Warhamer 40,000: Dawn of War: Soulstorm: The Review

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Regular fans of the Dawn of War franchise may remember Gabriel Angelos, the all-around badass Space Marine Force Commander. Once again, we have a game that Gabriel is not present in. Instead, we get what is basically a Commander of the Week, one who appears to have something wrong with either his mic, his voice or his brain. His name is Frenchy McBloodRaven, and (For me) he serves as an example of the sort of quality one can expect from the rest of this game.

Those of you who have played Dark Crusade may remember the "Motorcross Splatterdeath Event" narrator. He's here once again, putting so much emphasis into every single word that it's impossible to take him seriously. Just like last time, actually, but without the mitigating benefit of novelty. And now for the rest of the review.

If you've played any game with a metamap, it's probably going to have been a Total War game. These games were and are excellent, and the metamap is an essential part of the game. Personally, I never fight a battle myself. I resort to wave upon wave of troops and just spam the Auto-Resolve button. It seems to work, especially when crushing the Scottish in Medieval 2.

The metamap has cropped up time and time again in the lifetime of gaming. The first game with a metamap that I remember playing was Syndicate for the PC, although the world map in that game was only ever used as a level select and made no pretences to being anything more. Then came the Total War franchise, and strategy-lovers gamers across the world collectively came in their pants at the thought.

By contrast, the metamap in Empire Earth 3 was ugly as sin and annoying to boot. Then came Dawn of War: Dark Crusade. It was a much simpler map than the Total War players were used to, but it was always about armies pounding the living shit out of each other and not about diplomacy in the slightest, so that was okay. Seven armies on one planet was pushing it a bit, although you generally started far enough away from each other that you weren't staring at an enemy base after the first turn of movement.

The computer cheated, but that was to be expected. Going up against the unpredictably stupid and stupidly unpredictable possibilities and tactics that human players with very little time on their hands would create and abuse given half the chance was always going to be difficult, so Relic did the next best thing: They broke the game to allow the AI the advantage in sheer numbers that it needed in order to prove as much of a challenge as it could to the player.

And we loved it (Or at least, I did). I loved pushing my way across territory after territory, then being forced to defend my hard-won land. Logically, when I did so, my previously-erected buildings and defences were already in place. This was to be expected (And hoped for), and all was good. I played Dark Crusade for a long time, but never got around to finishing it (As with almost all the games I play).

Then came Soulstorm. Seven races on a single planet was a bit of a push, but nine races in a solar system? I could see that working better. What I wasn't counting on was the fact that said solar system was smaller than [JOKE REMOVED BY THOUGHT POLICE]. Interplanetary travel was restricted to a network of "Ancient Gates", and Iron Lore saw fit to place unlimited travel through these Gates in the hands of one of the available races. It fit with the fluff, sure, but they also saw fit to make sure that anybody who wanted to assault their stronghold had to take a specific path. In other words, they had to cut a path through a planet held by one single faction.

In the meantime, over on one of the other planets, three armies started mere inches away from one another, meaning that whatever direction you chose to move in if you were either of those three, you were almost inevitably staring down the barrel of somebody's gun after the first turn. The other two planets had two races each, which was more acceptable.

However, since each planet is only about six territories large, and any direction similar in any way to the direction the local enemy stronghold lies in takes you right into their face. The whole campaign felt cramped and underwhelming right from the start, but the worst was yet to come. No sooner had I taken a territory than I had the dubious honour of defending it. I felt confident while the map was loading, safe in the knowledge that my Listening Posts and turrets would at least buy me a *little* time.

I was shocked to discover that EVERYTHING bar my HQ was gone. I thought it was a bug, but research on the Relic News forums revealed the truth: Somebody had decided that making players fight what was essentially the same skirmish battle every time was a good thing. Only after losing hideously to early-game unit spam did I discover that I could garrison buildings as well as units. This is a feature that has split some of the Dawn of War community. Some believe it to be a good feature, designed to dissuade players from filling each map up with our stuff after crippling the enemy bases, just to make sure we couldn't lose any other battles held there.

