Chaos Rising picks up where Dawn of War 2 left off, with the crisis of the Tyranid invasion held at bay for the moment. Trouble always seems to be around the corner, however, as the Rift spits out a new planet in the sector. Yes, that's right, an entire planet, and the denizens of that place aren't all too friendly. The Chaos Space Marines' Black Legion also have taken quite an interest in exactly what secrets the planet holds, so it's once again up to the Space Marine Blood Ravens to save the sector in the name of the Emperor.
While not requiring the original Dawn of War 2 to play, Chaos Rising does assume that players are already familiar with the way everything works. In fact, players who managed to hold to their savegames from the original single-player campaign will be pleased to know that all of their team can be ported over, intact with levels and some of their Wargear. For others, Chaos Rising simply starts folks off with a 17th level party, and the ability to customize levelling points as appropriate. Truth be told, the Wargear held over from the earlier title is soon overshadowed by newer and shinier goodies, as players will fight their way to level 30 in both characters and loot. Chaos rising also throws in some extra powers and abilities to flesh out these higher levels.
Gameplay is exactly as before. Players take command of a squad of four Space Maries, chosen from a slightly larger selection. Tailoring each party to the mission is important, but not exactly vital to success. Each character can be fitted out with various Wargear (weapons and armor), and a handful of extra items such as explosives and healing charges. Once on the battlefield, it's purely a real-time squad-based swedge. Just as before, there are no resources or bases to build. Instead, players move across the map, defeating enemies and capturing strategic points. These strategic points act as healing areas, refilling squads as needed. Sprinkled around the scenario are crates filled with various goodies, which recharge the limited-use powers for the Blood Ravens. Also randomly sprinkled as enemy drops are new and exciting Wargear to outfit the squad.
A new character, a Librarian, is introduced. Although he doesn't come along with any extra support in the way of extra soldiers, he is pretty much an army unto himself. His powers, while requiring a bit of micromanagement to pull off, can quickly turn the tide of battle. In fact, he seems just a bit too powerful, and toward the end of the campaign I was loath to leave him behind.
The campaign itself is very well done. Although a bit short, at just over a dozen missions (including optional missions), players can carve through in a dedicated weekend. But the missions themselves are a lot of fun, and very few ever felt repetitive or boring. Even the dreaded "defend this position" missions were enjoyable, which for me is quite an accomplishment. Combat this time all but ignores the Tyranids from the last game, and focuses more on the Black Legion and its demonic forces, sprinkled with some Eldar and Ork encounters to spice things up.
Since players are fighting the dark Chaos sprung from the Rift, another dimension is added to the campaign--corruption. Each character gains a new corruption meter, measuring from "Pure in the eyes of the Emperor" to completely corrupt. As characters move along this spectrum, they gain and lose different abilities. Staying corruption-free allows characters to have some anti-Chaos powers, while sliding to the Dark Side brings out some frightening offensive abilities. During most missions, certain actions will cause characters to gain or lose corruption points. These are always clearly spelled out, so players will have an easy time determining which path to take. Some Wargear can also change alignment, with Corrupting Wargear being quite powerful, and anti-Corruption Wargear bestowing combat penalties as penance. Also, some Wargear can only be equipped when characters meet certain Purity or Corrupt status. For those who want to see the game both ways, this Corruption track can double the replayability for Chaos Rising. On the multiplayer side of things, the Black Legion joins the Eldar, Tyranids, Space Marines, and Orks as playable races, as well as adding a few new ice-themed maps to play.
Overall, I had a great time with Chaos Rising. The campaign was well-paced, and the additional goodies, characters, and the new playable race make this a worthy addition to a very fun series