Wrapping your head around the size, scale, and scope of the epic Warhammer 40K universe is a herculean task that could melt the mind of even the sharpest Space Marine - I hate to imagine what such a feat would do to a pea-brained Ork. From tabletop gaming and books, to an in-development film project and, of course, enough videogames to fill an entire wall at EB Games, this property's reach knows no boundaries. So, during a recent press tour for Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War II - Chaos Rising, semi-sequel/expansion to last year's critical and consumer real-time strategy fave Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War II, I hit up Relic producer Jeff Lydell for a little enlightenment on what gamers can expect from this latest entry.
"Moving forward from Dawn of War, we added a whole bunch of RPG-type elements to our single-player game in Dawn of War II, so we've got wargear, progression, and leveling. With Chaos Rising, we're expanding that even further with new mechanics, new loot, new gear, a new campaign, and a new race," explains Lydell. Of course, anyone who's had countless hours siphoned from their lives from this criminally addictive series knows the new race he's referring to is the Chaos Space Marines. Just a passing glance at this twisted enemy of the stoic Space Marines reveals some of the meanest looking mothers you've ever seen. Seriously, these dudes would have other so-called "space marines" soiling their shiny green Spartan armor. But their menacing exterior is just the tip of the human-crushing iceberg. "Chaos has a really fleshed out army with lots of different options for ranged, melee, and other things they can do. They also they have the Worship mechanic, so they can build shrines, and have heretics that can worship at those shrines. These will give you different bonuses depending on which hero you've chosen, which effects, and which god you're worshiping. They've got tons of abilities and cool attacks."
My time behind these nightmare-conjuring killers indeed supported Lydell's claims. The Chaos Sorcerer, for example, proved an asset on the battlefield with his unique warp rift ability; by creating portals, he can transport himself - and other units - all over the map. While this worked defensive wonders for quick evasions and even crossing treacherous gaps and paths, it's offensive perks especially tickled my evil-doing side. Popping up through a portal and swiftly delivering death to an unsuspecting Space Marine never gets old. While Lydell cited the Sorcerer as one of his favorite additions, I was more taken by the over-the-top presence of Chaos Daemon, the Great Unclean One - love that name! - whose ugliness is only overshadowed by his battlefield-clearing abilities. This enormous, quadruple-chinned glutton is an elite melee unit that saunters around maps while spitting vomit at his targets. His bile-fueled projectiles are an effective attack for taking out multiple units at once, and it's especially satisfying to see a group of space marines get their pretty armor eroded by this big bad's acidic hurl.
While the majority of time was spent under the decaying flesh of these new Chaos creeps, I did get a chance to test drive the new Space Marines' Librarian unit. While not as outwardly menacing as the their enemies, these guys still pack a punch that'll send even the ugliest Chaos unit to the dirt. Outfitted with powerful spells - like foe-frying lightening attacks - the Librarian is someone you'll definitely want by your side during more intense melees. On top of this invaluable addition to the existing Space Marine race, Orks and Eldars also pick up new units. The former gets the appropriately named Weirdboy, a long range support unit, while the latter adds the Wraithguard, a short range heavy infantry unit, to their ranks. Tyranids supporters are not left out either, as they can now bring Tyrant Guards and Genestealer Broods into battle.
On top of all the aforementioned additions, the package will include new multi-player maps, missions, single-player content and a new level cap (it jumps from 20 to 30.) Of course, the real draw is the titular new race, and Relic and THQ are pulling out all the stops to introduce new players and existing fans to Chaos' unique brand of envelope-pushing evil. I've been away from the game for a spell, but the title's menu screen, featuring an especially ugly Chaos unit with the face of a Space Marine - not a picture mind you, the actual skinned face - stretched across its horns, is still burned in my brain. Despite this haunting memory, I look forward to tapping back into my evil side when Chaos Rising ships for PC on March 11th.