I recently got a chance to spend some quality time with the Imperial Guard in Relic Entertainment's Dawn of War II: Retribution multiplayer beta. This latest faction to be highlighted in the Dawn of War II series is a touch more fragile than many of the other factions, and as such requires a bit more finesse to successfully manage. Going toe-to-toe with the Chaos Space Marines or any other bruiser faction will quickly lead to tears, so players would do well to fight an "attack and withdraw" battle whenever possible. And, at least from my experience, players should also be prepared to lose a great many troops as cannon fodder.
To offset this vulnerability, the Guard does have a grab-bag of tricks at their disposal. The basic grunt unit, in addition to their ability to place defensive turrets, can also construct barriers to slow and otherwise manage attacking enemies. And although the Imperial Guard falls like wheat when forced into melee, they do quite well from range. When combined with their rather impressive artillery units and support vehicles, competent players could easily hold their own against the other factions.
The hero units also tend to keep the "attack from afar" theme going. Even the offensive Inquisitor hero doesn't seem terribly effective in hand-to-hand combat, especially if sparring with a more melee-based hero. Still, the abilities of the heroes are interesting and well-suited to supporting the attack-and-fade approach. For instance, the Commissar Lord has the unsettling ability to kill one of his own units to somehow inspire the others to hold a line, valiantly sacrificing themselves to ensure other units can escape and regroup. In fact, sacrifice seems to be a common theme for the Imperial Guard, as another hero ability heals and emboldens nearby troops as the hero himself takes more and more damage.
As expected, the returning Dawn of War II factions get some new toys of their own, sprinkling a bit of new life in old faction favorites. Other than a few new units, however, not much else has changed with the skirmish side of things. Players still vie for control of requisition and power nodes, which garner the resources necessary to capture and hold the victory points. With very little base-building, much of the battle is a series of "king of the hill" runs on these various locations.
Not being the biggest fan of the multiplayer side of things, I'm not able to drum up a lot of excitement over this particular beta. While the new faction is fun to play, the addition of the Imperial Guard alone is not enough to spark too much interest in the multiplayer arena. Fans of the skirmish modes will undoubtedly enjoy the fresh faction and units, but it's just not enough to put me over the top. However, given the focus on the Imperial Guard and their hit-and-run style of play, I am looking forward to the more story-driven single-player campaign. I have been pleased with each earlier edition of the series, and given that track record I am certainly looking forward to furthering the cause of the Emperor.
* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company for review.
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