GP: Is there a level cap?
Relic: Yes, it's level 20, the way we've got it at the moment we're still in the balancing stages and you should be able to complete the campaign between levels 15 to 20. You might not make it all the way to 20 but if you're a "completionist" then of course you will, and that's a reason for replay to get your guys to level 20.
GP: So you can restart the game with your guys at level 15 and continue to get up to level 20?
Relic: Ahh, not right now.
GP: So is that the plan?
Relic: No, basically you have certain game profiles and as you start a new game it'll be with different profiles and you can't cross those over. There's just some real issues because you get so much more powerful as you level up, it would really unbalance the earlier game. But it is something we'd look into because it's good to be able to do that. We are thinking of sort of a hardcore mode where you do take your level 15 guys and fight against higher end enemies, kind of like a Diablo type thing, but not sure how that's going to work out for us. But it's definitely a good concept.
GP: Can your individual guys swap items during the mission?
Relic: No, we made a conscious decision not to let you make any of those item decisions on the ground. Mostly because we have a co-op mode and it really makes it problematic if you stop to play with your stuff while your buddies are off getting killed. That'd be a Bad Thing (laughs).
There's some script cheating we can do, like if we want you to have a flame-thrower during a certain mission. But we don't let the player do that. It's another reason to actually finish the mission quicker so they can get back and play with their stuff. Also, it would be tricky to make a user interface that would fit on the screen and look nice during missions. So no wargear on the field.
GP: For the co-op, are both players Space Marines?
Relic: Yes, in this version. What we're doing with co-op is normally you can take four squads to the ground out of the five that you initially have. So with co-op we're going to split those up, so one guy gets two or three and the other guy gets two. Now it might seem like a weaker version because you've got less units, but it's really working because the interaction with two humans players and the different roles they play, it's really nice. We've got built in voice-chat and it just works really well.
GP: What improvements have you made to AI since Company Of Heroes?
Relic: To be honest, a lot of the COH stuff we got to bring over pretty intact. The cover seeking behaviour and plan seeking we just brought over as a whole. We've tweaked it for different behaviours - you know, there weren't any Tiranids in the urban country of 1944. So...
GP: That would have been kinda cool though, someone should make a mod of that...
Relic: Ah, yeah (laughs), that's cool. Each race has it's own squad type and plan. So if for example you came up against Eldar they're very crafty, they want to move to cover and try and flank you, so they are very active. Orks are... well, orks and they just charge in guns blazing, but they'll still take some advantage of cover. Tiranids are, for the most part, mindless and just charge and try to kill you and take no count for losses. But there are a certain type of creature which, when they are in range of the grunt Tiranids, they actually make them smarter. So now these Tiranids will act and behave much more deadly. But there's a downside of that for the Tiranids because you can choose to take down one of these creatures which will not only make the grunt ones stupid again but the psychic backlash can actually cause some damage or stun them in a radius. So these are high value targets that you'd want to take out, but they're also pretty bad so it's not always easy to take them out.
GP: Can you use wargear as soon as you pick it up?
Relic: No, you can't use it straight away, so in the missions there's just a message to show you've got it.
GP: Have there been any thoughts of porting Dawn of War II to console?
Relic: It's been thought a lot about. We just see the game played for the most part with a mouse. It's a bit hard to tab our way through all the powers. But this game is definitely a lot less complex than other RTS's in the market where there's different buildings and dozens of different units and abilities and things. So it's really a natural step to start thinking of moving this to the console. With that said I don't think we're going to go down that way with Dawn of War II, which won't be a console game, but with Dawn of War III - that could definitely be a console game. It's an untapped market and it also solves a lot of problems as it's easier to support a game for a console than it is for fifty different types of computers. And touching on that our mid spec is actually pretty low. We're look at a GeForce 6 series, with a mobile GeForce 6 series as min. specs. Sounds kinda high but it's actually four years old, and looks pretty good as long as you're not trying to run it in a crazy high resolution.
GP: So you're already working on Dawn of War III?
Relic: No, but we're talking about it (laughs). But we are already working on the expansions and DLC stuff. We originally planned on having more playable races for the initial game. But you know, time's a bitch, so we took a hard nose and decided to take the Space Marine campaign and make it really polished and do it justice. And all the work we've put into the Orks and Eldar etc. is still playable. So we're still in really good shape, as we get this kicked off, to immediately go into one of the other races as downloadable content and then continue with the other races. And then when we eventually release the expansion we'll bundle those two downloadable content packs into it so everybody will have it.
It's no big secret that we like to make a lot of expansions when we can. One, we want to put more stuff on the shelves, and two, we want to take the time to make sure we do each one right. And the IP, the franchise has a lot of stuff people want to see, and you can't get it all into the one game within a normal lifetime, but we can do it within bits and pieces.
Our thanks to THQ NZ for making this happen. If you'd like to see more from Dawn of War II, check out GP Downloads.