Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War is a real-time strategy computer game developed by Relic Entertainment based on Games Workshop's popular tabletop wargame, Warhammer 40,000. It was released for the PC by THQ on September 20, 2004 in North America.
It would spawn a series of sequels that would prove to be the best-selling Warhammer 40,000 video games of all time and would serve as the entry point into the Warhammer 40,000 universe for countless fans.
The Game of the Year Edition was released on September 20, 2005 in the USA and on September 23, 2005 in Europe, containing 4 exclusive maps. Later, the Game of the Year edition and Winter Assault were bundled in the Gold Edition in the USA.
Most recently, Dawn of War and the first two expansions were released together as The Platinum Collection in the USA or as the Dawn of War Anthology in the PAL regions. The sequel title, Dawn of War II, was released in February 2009.
Gameplay is initially focused on base and unit construction. The player starts with a single headquarters building and a few basic units, usually just one construction unit. The subsequent focus of the game then shifts to capturing and holding strategic locations on the battlefield. These control points are captured by infantry squads and provide resources to construct additional units and buildings or unlock certain units in an army's tech tree. Battles are won either by holding a certain number of control points for a period of time or by destroying all of the opposing armies' base structures.
Two primary resources exist: requisition and power. These resources are not harvested or otherwise gathered by the player's units. Instead, requisition is generated constantly by the army headquarters. The player can increase the rate at which requisition is acquired by using infantry squads to capture and control certain "strategic points" on the battlefield. These points can be reinforced with defensive structures that also increase the rate of requisition accumulation. Though resources are unlimited, all sources of requisition will eventually decay, dramatically decreasing their supply rate.
Power is gathered by building generators, with each headquarters supporting up to six generators. Additionally, some maps have "slag deposits", upon which more powerful generators can be constructed to produce power faster. As the player progresses up the tech tree, reliance on power increases.
In addition to these primary resources, the Orks also have the Ork resource, which represents the Ork species' gestalt psychic field that grows in intensity as the population of Greenskins in a given area expands. The Ork resource is generated continuously by WAAAGH! banners and is used up when creating Ork troops and vehicles. The number of banners and the size of the Ork population determines the Ork's WAAAGH! level which in turn determines the technology tier the player has access to.
Infantry units are given orders as squads rather than as individuals. Most fully reinforced squads consist of about 10 units. The squad moves and attacks as a single entity. Squads can produce and replace their own units anywhere in the field. They can be equipped with special weapons and have heroes or special units attached to them. For example, a Space Marine squad starts with 4 marines, but can be expanded up to 8 standard marines and a sergeant, and individual marines can be equipped with heavy weapons. The player is also free to choose particular upgrades and can specialize each squad for a specific purpose.
Infantry units can fight in both ranged and hand-to-hand combat, and most units will have weapons for both types of combat, and if attacked in close combat will respond in kind. Hand-to-hand combat is played out as a series of attack animations between combatants. When one combatant kills the other, a Finishing move commonly called a Synch Kill plays out as the victorious fighter finishes his opponent off. More powerful units, such as Heroes, Walkers, and monstrous Super Units, may have personalized Synch Kills against each other.
Vehicles are highly resistant to standard infantry rifles, so they must be targeted with specific weaponry (e.g. rockets) to be destroyed. Vehicles can also be upgraded with multiple weapon systems, usually differentiating between anti-infantry and anti-vehicle armaments. Walkers are a variant type of vehicle that is capable of fighting in close combat.
In addition to a typical hitpoint system, infantry units also have morale. Morale applies to a squad as a whole. When morale drops to zero, the squad "breaks"; at this point the squad's accuracy at a range, damage dealt in melee, and defensive capability while using cover are significantly reduced, however the squads movement speed is slightly increased. The squad's morale will regenerate on its own while the squad is not in combat. Some weapon types, such as flamethrowers, are made specifically to demoralize the enemy. Favourable terrain gives units a defensive cover bonus, while water and swamps slow units down and decrease their defensive ability.