Others, like myself, believe it to be a first-grade cockslap. The argument that battles in the DC campaign took too long because people were spamming turrets and Listening Posts is null and void. Why? Because any time we may have spent building up our defences in DC is more than offset by the extra time each defence takes in Soulstorm now. Apparently Frenchy McBloodRaven and his counterparts must destroy every building in a region other than the bare minimum of deployable shit after every battle.

The explanation I encountered the most? Apparently, it means that defences are no longer boring. If memory serves, defences in DC weren't anywhere near boring, simply because you could Auto-Resolve to skip them if you wanted and you had the option of spamming turrets if you wanted to. You didn't NEED to, but you always had the OPTION to.

I voiced my opinion on the Relic News forum, and recieved quite a bit of flak for "not playing the game how it was meant to be played". I wasn't aware that grinding the same goddamn skirmish maps every turn with not even a semblance of progress was meant to be fun in any way whatsoever, not after the second defence of that same territory in that turn. Instead we get what is essentially a mod masquerading as a game, one less gaming company in the world, and the recent revelation that the reason Relic contracted this crap out was that they had better things to work on.

I think that says something about the quality of a game, doesn't it? When the company ultimately responsible for a game decides to have some other company do the work for them because they've got a better project in the works, that's liable to send my internal alarm going haywire. The Auto-Resolve's knackered, half the racial abilities are hit-and-miss and some don't even work properly, at least two races can't be played in multiplayer on pain of being accused of cheating due to various game-breaking bugs, the AI blatantly cheats on numerous occasions (Honour Guard especially), and half the community seemed to descend on me in a fit of rabid, murderous hatred for even *daring* to want persistent bases (And let's not go into what happened when I said that I didn't despise turtling).

Welcome to Dawn of War: Fake Difficulty, where The Computer is a Cheating Bastard. The entire thing was designed so that we'd play the campaign for longer by placing an artificial extension on the play time. Unfortunately, Iron Lore failed to understand that most people with any brain cells have no interest in playing the same goddamn skirmish battle over and over again on the same map with no progress made on our part between battles (I guess they brought their Titan Quest notes with them).

I will say one thing, though: Soulstorm's campaign certainly helped me get back into Dark Crusade's. I might actually finish it this time, which is a great thing as if I were to play the Soulstorm campaign, I'd be fighting up to eight defences a turn, and limited to the same tiny collection of base buildings from the Garrison each time.

At least Relic are working on patches for the game, though. First up is a hotfix and next is a 'real' patch. Hopefully between now and then, this game will actually become one that's worth my attention. I'll still be calling for a "Keep Bases" checkbox somewhere in the Options menu, though...

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The Problems That I Have Seen So Far
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1) Even if the player wins an Auto-Resolve, the Strength value of that territory will drop to 1 regardless (That means all that Planetary Req you spent on troops and buildings is wasted).

2) The Sisters of Battle can get infinite Power during a match by abusing a specific building upgrade.

3) The Necron unit the Deciever can spawn an Illusionary Monolith that does not do damage but DOES knock enemy units away. This Monolith can be loaded with a unit of Flayed Ones before it despawns in order to transform it into a REAL Monolith, which gives them one extra Monolith. I have seen reports of seven or eight on the field at the same time.

4) The Tau's special Campaign ability, the Ar'ka Cannon, is bugged to hell. It either does nothing or damages the units/buildings of the player who uses it. Other Campaign abilities are woefully underpowered (Orks) or broken in comparison (Space Marines, Sisters of Battle).

5) Quite a lot of shitty voices. From Frenchy McBloodRaven's voice as a whole to the Dark Eldar as a whole ("There is mischief to be done!" is not a quote worthy of a species that survives by torture and stealing souls. It's a quote worthy of a Dennis the Menace episode that the censors decided to make an example of)...

Overall: Buy Dark Crusade. Seriously, when I first played this game I thought it was a mod. That's never good.

