Games Workshop, a UK based company specializing in table-top games, has managed to have several of its properties turned into video games, though none have had quite the impact of Dawn of War. Not only was the game able to capture the very essence of the 40K universe, but it did so in such a way that it managed to infuse a healthy dose of action into a genre that can sometimes become a bore. The gameís popularity was enough to inspire an equally good expansion, Winter Assault, which improved on Dawn of Warís few shortcomings as well as adding a new faction into the mix. Now THQ and Relic are readying a second expansion that is slightly more ambitious than the last. Titled Dark Crusade, the latest expansion will include two new races as well as making some new options like an open-ended campaign system and hero customization.
One of the two new factions is the Necrons, a race of undead warriors whose history traces back over 60 million years. Years of constant, bloody war have caused the Necrons to rise from their slumber with the intent of harvesting the souls of fallen warriors. While a race of zombies might seem out of place, their appearance keeps them in line with the gameís futuristic setting. Rather than resembling flesh-and-bone zombies, the Necrons resemble skeletal robots (think Terminator). Once destroyed, these automatons have the ability to pull themselves back together and continue fighting. Luckily for the rest of the galaxy, the Nercons move slowly.
Necron units include standard warriors, as well as bug-like creatures called Scarabs, flying monstrosities called Wraiths and the Necron Lord, who serves as the Necronís leader who has the ability to revive fallen warriors. On top of that, the Necronís weapon-filled fortress can be converted into a floating weapons platform.
Also joining the fray is the Tau, a group of peacekeepers who are not afraid to fight when their ideals of unity are under fire. The Tauís main weapons are their Fire Warriors, a group of high-tech sharpshooters. From a distance the Tau are deadly, though they arenít as good in close-combat. Tau Commanders can also don jet-packs, making them even more dangerous than their ground-based subordinates.
One of my bigger complaints with Dawn of War (and its expansion) was its single-player side. Both offered a good story, though the story felt oddly disjoined, especially Winter Assaultís multiple perspective layout. Dark Crusade takes a different approach to its campaigns.
One of the first major differences with Dark Crusade is that youíll be able to experience the story from the perspective of any of the gameís seven races. How you go about conquering the planet Kronus is up to you. Youíll be able to pick and choose where you want to take the battle in a style reminiscent of Risk. Capturing territories will net you strategic and economic benefits. Not only will your factionís money flow improve, but youíll also be able to build up defenses and recruit new troops to help defend your territory. How this style will mesh with the gameís plot hasnít been completely revealed, but the new approachís epic scale is an exciting prospect.
Another major introduction is the ability to customize Hero classes. As your campaign picks up steam, your commander will earn prestige. Higher prestige means better equipment that will improve your hero (and armyís) chances in battle. The new gear will even show up on your hero, which in a way harkens back the gameís tabletop roots considering the vast amount of personalization it allows (especially when coupled with the painting tools available in the game.
With the addition of two new races as well as some truly exciting gameplay enhancements, it looks like Relic is well on its way to releasing an expansion that may outsize the original game itís expanding on. Look for Dawn of War: Dark Crusade later this year.