The number of units a player may field at one time is determined by population and vehicle 'squad caps'; these limit the number of infantry troops and vehicles a player may have on the battlefield. Squad caps may be increased using methods differing between races. Most units have a melee attack and a ranged attack. Units are often specialized to be better using one attack type. Certain units are "hard capped", meaning a player may only have a certain amount of them, such as Skull probes and Apothecaries (both of the Space marine faction) being limited to 4, and commanders and ultimate units being limited to 1. All units also have stances; these affect how the units respond to enemies. There are three types of units: commanders, infantry, and vehicles.
Commanders are hero units, and each commander can only be fielded one at a time. If they perish, they may be rebuilt. A sub-class is the semi-commander unit, which has many abilities like the commander unit but several may be fielded at once. Infantry are foot soldiers, and may either be regular or heavy, with heavy infantry being much tougher than normal infantry. Vehicles serve as heavy weapon platforms and/or transports, and include tanks, artillery, troop carriers and walkers.
Infantry come in squads that are commanded as a single entity. They may be reinforced with additional members, equipped with special weapons, or be attached to hero units. Some squads have special abilities, such as grenades, teleportation, and stealth, unlocked with research or leader units. Unit longevity is determined by their health and morale points, which govern a squad's fighting effectiveness. Both are reduced by weaponry; morale recharges independently or due to unit abilities, while health is increased by natural regeneration, healer units, or repair.
Each of the four races has access to a unique special unit whilst in control of a "relic"; they are superior to normal units. To obtain one of the special units the player must complete all pre-requisites (research, own specific buildings) and be in the final tier of research. These special units also require substantially more resources and time to create.
- Orks: Squiggoth
- Eldar: Avatar of Khaine
Aside from their initial headquarters, each faction or race may build research and resource centers, unit-producing facilities, and defensive fortifications. Research buildings may research special upgrades that increase the abilities of that race's units, while resource buildings produce resources. Unit facilities produce infantry and vehicles. In order to access their next tier, a race must build certain buildings to unlock new technologies and buildings.
The game is set in the Warhammer 40,000 universe, a dystopian vision of the far future with Gothic and Lovecraftian undertones. Humanity has forged a galaxy-spanning empire, the Imperium of Man, with the God-Emperor of Mankind as humanity's leader and only deity. The Imperium is in a state of constant war with the Orks, Eldar, and the human servants of Chaos. The single player campaign is set on the planet Tartarus.
Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War features four playable armies:
- Space Marines - The Space Marines are the elite genetically-modified superhuman soldiers of the Imperium. Space Marines have the highest morale in the game. Their troops and vehicles are more expensive, however. The Space Marines are the only playable race in the single player section of the game, and the 11-mission campaign features the Blood Ravens Chapter as the protagonists, led by Captain Gabriel Angelos and Librarian Isador Akios.
- Chaos Space Marines - The Chaos Space Marines are members of the Traitor Legions who chose to betray the Emperor of Mankind and the Imperium during the Horus Heresy and instead serve the Chaos Gods. In Dawn of War, they use troops that are similar to their Imperium counterparts. In addition, they employ morale-draining daemons and psykers. The campaign features the Alpha Legion, with their leaders, Sindri Myr and Lord Bale.
- Eldar - The Eldar are an ancient, technologically-advanced race. Eldar in Dawn of War are fast and fragile. They are able to move quickly across the map via Webway gates. The campaign features the Craftworld of Biel-Tan, and their leader, Farseer Macha.
- Orks - Orks are a savage, warlike race. In large enough numbers, they gain morale immunity. The tech tree for Orks differs from the other races in that it depends on the amount of Orks currently in your army and the number of erected WAAAGH!! banners. Several clans are featured in the campaign, as is the Ork Warboss, Orkamungus.
