Warhammer 40k Dawn of War II Beta Impressions

Marc's picture

On January 28th, the beta for Warhammer 40,000 came out on Game for Windows Live Marketplace and Steam. I downloaded the Steam release version of the game and gave it a try. While the game still needs some polish, it is still very enjoyable. Actually the beta is enjoyable enough to where I am convinced me to buy the game. I am however, not willing to spend 40 or 50 dollars for it though. The value of the game to me seems to be in the $30 range, but that is just how I feel about it at this time.

There are some issues with it that do bug me and could be part of why I am not willing to spend more than $30 for the game.

Issue one is Game for Windows Live. It is by far the best implementation of the system in a game so far, but that is not saying much considering how bad it is. The game requires you to have a Live account to play online or even to save the game in single player mode(the beta does not have a single player mode, but makes sure to inform you that you need a Live account if you want to do any of the above). Forcing someone to use an online service for the single player aspect of a game is not ideal in any way, especially for laptop gamers who may not have Internet access when they intend to play. Where Live is supposed to excel is the multiplayer matching making service, which is all but broken as I write this. Finding a suitable game can result in excess of 10 minutes of waiting at a searching screen. So far I have only been able to get a few online game sessions successfully using this method. Luckily there is a Custom Game search option where you can manually pick a game to play from a list like most other online PC games or you can choose to host a game yourself. There you can choose to make it public (so you end up in the game list) or have it private so you can invite friends into the game.

Some of the "shorter" wait times I have experienced are shown below:

If you download the game through steam, you can still use the Steam features for chat but not much else. The main role of Steam for this game is as a DRM platform. This is the aspect of Steam that has always been the target for critics and rightfully so. The DRM aspect of Steam is its weakest component and it has already shown its ugly head in one game session I was in. I was hosting a game that had been in progress for at least half an hour when Steam suddenly threw up an authentication error. The game dropped me back to the main menu and Steam then went back to normal. The issue there was that I was the host, so the game ended for everyone. These is not an ideal issue to have in the middle of an intense online game. Needless to say I was not happy. Hopefully once the game is released there will be a non-Steam DRM disc version. I will play it safe and purchase that one to avoid such problems in the future.

Beyond the issues stated above, I am enjoying the game so far. This is a good sign as the game play is the saving grace of game against the negatives mentioned above. Once in a game everything seems to move great. The character art and animations are impressive even when zoomed in. The controls are intuitive and responsive as they should be. Audio is very well implemented with hundreds of effects being played at once in hectic battles if you sound hardware supports it.
The only thing that harms the game play a little bit is the current state of the network code. Random lag on some players can be found at random even when they are displayed as having great network performance in the lobby. This is forgivable at this point considering that the game is in beta state and has room to improve.
I highly recommend that RTS fans give this game a try.