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Posted on Mar 10, 2011 in Electronic Games

Dawn of War II: Retribution – PC Game Review

By Rod White

Dawn of War II: Retribution.  PC Game Review.  Pubisher: THQ.  Developer: Relic Entertainment.  $29.99

Passed Inspection: Incredibly inexpensive for a stand-alone RTS game of this caliber. Amazing visuals, topnotch voice acting. Extremely addictive multiplayer and single player action both. It’s based on Warhammer 40k.

Failed Basic: An internet connection is required, because it does utilize Steam to activate and launch the game. The unit cap on most maps somewhat limits the means to truly utilize building troops to add to your force in the single player missions.  It dropped the Taint dynamic for Imperium units that added so much depth to Chaos Rising.


Dawn of War II: Retribution is now among us. Now that I’ve finally been able to dig into the single player side of things, I must say it’s looking pretty darn good. As stated in my preview, Retribution now handles single-player games a little differently, because in it you can select from any one of the five previous races, in addition to the new sixth race, the Imperial Guard, and you can play out an entire single-player campaign from the perspective of each race.

Granted these aren’t epic size campaigns, as each one is about 15 missions long, but it’s pretty cool to see how they managed to somewhat tell the same story from the perspective of all six of the different races involved. As you make your way through the single-player campaign your heroes can loot and earn new wargear bits, plus level up just like they did in the previous Dawn of War II games. Like Chaos Rising before it, Retribution also allows you to play out the single-player campaigns cooperatively with others as well.

As an added bonus, Dawn of War II: Retribution isn’t exactly an expansion pack, because you’re not required to own the previous releases Dawn of War II or Chaos Rising to play Retribution. The only bonus if you do own the previous titles is that you gain the new units that Retribution brings to the field for multiplayer battles. Each previous faction is given a new piece of hardware or unit to add to their arsenals for multiplayer mayhem in Retribution.

All of these new units also appear in the single-player side of things as you make your way through the various campaigns too like the audibly lethal Noise Marines on the Chaos side, and the behemoth vehicle called the Ork BattleWagon just to name a few.

The sound effects and visuals that accompany the Noise Marines is really impressive too. The visual effects spew a Tzeench pink firing graphic as they fire their guns, accompanied by a unique variety of somewhat annoying sounds. If you know anything about Chaos Space Marines and the Noise Marines from Warhammer 40k, you can then really appreciate that in Retribution they did them justice by how well they pulled offer portraying them on the digital battlefield.

One thing that really stands out in Retribution is the voice acting. Just listening to the Ork Warboss Captain Bluddflagg flapping his gums is not only hilarious, because Orks sound like the most illiterate race in the 40k universe, but it’s truly done so convincingly well. It’s all topnotch voice acting throughout. The sound effects are equally as impressive to boot, and the music score is right up there with the previous Dawn of War II games.

Visually speaking it’s also a real treat. I’m still running games on an aging Nvidia 9500 GS video card, but with a Quad-Core AMD processor and 8gigs of memory, and Retribution plays amazingly smooth and looks absolutely stunning at 1600×900, of course with some of the visual details turned down a notch.

It also plays equally as nice on a lowly dual-core processor machine, with an even older 7950 Nvidia video card, with only the slightest slowdown/chop during the more intense cut-scenes moments at tweaked detail settings. So it’s definitely quite scalable, and it surely doesn’t require the most expensive machine out there to get the most out of it. The nice thing is that there’s a built in performance test which will give you a maximum and minimum frames per-second value, and then it suggests what settings to use for better performance based on the results.

Another thing I appreciate in Retribution is that they dumped the whole Games for Windows and Windows Live! junk that the previous versions Dawn of War II titles were plagued with. I always felt that having to set the game up through Steam and then additionally Windows Live! was just a needless additional step.

I think enough players felt the same way and their voices have been heard, because Retribution only uses Steam and the features found within it now. This makes matchmaking light years easier, because Steam is all about PC gamers, not Xbox players. Steam has its own little achievements to unlock as well, so players probably gain more than they lost by moving it all over to Steam. The only downside is that Steam is required to launch and install the game as well. Therefore an internet connection is required, even for single-player action.

Mutiplayer is a real treat, and if you’re a fan of Last Stand there’s a new map for it, plus you can even import your existing Chaos Rising heroes over into Retribution as well. Since I personally have never been a big fan of straight-up Deathmatch type scenarios in RTS games, The Last Stand is a real godsend, because it’s a multiplayer mode that even I can sink my teeth into and enjoy. Having three players going cooperatively at it to see how long they can last versus horde after horde of AI enemies is just genius. All in all, The Last Stand is the ultimate cooperative multiplayer slugfest.

The Imperial Guard (IG) is the spotlight faction of this product, and they’re a lot of fun to play. This digital version of IG mechanized onslaught is pretty impressive on the screen in all its glory too. All of the standard IG units are present including the backbone of any IG army, the Leman Russ tank. There are also Stormtroopers, Catachan Jungle Fighters, even super heavy tanks like the Baneblade. There are also three IG heroes to choose from.

It’s also worth mentioning that you can now even decide to leave your hero on the bench so to speak, in favor of taking other special units with different bonus abilities into combat in Retribution. This is a nice twist. I also found that as you take over structures they can become an HQ, where you can now “build” new units, pretty much creating an army as you go in single-player games.

In previous Dawn f War II games you were pretty much given what units to take with you, and a random unit or two may have joined up with you later in the mission expanding your force a little.  In Retribution you have a little more control over the size of the force you take into combat with you in single-player mode. This is a welcome addition, but the only problem with this capability is that it seems the unit capacity of the maps is pretty low, so you won’t be creating epic size armies for the single-player missions.


At just $30 Retribution is undeniably worth the cost of admission and then some. It is the best Warhammer 40k RTS game yet. It looks great, sounds great, and plays great. Best of all you really don’t even have to be a fan of the Warhammer 40k universe to appreciate what Retribution has to offer. There are a lot of really cool new features and capabilities to be had, so Retribution is more than the average expansion pack, it truly is a great stand-alone RTS product in its own right.

Armchair General Rating:  92%

About the Author

Rod White is a veteran writer with almost two decades’ experience covering games, hardware, military aviation and combat simulations for the PC, as well as diecast collectibles and various tabletop miniatures war games. Formerly co-founder and owner of PC Multimedia & Entertainment Magazine, one of the Internet’s first true online gaming publications to cover PC games, simulations and hardware, he also hosted the ground-breaking RealVideo/RealAudio show called CombatReporterLive! for the AllGamesNetwork/Pseudo, Inc.