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Edit: Racism removed. I'll just have to compensate by including double the racism in the next review. ;)

I didnt even realise there was a metamap campaing to Soulstorm (never got past playing skirmish maps) :-P. Might check that out, though from what youve said its prob not worth it :-(. Still havent played a rts metamap campaign better than Rise of Nations conquer the world

I must agree. I ran into the same problem when I popped my disc in. After running roughshod through the Dark Eldar territories, Chaos Lord Firestarter Dinobot-Wannabe decided that the only smart idea was to rush headlong onto the planet controlled by the Orks, Tau, and aforementioned Monsieur McBloodRaven. When my first territory on that planet was attacked by the Tau, I was shocked to find that my wall of turrets (four Command Centres worth), listening posts, minefields, and the like were all mysteriously AWOL. At first, I thought it was the power of the Ar'ca cannon. But then the Orks attacked me immediately after...wow.

Another big issue for me was how some of the races just felt wrong. The Orks stronghold is a well-defended mountain fortress, well-stocked and forcing the attacker to run a siege gauntlet. The Tau, who normally deploy a mobile style of defense, build up a monstrous defensive cannon and deploy stationary guns everywhere. And the Imperial Guard apparently have hundreds of Baneblades at their disposal...when usually one in a single army is incredibly rare. Probably a result of passing off Soulstorm onto Iron Lore. They completely screwed the background IMO.

Finally, the computer is really nuts to take on. I haven't even finished the campaign yet, but it's already looking like a living hell. The Eldar and Necrons are all well defended on their own little rock, and I've got the Sisters and Guard double teaming me. The odd part is the honour guard. Every time I attack a sister's territory, or successfully defend one of my own, they keep their full bodyguard. Now I know she doesn't have enough requisition to pay for her entire bodyguard at once, so why do they fully deploy the next round. Facing 7 honour guard squads (including THREE immolators!!) is tough enough, but factor in that I start with no defences and I'm screwed. This is nuts. Oh yeah, this is on easy difficulty...EASY!!

I think what happened is that Relic is working too hard on DoW 2. They had Soulstorm in development, and passed it off to Iron Lore so they could get to work on the next game. We can only hope that DoW 2 is an improvement. Judging by screenshots, it will be.

The odd part is the honour guard.

The Honour Guard is one of the more blatant ways in which the computer cheats. It will obtain units you could never have, it will obtain them for free, it will obtain them again every time they die and it will obtain them regardless of territory claimed. They will descend upon your garrisoned territories and instantly initiate a rush on your defenceless or almost-defenceless base.

If you're lucky, you'll have your own Honour Guard (With more limited numbers, and that you have to pay for and look after) to repel at least part of the inevitable first-minute rush with the aid of whatever Tier 1 units you can spam to meet the charge head-on and soak up most of the death.

If you're still lucky, you'll fight your way past or around the rush and seek out the enemy base yourself for a bit of payback, only to discover that while you spent your mid-battle Requisition and Power on spamming units to match the enemy's Honour Guard, the computer was free to spend its own resources on expanding its base (Inevitably involving turrets).

And unlike Dark Crusade, where it was the enemy's HQ you had to destroy in order to win a map, in Soulstorm the bog-standard campaign victory type involves more destruction. I can't remember if it's "Destroy all enemy buildings" or "Destroy all enemy unit production buildings", but it's another pointless time-sink designed to make sure to stretch out the campaign for as long as possible by extending the length of the battles.

The overall quality of said campaign is inferior, and I must admit to certain thoughts along the lines of "No wonder Iron Lore went out of business if this is the shit they make". The entire game really does seem like a mod. Take a look at your Chaos tooltips, for instance. How many references to the Chaos Lord from Dark Crusade can you find? This is just a mod, piggybacked on the back of Dark Crusade. It's a mod that players had to pay for.

It's just like most mods, in fact. The modders change some numbers here and there and call it "rebalancing", record their lines in their rooms and don't clean up things from the original game that they changed. In short, it's a sloppy, sloppy piece of work, and proof that Iron Lore should have stuck to what they actually knew how to do.

The campaign is nothing more than a series of skirmish maps, and you could just play an endless sequence of Annihilation maps with the odd Take and Hold map thrown in and you wouldn't notice the difference. If anything, the lack of the extremely unfair campaign advantages for the AI (Honour Guard spam and multiple bases at the start, which basically means multiple armies) might make the whole thing a bit fairer. Just find the various "faction death" ending videos on YouTube and you're all sorted. Put a print screen of the campaign metamap on your desktop if you want.

