Gone with the narrative, gone with the character development and in with the gameplay style that will continue for the rest of the series. Not to say that the game doesn't have a plot at all, it does, it just doesn't drive the story. Indeed, the characters have very little dialogue. The only lines they have are the ones they say when you click on them to move. It should be noted that Dark Crusade is the DoW game that convinced me to buy the box set. This was back in the days when the only time I'd seen Warhammer 40k was on shelves in my local Games Workshop so when I trotted into HMV one day and saw the Dawn of War boxset next to the new releases, I was intrigued. The first 2 did nothing to fire me up really but that image of a Necron on the Dark Crusade box sealed it.
So todays installment of Dawn of War follows a slightly different style. Instead of playing as 1 maybe 2 races now you have 6. That's right, 6. Be very afraid. You pick 1 and stick with them for the rest of the game. So now it's turning into Total War except it goes into real time. But before I get into all of that, let's cover the story...what there is of one. In this installment the opening and various other texts are read by the Epic Voice, you know, that guy with the deep voice who reads everything overdramatically? Yeah, him. Our tale takes place on the planet Kronus. It's no stranger to war, as the various images tell us, and now 6 factions are trying to take it over. The Imperial Guard and Space Marines make a comeback, though strangely fighting against eachother, along with the Eldar, Orks and Chaos Marines. Added to the mix are the newly playable Necrons and Tau. Yes, I'm going to assume you finished Winter Assault and remember the Necrons don't you? You can play as them now! Go forth and kick some ass as a slow moving, robotic dude. Now, personaly, the Tau are my favourite race. They don't fight for their deitys, like the Imperium of Man or Chaos, they don't fight purely for violence like the Orks nor simply to shut stupid people up ala Eldar. They just do it to make people happy and protect them. Plus, they have laser weapons, floating tanks and stealth suits. All the things that make me happy really. But anyway, back to the plot. Each faction is there for their own reasons. The only real story of interest is the ongoing arguements between the IG and the Space Marines. The IG got their first, you see, and rebuilt the old Imperial city of Victory Bay, even uncovering an old Titan weapon. The Blood Ravens, of course, land to help but request that the IG retreat. The Guards general refuses and so the Blood Ravens decide to wipe them out along with everything else on the planet. Yet again the Blood Ravens have the cannonical story in this game, as their ending is the one that is mentioned in Dawn of War 2. From what we can gather, the planet Kronus was a battlefield during the Horus Heracy and several Blood Raven relics still reside on it. That said, the fact that the Space Marines are so eager to get to them does suggest they may be a little incriminating.
I'll let this speak for itself
The gameplay hasn't changed in the slightest for the past races, though a few additions have been made. The Space Marines now have new infantry known as the Grey Knights. They're spear wielding, psy power wielding paladins who run around swinging their blades in wide arcs. Personaly, the only paladin I trust to get the job done is Alexander Anderson. The IG now have access to entrenched, 50 cal machine guns, gauss cannons and just general tank cannons. The Eldar can now train Harlequins, dancing death clowns who jump around stabbing people with small blades. No really, they're clowns. The Orks have upgraded shoota boyz for you to use, who wield heavy machine guns that sound like rapid fireing staple guns.
Someone make this game!
Chaos has...more evil looking stuff. The real gameplay changes come in the form of the new races. Running and gunning with the Tau will only serve to get you killed faster, instead I suggest using them in moderation. Fire squads make perfect take and hold units to entrence positions with, especialy if they have a sheild drone for emergencies. The Kroot are usefull for hit and run amushes, especialy when fighting the Orks who's close range specialty can take the Tau off guard. Tanks are really only good on buildings and just about all of other Tau warfare is based on infantry, keep this in mind when deploying them into front line combat. The Necrons are robots, that pretty much sums them up right there. They walk, they kill, they blow up. Every part of their use is that in a nutshell. The only noteable thing about them really is that they don't use resources like the other races, instead they use power. Takeing points only really serves to put up sentry turrets and denying the resources to your enemy. The objectives differ this time around aswell, now all you have to do is destroy your opponents HQ building. There's nothing more satisfying than being able to walk through your enemies buildings and then just kill their HQ and still win, great fun.
Finnaly, it was around this time that the moding community got it into their heads that messing around with the game was a good idea, to this date however I have not been able to play any but here's a joke for your viewing pleasure.
Final Score: 5/5
Not a perfect game, but pretty enjoyable. If you liked DoW and Winter Assault, you'll like Dark Crusade. Next time, I tackle the black sheep of the franchise: Soul Storm.