it to such a great game like CoH. Despite the few minor things above, I still find myself thinking about the game when i’m away from the computer, and trying to think of good unit combinations and upgrades for squads, which is a good sign to me. I’m not sure if i could recommend anyone to buy the FULL Dawn of War experience, $30 for the base game, winter assault and dark crusade, and another $30 for Soulstorm, when Company of Heroes Gold is $30 and they have a new expansion, Tales of Valor, coming out soon. If, however, you’re interested in a pretty solid and fun RTS, you might want to give it a shot.