Why I do not give a damn about Dawn of War II.

Right, I suppose this entry has been a long time coming. This topic - this game, is something that still evidently seems to mean a lot to people with whom I maintain strong links in the Dawn of War community. I've tried to put this one off for months and the reason will be explained in the evaluation I give of the game - that being I find it rather unworthy of attention. However recently a number of people have been very insistent that I write it ... so as much as I don't want to spend time on DoW II, I do want to stop people harassing me about it. With this in consideration, I suppose I should write a small primer on why I believe I am qualified to talk about this and why I feel I less biased than most.

Since Dawn of War I've moved onto other competitive games- I still play Starcraft on ICCUP and have a fairly decent account there (no, I will not list the name or rank other than to say it's above B. Go away.) and that I have been playing Team Fortress 2, spending the last 3-5 months in top five clans in Australia. I'm over Dawn of War - in fact, I've un-installed all of them, the original games. I'll summarise the major problems with the game briefly. many a top tier competitive player - or even a lesser skilled person often moaned about the balance. It was consistently highlighted as one of the most disgusting examples of balancing ignorance available, and while this analysis has some truth to it, these were not the core problems. Those fundamentally wrong mechanics which undermined the original Dawn Of War came down to three succinct problems. Those are ... 1. Not Listening. 2. Not Learning. 3. Slow updates with the core of the community.

The not listening one is important to address- part of this is linked to balance concerns. This comes down less to the subjective nature of balance however and more due to the ignorance of warnings. Let me use the original IG as an example - time and time again the top IG players who did not use broken units expressed their opinion gutting the bugs would gut the race. These concerns were ignored completely. This is not to say that that viewpoint was correct - merely that the ignorance of that viewpoint was complete and total. Not listening also comes into the repeated statements by the Dawn of War community that bugs had to be picked up early and often - and the worst dealt with ASAP. The frustration expressed by custom banners for Necrons and Tau being accomplished by a modder when Relic could not even spare the time to type out a "get buggered, okay?" response.. Not over a six month period in which an entire addon pack's competitive community is systematically annihilated. Fundamentally there's Not listening to balance arguments and not listening to balance issues - you need to cover the latter at least, which was never done. That's on top of the many changed gameplay mechanics.

Once you understand this core complaint then not learning and slow communication with the community pretty much fall into place - they really are after all only derivations from the first one. It is after all why I see this statement flying around that Buggo felt DowPro was a more appropriate way to go about balancing and restructuring gameplay in Dawn Of War. . The process was more open, more responsive and less opaque - which makes the community feel like things are actually getting through.. The debacle of absolutely no support for Soulstorm (nicely expressed in this thread here) was what made me quit the game for good, despite being a top player in both Dowpro and Dow. There really did feel like there was nothing to play with or have faith in.. I really just felt as if the game was dead to me - and not believing in making a fuss, I quietly decided to bow out.

I'm not going to get drawn into the Dawn of War Pro versus Dawn of War Arguments either - I lost all interest in that a long time ago, even if Korbah is a man I'd stretch out my hand to assist even now. These things are really beyond me - but I felt it's important to establish what were felt as the primary concerns by the community in the Dawn Of War era. I understand and acknowledge that posters such as my finnish compadre Slow Runner and company raised a number of fair counterpoints which address a lot of the specific issues - and of course, that there is emotion on both sides. However, the impression given to the community was a strong one - and while the efforts of that side of the community to clarify Relic was nowhere as bad as the worst of the detractors claimed, it was still a pretty sub-par effort, regardless of circumstances.

Essentially what we had was a PR disaster for the core competitive community and many users on the wayside. Something un-fulfilling which caused many to bow out - Larkin, a chief example.

And that now brings us onto Dawn Of War II.

Ugh.


So, shall we go through the discussion on those three criteria? Not Listening. Well ... and I had to tread into the l waters of balance again, but Relic have arguably gone backwards in this direction. Now ... some might argue that given a new game, problems might arise and the balance might not be that much improved - fair point. But getting worse? Well, one thing you have to remember when we talk about Dawn Of War II balancing is that the game occurs on a smaller scale. That is to say less units, less unit mixes, less problems associated with "weight of units". This covers a broad area of topics from critical mass, to irrelevant/overlapping unit roles . All of these should be easier to balance in DoW II's system, but they are not. We have trimmed down the game's scale with the only benefit being simplification. Games by numbers. If this was going to mean something beneficial for for the game - a successful bloody effort would have been made. When you make your central game mechanics something which is fundamentally easier to balance and then botch a job of balancing it even worse than your original dubiously balanced game ... what does that say about the care you put in your work?