It's rare that I say "I could do better" about anything, mostly because I'm generally too lazy to learn the skills necessary to follow through on such a claim. The community could definitely do better, though. If we were given access to the tools necessary to create the metamap files, that is.

Good review. I enjoyed reading it. I don't own the game but play it on a friends PC. Just one little thing... I wanna hear more about the Dark Eldar!

I liked the review, but it was a bit marred by "smaller than a Chinaman's cock"- that's just a bit racist. Good, otherwise.

Only ever played the first game, but I think I was always in it more for the space marines than the strategy. Something about desperately fighting off enemy armies thirty seconds into the game with two turrets and a saucepan really doesn't appeal to me.

Bring on the sequel, says I. 'Nuff of this expansion pack bollocks.

i think your being a touch harsh on soulstorm, lets not forget that relic have more important things to do, like dawn of war 2 (like we didn't expect games workshop to rip the piss out of everything they do, thank you for continuing price rises on your tabletop range..twats) But i gotta admit a lot of it seemed half arsed. air units, why? really they dont act all that differently to ground units except they ignore most terrain, which doesnt matter anything for when your ground units are shooting (ive shot through 20ft thick walls before because the enemy was just simply in range) I think dawn of war as a series has worn out. the first one was fanastic, winter assault got us the nice heavy imperial guard and dark crusade brought up more of what i liked about it, then soulstorm came along and soured it. like one of you said, It feels like a mod. it plays bad. for me the loading times are horrible (in single player, multi player/ skirmish im only waiting 5 mins for lol) i also dont get why the sisters of battle got melta weapons and no plasma OR missile launchers... wtf? space marines have them too... didn't somebody really think the weapon type shud be limited because all we wanted from soulstorm was a bunch of jumped up school girls in corset fetish armor shooting big shiney beams of light at things? (ok its nice but still...)
every expansion to DOW has always overpowered the new stuff, sisters and dark eldar are no different, and once the patches start flowing we'll be left with a bunch of crying kiddies who lost their lolly pops and the emo kids from the back of the classroom. ...
So come on relic and GWI. hit me with DOW2 and make it good ...

lets not forget that relic have more important things to do,

Precisely my point. They had something more important to do. They had something better to do. They had something *better than Soulstorm* to work on. So then, why bother with Soulstorm at all? It's pretty obvious that games are made for the money, but don't make it *that* obvious.

Relic contracted the game out to Iron Lore. What are Iron Lore best at? Apparently, endless grindfests, if Titan Quest, Immortal Throne and Soulstorm's campaign are anything to go by. Soulstorm brought precious little to the table, and what it did bring was undercooked.

i think your being a touch harsh on soulstorm

Better a touch harsh than not harsh at all. I'd rather tear a game apart for its flaws than praise it at all. It's not due to trying to be "another Yahtzee", it's just because there's more than one cynical bastard out there.

Blayze:

i think your being a touch harsh on soulstorm

Better a touch harsh than not harsh at all. I'd rather tear a game apart for its flaws than praise it at all. It's not due to trying to be "another Yahtzee", it's just because there's more than one cynical bastard out there.

Plus it's just a human thing I guess. Who can we better ourselves if no one is telling you how much you suck?

I think we need to be very harsh on soulstorm to make sure its mistakes do not spread to DoW2 which I hope will be done right. Agree with the review.
The only reason I even bought soulstorm was because of a loyalty to the franchise, I've loved DoW since day one, and loved it even more since my favourite race the Tau were put in, then loved it slightly less because they weren't done right(fire warriors are not fucking heavy infantry!).

Anyway offtopic rambling aside, good review.

true ive bought all of them and i was over the moon when crusade came out i thought, wow 7 factions, and when soulstorm came out i thought yes seconds please but it was shabby, the campaign was shit just a bigger crusade. i only play multiplayer on it. the only good thing that came out of soulstorm was the two extra factions, which was practically there selling point.

i agree with morfoir, dedicated to the core and i still think that dark eldar(my fav) kick ass on multiplayer but the game overall is shit and maybe DOW2 will have the tyrinid.

Without going into detail - quite frankly, I wanted to like Soulstorm as much as anybody; possibly more so, but I think it constitutes a new low for the franchise. I finished the campaign at least once, and kept going because I still had warhammer on the brain, but I just got to the point where I couldn't keep ignoring it's shortcomings.

