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Saturday | October 20, 2018
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Warhammer 40k: Soulstorm

Warhammer 40k: Soulstorm

The original Dawn Of War was released in 2004 and was met with both critical acclaim and admiration from strategy lovers across the globe. The series is based around Game Workshop’s wonderful fantasy world featuring a wide array of human and demonic creatures. The basic principle is to capture key points while building your base and annihilating all the enemies in your path.

The original was a big enough seller to assure sequels, two of which we have seen before today: Winter Assault and Dark Crusade. The latter was a major overhaul with focus on a RISK style world map interface however the third expansion, Soulstorm, isn’t bringing any evolutionary new game play mechanics to the table. This time around the game developer is Iron Lore, who are known for making Titan Quest.

Soulstorm includes two new armies as well as flying units and more maps, but nothing to rewrite the game history, this is not necessarily a bad thing however as the series has developed into a very playable and enjoyable gaming experience. I was expecting a slightly more advanced capture point system after seeing the latest Company Of Heroes a while ago.

The most noteworthy inclusion are the two new races, The Sisters Of Battle, a fantastic race of female holy crusaders and The Dark Eldar, a dark and morbid version of the Eldar. Those who have played Warhammer board games will be aware of the resemblance to the Elves and Dark Elves. While it is always great to see new races and units, I can’t help but feel that the system is now somewhat swamped with the races and their corresponding units. Regardless of this abundance of race selection, the two new additions are extremely fun to play with.

The Dark Eldar have a new resource to deal with called Soul Essence. Several of their units possess a harvest ability which when enabled consumes the soul from corpses on the battlefield. This is a little redundant however as you can program the unit cap management structures back at your base to produce bodies. This essence is a double edged sword as it allows the player to cast a variety of offensive spells as well.

The Sisters of Battle are also a new race and probably my favourite of them all. They focus on immensely powerful infantry units and they can be augmented with commander units for added firepower and bonuses, they even have healing abilities. Additionally some of their units can be enhanced with anti infanty weapons as well as anti vehicle guns and options to help destroy buildings. They really have no weakness that I can mention in the overall scheme of things. To play balance the race however they are tied into a new resource called "faith", which is generated by upgrading capture point structures with special additions. This isn’t really a dramatic new game play mechanic to learn however and won’t cause an issue for any semi experienced 40k player. If you have watched the video at the start of this review you will have seen "The Living Saint", the most powerful unit the Sisters Of Battle can produce, and a serious force to be reckoned with.

With these new additions there are also some tweaks to the other race units, such as additional flying units. Unfortunately the implementation doesn’t really seem fully engrained with the game as they just hover above the ground without seemingly offering any air to ground bonuses.

If you liked Dark Crusade’s single player campaign you will enjoy the latest iteration as it is basically the same as before. Now the battles and territory span across several planets although the map sections are only really about 20% more than before. The two new races make a further difference here as the Sisters Of Battle can establish forward bases with the command point system and the Dark Eldar can hop between planets without relying on the territory proximity path system. Just like Dark Crusade you get access to special equipment and powered up units that can accompany your leaders into each battle, you can also still reinforce territory using your requisition points as you expand across the map.

As the game is based on the Warhammer Universe you would expect the storyline to be somewhat more coherent, however the introductory FMV sequence didn’t really grab my attention. It is disjointed and a bit of a mess really, more like an afterthought than a basis for the character creation and development. The overall focus is really just on the strategic combat this time around.

Thankfully the core strategic combat element is very enjoyable and the graphics while not cutting edge like World In Conflict are more than capable of delivering a believable and fun 3d environment for your battles. I was a little disappointed however to see that the graphics haven’t received an overhaul for 2008, that said, there will be no frame rate issues either with modern hardware which is an added bonus if you aren’t the proud owner of a 8800 series video card and Quad core processor (yes I am referring here to Supreme Commander!).

The speech and audio are both great with a plethora of grunts, dialogue and witty retorts from some of the units.

Soulstorm is a great game and strategy fans who have enjoyed the other games in the series will assuredly find this one just as appealing, especially as there are a few new races to get familiar with. The only issue is I feel the series is nearing the end of its life in its current form, I just get the impression that the series is being milked a little. A little more creativity might breathe new life into the series, but for now I hope Soulstorm is the last we see for a while.

Same proven and addictive gameplay as before. Two new factions although there really is nothing new to warrant a higher score.
Good animations and colourful graphics, however the engine really hasn’t changed in four years.
Great voice acting and a lot of witty one liners from the units. Nothing groundbreaking however.
Reasonable long term playability with the online multiplayer, especially with the new factions ready to be put to the test.
(not an average)
A fun game but it feels a little staid and worn out. An overhaul is overdue.

About Author

Stuart Davidson

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