- Imperial Guard - In addition to the four fully playable races, the Imperial Guard also make appearances in the single-player campaign as allies of the Space Marines, led by Colonel Brom. They would later be made into a featured race for the first expansion pack, Dawn of War - Winter Assault.
The single-player campaign is set on the planet Tartarus, an Imperial Civilised World that is under siege by a large Ork WAAAGH!. The campaign begins with Colonel Brom and his 37th Tartarus Planetary Defense Force Regiment under attack by a large group of Orks. The Blood Ravens 3rd Company, led by Captain Gabriel Angelos makes planet fall and saves Brom and his remaining men and then proceed to exterminate the remaining Orks in the vicinity. In the aftermath of the battle, Gabriel is joined by the Space Marine Librarian Isador Akios. Brom asks Isador about a recently conducted Exterminatus of the planet Cyrene, Gabriel Angelos' homeworld, however Isador makes it clear he is not to bring it up again. The Blood Ravens then prepare for a mission of extermination of the Orks surrounding the port, in order to protect the evacuation craft of the planet's population.
Isador, sensing that the captain's mind is troubled, realises why, and tells him that there was nothing he could have done to save his home planet of Cyrene. However, Gabriel tells him not to mention it again, stating that his homeworld was his responsibility. After the extermination of the Orks, Scout Marines reveal to Gabriel that the Forces of Chaos are also operating on the planet. Soon after this revelation, they are joined by an Inquisitor, Mordecai Toth, who orders the Blood Angels to leave the planet, warning that a Warp Storm is approaching the planet and will consume the world in 3 days time. Toth orders a complete evacuation of the planet's remaining Imperial population. On further investigation, it is revealed that the Eldar of Craftworld Biel-tan are also operating on Tartarus. The Blood Ravens find an altar dedicated to Chaos Undivided, confirming Gabriel's suspicions, and he resolves to destroy the Traitors, unknowing that Isador is already under the influence of Sindri Myr, the Chaos Sorcerer of the Alpha Legion warband already on the world.
Upon destruction of most of the remaining Eldar by Gabriel's forces, their Farseer Macha pleads with Gabriel to heed her words; however during their moment of distraction, Sindri steals an artefact, which Macha reveals to be a key to "the undoing of this world." Upon inquiry, the Biel-tan Farseer shows surprise at the Astartes' ignorance, commenting that the Inquisitor "keeps them on a short leash" and implying that he knows more than he is telling, and advises them to ask him, before telling the Blood Ravens where to find the entrenched Chaotic forces. Gabriel and Isador confront Inquisitor Toth in the ruins of a temple of the Imperial Cult, following a pitched battle with Alpha Legion forces, and Toth reveals that the world is cursed, and was home to an artefact of Chaos: the Maledictum, a stone that contains the essence of a Greater Daemon of Khorne. The forces of Chaos now bear all that they need to unearth it. Toth also explains that the Eldar were fighting to protect the stone, as it was they who imprisoned the daemon in the stone originally: as he puts it "as Chaos's oldest enemy, the Eldar see themselves as the only capable defence against its influence. And we have paid for their arrogance." Toth also says that the power of the Maledictum is enough "to turn the faithful and drive men mad", having already corrupted much of the population of Tartarus and the Imperial Guard, as well as affecting the Blood Ravens somewhat with its Chaotic influence. Gabriel and Toth form an alliance and make plans to find and destroy the Maledictum, however, Isador is then completely overcome by the temptations of Sindri and Chaos, and resolves to steal the Maledictum for himself.
The Blood Ravens destroy the army of the Alpha Legion's Chaos Lord Bale, who was betrayed by Sindri, during which time Isador seizes his chance and steals the Maledictum. In the face of Isador's betrayal, Gabriel pursues him in an effort to bring him to justice. The Blood Raven forces are successful in destroying Isador’s Traitor Imperial Guard troops and Gabriel defeats Isador in single combat. Isador pleads for forgiveness to Gabriel. Gabriel tells him, "If redemption is what you seek, then that is what I will give you," before shooting him in the head with his Bolt Pistol, using his former friend as an example to his fellow Astartes of the insidious dangers of Chaos. Inquisitor Toth then reveals that he had known that Chaos was corrupting one of the Space Marine officers on Tartarus, but he had suspected it was Gabriel, not his Librarian, and they had paid the price for his error.