Honestly, I should've known better. Iron Lore folded something like a week before the game actually launched. If I'd known that, I wouldn't have bought it.

the two extra factions, which was practically there selling point.

Which could just be modded into an earlier game, unique resources and all.

lucky me then it only cost me a fiver. mind you buying a fiver worth of dark elder and SOB stickers would have been more satisfying

yeah blayze it could have been modded, but wouldnt have had the same feel of the real game, not the same grit. And the attack mechanics would be a bit awry.

im not on the games side by the way, just the factions.

but its true we all expected it to be grand. big air dogfights in all.

3'd.

Give my love to your grammar, Blayze.

Probably the best proof that this game is a rushed "mod" is when playing the Chaos campaign. When you upgrade the commander to a daemon prince, it says that Eliphas the Inheritor ascends, not Firestarter Dinobot-Wannabe (or w/e his name is). Also, the banner that shows after you conquer an enemy stonghold is the Word Bearers, not the Alpa Legion.

irishdelinquent:
Probably the best proof that this game is a rushed "mod" is when playing the Chaos campaign. When you upgrade the commander to a daemon prince, it says that Eliphas the Inheritor ascends, not Firestarter Dinobot-Wannabe (or w/e his name is). Also, the banner that shows after you conquer an enemy stonghold is the Word Bearers, not the Alpa Legion.

ive just looked that up and yeah the flag is but ive got the latest patch and it doesnt say eliphas

Give my love to your grammar, Blayze.

/salute

Thanks, Mel.

Huh. Now I'm glad I only own "Dark Crusade", regardless of the narrator's voice. Still, I've always wanted to see how that hive-minded race and the Dark Eldar play in the video game. Detailed and entertaining review! Success!

Um, I like it, but am unlikely to finish it as I did Dark Crusade (every race too - was fun, saved Space Marines to last)

That review kinda put me off getting Soulstorm. The original DoW was the first RTS game i played without cheating and i thought it was awesome! Dark Crusade was the best yet and i really liked the meta-map and the Tau. I havent tried Soulstorm yet, but from this review, I doubt I will any time soon.
No persistent bases? That's sad. That was one of the parts that made the DC campaign fun and realistic. Without it, i doubt i would have wanted to finish the campaign. Playing the same goddamned map over and over again even with persistent bases is a bit boring =P. If thats whats happenin in Soulstorm, i won't get it.
As i said, I havent tried Soulstormthe voice acting in Dawn of War has always been excellent. Its cheesy, but its terrific (I really loved the individual amount of effort directed at each single units voice acting). It is really that shitty, i'm definitely not trying the game.
One other thing i have against the campaign (and one reason why i didnt buy it) are the air units. From what I've seen, each race (excluding Necrons) get onli one air unit. Which doesnt seem to do much. It sounds like some half-assed attempt to inject new flavor into the game. Plus, they didnt even add new units. Come on, if they want to add air units, couldnt they at least make them viable and more interesting, instead of making them look like last-minute add-ons to the game. Or alternatively, they could add in new units.
Soulstorm is the last game in the Dawn of War series. Relic may be working on the new DW2, but couldnt they at least give us a good, fun game, one last game to end the first series with a bang instead of pushing to some developer who cant get it right?

(P.S, i havent tried Soulstorm yet, this is just based on what i've heard of the game's system and from other people who've tried the game)

I love Dow but as seems to be the general opinion here i was very underwhelmed by soulstorm, it felt rushed & i don't think they playtested it at all the balance is terrible, bring on Dow2 and i really hope they aren't cheap about it and make us by a race or 2 at a time again.

I love Dow but as seems to be the general opinion here i was very underwhelmed by soulstorm, it felt rushed & i don't think they playtested it at all the balance is terrible, bring on Dow2 and i really hope they aren't cheap about it and make us by a race or 2 at a time again.

Blayze:

The odd part is the honour guard.

The Honour Guard is one of the more blatant ways in which the computer cheats. It will obtain units you could never have, it will obtain them for free, it will obtain them again every time they die and it will obtain them regardless of territory claimed. They will descend upon your garrisoned territories and instantly initiate a rush on your defenceless or almost-defenceless base.