But they are not. The smaller-scale does not translate into balancing improvements or less useless units. Both were complained about in Dow. Neither improved despite the easier to manage mechanic. Relic did not listen to the complaints of Dow 1 - and if they did, they did not learn, and improve them. No Listening. No learning. More contact though - and this is quite scary. As Jaimas has expressed, DOW2 has received considerable support. It has received more effort than WA and DC and SS combined - but that its balance is still this bad in spite of this. This to me implies that Relic is not listening - so while they have improved on three, two and one are worse.. And this to me is boring. Community-placation by numbers, pure lip service. Yes they've "tried" more, but that "trying" which is supposed to be improved through "past experience" has gone backwards. Also known as "nobody really cares, throw them a bone to quiet down". Or tl;dr reric still maek bug. Reric maek bug a rot.

In truth, Dawn of War II - through it's failure to achieve one and two, feels to me like a passionless game. This arises in the "sincere" efforts to make Dawn of War II easier for the casual gamer or more like CoH II which either lapse into buggy idiocy (ie, they make the game harder to play because of their schizophrenic tendencies) or seem to run counter-intuitive to their original purpose (ie, they are supplied with so little tool tip documentation/relevance that it seems they want you not seeking to use your units better). Retreat mechanics, the auto-cover-seeking, from the stance system, Marine Heavy/Special weapons, "Oh crap what did that Carnifex have on it?" Syndrome, the list is quite endless. This is on top of the "well they were supposed to be improvements" (aka WA/DC/SS path-finding sydnrome) ... I could carry on for a while, and I don't even play the game - but I do know that there are balance issues that have been around since Beta Reric has still not deigned to address.

Pair this with an engine that is supposed to be created after CoH but has less effect on the environment, inferior AI to CoH, inferior pathfinding to CoH, etcetera. we have here an engine with far, far more possibility than CoH ever had - yet so little has been irked out of it. This surprises me because it seems to be both a contradiction of the bold claims of the pre-release advertising and a fundamental betrayal of potential and possibility. With such a seemingly powerful and multifaceted tool, isn't it a simple matter of pride to make as much use of the engine itself as possible? From my perspective there's simply no excuse not to make maximum use of the engine - yet the standard is so far below CoH it boggles me. Relic continue to insist this is a viable competitive title, they continue to exist everything will be fixed - and I don't believe many people honestly believe them any more. When you have such a powerful tool as this new engine ... to make so little effective use of it; when you have so many more resources than your previous failed exploits ... yet cannot hit a home-run, this all drives that central motif that I see present in this little enterprise.

Dow II is completely passionless.

Yeah, I said it.

And I know that is a big call to make. It is one of the greatest insults you can put into a developer. People make games they hate. People make games they are proud of. And when a company makes a game that relies on add-on packs to fix the game; when they essentially force consumers to spend cash so their previous purchases remain "fixed" and "viable", that speaks to me plenty. I see a company that likes their cash cows feeding in happy abandon, and does not care about the maintenance of their products nearly as much as they claim. Do I expect Relic to really care all that much about support? Christ no, in no way at all. Reric are a company - their first loyalty is to making money and I've got absolutely no problem with that. It's a good policy to have and they wouldn't be making more games (I'm looking foward to HW3) if they did not put their profits first. However, to try and claim that they do care when their conduct thus far suggests otherwise strikes me as rather dishonest. Community placation. Game-selling by numbers. Keeping people happy without telling the truth. Same old, same old. Perhaps Relic got worse at number 3 after all - at least the lack of "get fucked" in the original Dawn Of War was seen as a clear message in itself.

I suppose that's the sad thing. Dawn of War II seemed to have a lot of potential - and this is coming from someone as jaded as me, who still firmly believes Starcraft II will not only be underwhelming, but also fairly average. It did not make the most of that potential and in doing so, has pissed a lot of people off. Sadly I've seen a lot of Relicnews posters and official forums posters - surely there's many others too, who try and write some critics who have been critics from the start off as fair-weather friends, people who only rage at this new game because they hate Relic. I think this is quite unfair and I still believe a lot of those "haters" love this series and love Relic.

This is the reason why it pains them even more to see that potential wasted - why they reach for their keys and rage just that bit harder, in a way that many don't have the ability in words to accurately expressed. They complain, they whine, they lose support. But to write them off as passionless relic-hating internet e-thugs is unfair. I'm not putting forth some internet conspiracy here that relic is running a counter pr campaign, I just feel I'm pointing out the obvious. They are clearly pissed the fuck off about something - it takes in so many situations, a firm belief that something is wasted potential to hate it. Dawn Of War II has done the impossible. I don't consider it as bad as Dawn Of War I, that much is true. However, I really don't care about the game at all. It may be in the vein of Gordon Ramsay to state this with authority but I consider the entire game series long gone, long lost. Congratulations Relic. You have managed to in the eyes of the original crowd, make Dawn Of War II irrelevant. Does that tickle your fancy or even make you care? I doubt it. But let me assure you about this.

I actually care just that little bit more about this game now - just enough to get the hell away from it. Fundamentally, that is because I have been forced again, by anger fans who hate the game to rethink how this series is viewed through my own perception, just to shut them the hell up.
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