Chaos Rising is another shining example of developer Relic's attention to quality when it comes to expanding the Dawn of War series. This, being the first expansion for the sequel, adds more of what everyone liked from the first game, and less of what people didn't.
There's far less repetition in the singleplayer. The downside is that it renders this aspect of the game a little on the short side, predominantly due to there being a lot less side quests. On a positive note however, what is included is of a much higher quality than most of the missions in the last game. There is also a lot less drudgery in the formula.
It all picks up right where the last one left off, and while the Tyranid threat is mostly gone, the Chaos Marines have shown up on a new planet which has suddenly appeared from the warp (apparently this all makes sense to Warhammer 40K fans). The story is engaging and will keep you entertained all the way through to the end. The same characters you know and love from the first game are back, with a few new ones thrown into the mix. Again, the characters are compelling, hold good conversations to keep the story flowing, and all play an important role on the battlefield.
The level cap has been raised to 30, and you will have no problem reaching it by the end of the game. But the most important addition to the campaign is the corruption system. During each mission there are multiple objectives, some of which can corrupt your characters to the side of Chaos. What this means in the game is that you will gain some new abilities (and lose old ones to balance it out) and certain weapons can only be equipped if you are corrupt enough. It adds an interesting layer to things and makes some of the missions a lot more interesting, but unfortunately Relic seem to want people to give into Chaos because there is far more incentive to do so than there is to stay good. This is a bit of a shame, and it'd be nice if this was balanced a little better.
On the multiplayer side of things, we have Chaos Marines being a new playable race. They are a welcome addition to the roster of races, and just like everyone else, have their own unique style. So far the balance seems to be right, and it is always impressive to see how Relic can add new races to a game whilst keeping it fairly balanced.
If you aren't interested in Chaos, don't panic; Relic have also added new units to all the other races as well. There is nothing "game changing" here but the new units are fun to use, and it adds a better sense of variety in both strategy and visuals.
They've also added new maps, Free-For-All and team Free-For-All game modes. These happen to be my favourite type of games, so I am a huge fan of them finally being added to the series. The controllable chaos (excuse the pun) of a Free-For-All game is a sheer delight to play, and hugely enjoyable when you can manage to win a match.
For those of you who enjoyed The Last Stand mode that was added to the game a few months ago, you may be happy to know that Tyranid and Chaos heroes have been added to the roster. They both come with unique gear and abilities to acquire, and it should be fun to see how powerful they become at later levels.
It really comes down to the fact that if you enjoyed Dawn of War II, there is no reason not to get this expansion pack. It takes everything that was good about the last game and adds a little more depth to it. The extra race is fun to use and looks great on the battlefield. The singleplayer, while a little short, is a better and more focused experience this time around. And just like last time, playing through the campaign with a friend in co-op is wicked fun.
If you were not taken by Dawn of War II's unique take on the RTS genre, then this will probably not change your mind. However if you loved it, or perhaps enjoyed Company of Heroes but haven't given Dawn of War a try, this could be a more affordable entry point for you to get hooked on this wonderful series.