by: J. Edward Casteele
; edited by: Michael Hartman
; updated: 4/17/2012
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"Dawn of War II - Chaos Rising" is the first expansion to THQ and Relic Entertainment's popular 2009 title "Warhammer 40k: Dawn of War II." As with past Relic expansions, Chaos Rising adds new units to the original game's armies as well as a new singleplayer campaign and multiplayer faction.
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"Dawn of War II - Chaos Rising" introduces the Chaos Space Marines faction to players in both the singleplayer and multiplayer portions of the game. Though an expansion to the award-winning "Dawn of War II", Chaos Rising follows the example of previous Relic Entertainment expansions by allowing players to purchase just the expansion without having the previous game installed. This standalone expansion model has worked well for Relic in the past, allowing new players to access the latest campaign and all of the new content for a lower price than if they were purchasing the full game. Those who purchase only the expansion can still use the Chaos faction in multiplayer and enjoy the Chaos Rising campaign, while those who have both Dawn of War II and the expansion can use every faction and play both campaigns from within Dawn of War II.
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Dawn of War II - Chaos Rising adds a new singleplayer campaign and a new multiplayer faction to the original game, and also adds new heroes to the popular DLC game mode "The Last Stand." The singleplayer campaign allows players to continue directly where they left off in the original game, carrying over squad stats and wargear from their previous saved campaign. New units are available to existing armies in multiplayer in addition to being able to choose Chaos Space Marines as a playable faction. New features have been added to the game as well, such as "Out of Control" animations for destroyed vehicles and a number of new weapons and abilities for the existing Dawn of War II armies. Relic has integrated the original and its expansion on Steam in such a way that those who own only the expansion to play against those who own only the original game and vice versa.
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Relic went above and beyond with the graphics for their latest expansion, creating a new faction that is wonderful to behold. While they certainly hadn't slouched on existing armies such as the Space Marines, the Chaos faction features a level of detail that is often missing in expansion packs. In addition to the wonderful graphic work done on the Chaos units, the scenery of the singleplayer campaign was significantly improved over the original game as well; portions of glaciers crumble as players move past, terrain features collapse instead of simply exploding into dust, and the ice planet where much of the campaign takes place looks absolutely amazing. Add to this new maps that take advantage of new scenery and locations and you have an expansion that is graphically excellent.
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The singleplayer campaign picks up right where the previous game left off, with a new planet covered in ice appearing from the demon-infested Warp. Gone are the endless repetitive side missions that don't advance the main story... there are only a handful of side tasks, and most of the campaign is focused on a narrative-driven story with multiple plot advancements per mission. A new "corruption" mechanic has been added that follows how you play the game and changes your squads' abilities accordingly; there are even different endings available depending on how corrupt you become. The only real drawback that the game suffers from gameplay-wise is that the campaign is significantly shorter than the original game. A few more side missions would have helped to draw things out, since as it stands there are only about 15 missions to play.
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The sound of Chaos Rising is unfortunately where the expansion falls short. Though the voice acting, audio script, and sound effects were all well done, the game shipped with an unfortunate audio bug that caused a number of players to be unable to enjoy the wonderful audio work that was done for the expansion. When the bug is active, voices sound hollow and most of the sound effects barely register while the game starts using more and more system resources. Eventual audio stuttering and game lag may occur, though the bug will generally go away as soon as a mission is completed or a new screen loads. Even after a zero-day patch and additional post-release support, the audio problems still exist for some players; while the problems seem more prevalent with users that have Creative sound cards installed in their computers, there have been reports of the bug appearing for those who use other sound cards or even built-in sound. The portions of the game which aren't plagued by the bug do sound excellent, however.
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Though the campaign could have been a bit longer and a few more changes could have been made to The Last Stand, Chaos Rising is a great example of what a game expansion should be. The singleplayer campaign tells a good story and the multiplayer game provides a powerful and interesting new army for players to enjoy. The game shipped with bugs, which is unfortunate, but Relic has provided good post-release support with several patches within a month of the expansion's release. Even with the expansion's bugs and shortcomings, Chaos Rising is still a great game at the price of an expansion. Because of this, I give Dawn of War II - Chaos Rising a rating of 4 out of 5.