However, the computer's honour guard units are just bog standard units, rather than the super-special-awesome honour guard units you get.

Some of the HG units are bugged though, and take up cap when they shouldn't. Also, the Necron regional power doesn't seem to work. It's supposed to have a 33% chance of resurrecting a dead HG unit, but never seemed to do so (and that's not terribly useful anyway, not compared to the IG, SoB, and SM powers)

Also, whilst persistent bases are gone, the advantages the computer used to get in starting construction and resources are gone as well.

Probably the best proof that this game is a rushed "mod" is when playing the Chaos campaign. When you upgrade the commander to a daemon prince, it says that Eliphas the Inheritor ascends, not Firestarter Dinobot-Wannabe (or w/e his name is). Also, the banner that shows after you conquer an enemy stonghold is the Word Bearers, not the Alpa Legion.

Also, all his select quotes are the same as Eliphas.

But then, no-one uses the Daemon Prince ascension anyway, because it gimps the Chaos Lord hard, losing the Helm of Alpharius, Banner of Chaos, and warp fire ability, and about 30% of his DPS.

Been playing the campaign with Marines for a week or 2 now and all was going well... or so I thought (when you accept that the computer is a cheating bastard!) Ive been playing the game on Hard mode and although its been a little tough at times and even more time consuming ,I
kept playing until tonight!

The Sisters of Battle territory (level10)seems to have 3! (THREE!!!)bases as their defenses! FFS!!! I mean COME ON! i can kill one base pretty quickly using every bit of req i have along with the extra drop troops that the marines get but the other 2 get fully built up and completely stoomp the shite out of me!

its testical twistingly annoying! why oh why does a game designer do this? its not smart,its not endearing, its just FOOKING head wreaking!

I realise now (thanks to this thread) how the sisters get so many melta weapons so quickly and hammer me so quickly, also it explains the 10 rhinos generally annoying me and the fleet of air craft pounding me like im a dead seal!

oh and the space marine commanders melta gun does not work, its another fix needed... its a noisey flash light!

all in all , i think the review is generous... im not a happy camper, thanks SoulStorm for wasting SO MUCH of my time only to tell me to piss off and accept such a crappy expansion.

2/5 for SoulSucker

i only really have a few problems with this "game". first of all, i agree with many of you that it feels like a mod thrown together instead of an actual game. easily noticeable things like the chaos lord whats-his-face looking and sounding EXACTLY like Eliphas the Inheritor from Dark Crusade.

the AI begins the matches with hundreds of buildings and elite troops for me to defend against with my small band of weak tier 1 rabble and no buildings, which i had when i fought there last time. (how am i supposed to repel a full on assault of Dark Eldar warp beasts and an entire fully equiped army after less than thirty seconds of play?!?!)

Fireandice:

the AI begins the matches with hundreds of buildings and elite troops for me to defend against with my small band of weak tier 1 rabble and no buildings, which i had when i fought there last time. (how am i supposed to repel a full on assault of Dark Eldar warp beasts and an entire fully equiped army after less than thirty seconds of play?!?!)

Garrison buildings and troops.

Also, the AI only starts with a tier 1 base in Soulstorm, it's advantage in early manpower from Dark Crusade has been toned down massively. When it's attacking you, it's only honour guard units you have to worry about, and they only build up large honour guards right at the end.

I'm not really into this genre of games, but the review was well written. Well done.

Thanks. Anyway, Relic are still no closer to releasing either a patch or a "hotfix", and it took a community-developed mod to put persistent bases back into the game (Thank you, Incarnate!) where they belong. Now if only the rest of the game was finished...

The biggest problem I had with this game was the abysmal load time on the main screen. It's not just my comp, I mean dark crusade worked fine, and I play a fairly top of the range machine, but honestly 3+minutes for the meta map to start? Come on!

Having been a competative DoW player i feel you could have touched upon the multiplayer aspects of the game a little more, however you hit the nail on the head more or less about the single player campaign.
It's unfortunate that SS came out as it did, i for one found myself horrendously bored of the game after only a few weeks of play.

Good review fella.

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