Meanwhile Sindri had used the power of the Maledictum to turn himself into a Daemon Prince. Inquisitor Toth bequeaths the Daemon Hammer God-Splitter to Gabriel. They then, with the Blood Ravens and the aid of the remaining Eldar forces of Farseer Macha, attack the Chaos forces, eventually killing the Daemon Prince Sindri. The final scene sees the Eldar and Blood Ravens standing around the Maledictum. Despite the warnings of Farseer Macha, who begs them not to destroy the stone, Gabriel obeys Inquisitor Toth and his own judgment, and destroys the Maledictum with God-Splitter. The Eldar forces then retreat, Macha warning prophetically that Gabriel has doomed them all, and the Blood Ravens leave to be evacuated. However, Gabriel stays back, and encounters the Greater Daemon of Khorne, an unnamed Bloodthirster, which he unwittingly released from the Maledictum. The daemon lets Gabriel and his men leave safely as thanks for its release, but tells Gabriel that he will soon come to claim him and his men. Gabriel vows to destroy the daemon, before following after his departing Astartes.
Upon release, the critical response to Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War was on the whole extremely positive. It was congratulated most frequently for its varied and balanced factions and units, its polished presentation, in particular the high quality of unit animations, and the user interface.
One of the first reviews was by IGN, who awarded the game 8.8/10, in particular praising the large level of graphical and animation detail. They also cited the skirmish and multiplayer as one of the game's strongest points. Gamespot came to similar conclusions, in particular praising the game's presentation and audio.
Conversely, an area of the game that drew criticism was the single player campaign, which many reviewers found to be too short and unchallenging. Another area of weakness identified was a lack of originality in the gameplay. However, these weaknesses were considered to be minor, IGN summarising "Nothing about the gameplay will really surprise anyone (though the addition of reinforceable squads is pretty neat) but it doesn't particularly matter...Relic kicked ass creating a great piece of entertainment." The French website Jeux PC (lit. "PC Games") awarded the game 16 out of 20, in particular praising the simplicity of the user interface and the intensity of the battles. German reviewer Daniel Matschijewsky awarded the game 83 out of 100, in particular praising the user interface and the sound, but identified the campaign and the AI as weaker areas.
Overall Dawn of War was well received by critics, earning aggregate scores of 86/100 from Metacritic and 87/100 from Game Rankings.
- Gamespy: 7th Best PC Game of 2004, Best Use of License 2004, 7th Best PC Game of 2006(Dark Crusade), Best Expansion of 2006(Dark Crusade)
- IC-Games: Editor's Choice Award
- IGN: Runner-up in Best Strategy Game of 2004, Runner-up in Best Multiplayer Game of 2004, Best Expansion Pack of 2005(Winter Assault), Best Expansion Pack of 2006(Dark Crusade)
- Tom's Hardware: Must Have award for December 2004
- Gamespot: Best Expansion Pack of 2006 (Dark Crusade)
According to the game box, the Game of the Year Edition is based on the awards from GameSpy and Computer Gaming World. However, it only won a Top 10 (7th place) award from GameSpy and "Best Real-time Strategy" Game of the Year from CGW. Dawn of War did not win any overall GOTY awards from any major publication. This is based on a quote from CGW not for an actual award, which is why it says ("game of the year" GCW) in quotes at the bottom of the box.
- White Dwarf 305 (UK), "Index Astartes: Blood Ravens"
- Dawn of War (Novel) by C.S. Goto
- Dawn of War: Ascension (Novel) by C.S. Goto
- Dawn of War: Tempest (Novel) by C.S. Goto