The Dow2 beta has been out for about a month now, and we’ve played it a lot. And by a lot we mean A LOT. So far it’s really rather good, though the skirmish and vs multiplayer represents only one facet of a game that is sure to offer much more when it’s released to the masses on Feb 20th. So we can’t really review the game as such, but we can say what we’ve really being enjoying about it so far.
The matchmaking seems a little haywire for now, something that will probably sort itself out as people play more games, and the stats become more accurate. One session you’ll run over your opponent and the next you’ll get utterly dominated, so playing against strangers isn’t always fun. The other trouble is that the AI isn’t especially competitive and you’ll notice it following the same pattern in each game. You’ll see an initial rush of low level unit is followed by the mass production of the most basic vehicle available. If you can repel the infantry and stock up on anti vehicle weapons ahead of the rush you’ll never have many problems.
So here’s a good way to get a good game out of the computer. Take a faction of your choice. Get one friend and close the third slot, then set your three opponents as Tyranids on ‘expert’ difficulty. Assign each army with a different breed of general. Press go and prepare for the swarm.
This works best if you take Space Marines, small tough units against the multitude. Think Aliens. Actually, bigger than that, think Starship Troopers.
Tyranids only have one unit which technically counts as a vehicle – the Carnifex. The game labels it a ‘huge monster’, literally true, bolterfire will bounce off their carapace, only the big guns will dent it. The important thing is the Tyranids have to get to top tech to spawn them, which negates the AI’s irritating tendency to spam vehicles at you. Instead be ready for swarms upon swarms of the little guys with the huge boss monsters wading knee-deep among them. It’s a sight the narrowed down scale of DoW2 will normally deny you, favouring as it does tight micromanagement and skirmish combat.
Now you’ll get that sense of hanging on for dear life, and moments of glee as your Devastator Squads, maintaining a crossfire on a chokepoint, mow down the hordes of alien scum. Of course they keep on coming, and your defences will be worn down and overrun, one by one your men will fall. All you can hope is that you hold the control points long enough to win.
It’s always just a technical victory of course. Moments later it’s almost certain that they’ll finally break your line. But that what Space Marines are all about, holding out against the inevitable.
We’re glad that Relic are trying something different with focus on troop management and smaller squads, but the sight of an epic army charging at you across the cityscape is a real buzz, and it’s something we’ll probably miss in the final game, but for now just take up this challenge and enjoy the fireworks. Marvellous stuff.