Previews

Warhammer 40K: Dawn of War - Soulstorm

Preview: Nuns - now sexier than ever

Kinky. It's not something you expect from an RTS. After all, you can't fancy a tank. Well, maybe a really big tank. Kinky is where the latest Dawn of War expandalone is going, though - fetish battle-nuns and S&M elves. Dirty, dirty Warhammer 40,000.

There's been a bit of grumbling about the choice of new factions in Soulstorm. Some people really, really wanted Tyranids, the most alien of 40K races and the major omission to date.

The Sisters of Battle (those fetish battle-nuns) and Dark Eldar (S&M elves) may be lesser-known entries in the 40K bestiary but, crucially, they fill in detail. Put in the Tyranids and you get 40K's greatest hits, but this way there's much more sense of how Games Workshop's far-future universe fits together.

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Imagine, for instance, a six-way team game - the united human factions of the Space Marines, the Imperial Guard and new religious nutters The Sisters of Battle, against an unholy trinity of Chaos, Necron and the soul-swallowing Dark Eldar. Now that's a compelling realisation of the 40K fiction. Frankly, the wild difference of the Tyranids would have been a mis-step.

Developers Relic - this time with help from Titan Quest chaps Iron Lore - have been showing off some of Soulstorm's units, and they're all the proof you need that the new factions aren't marginal bets.

For instance, the Sisters' ultra-warrior, the Living Saint, is a flaming, sword-wielding avenging angel. She wouldn't be possible without Soulstorm introducing flying units to DoW, and she's the fastest thing on the battlefield, able to bear down on any foe.

She's the very definition of Old Testament vengefulness - even if she is possessed by the Imperium's catatonic god-emperor, rather than that nice beardy chap Harry Secombe used to sing about.

The Sisters have religious fervour ('Faith', officially) as a unique resource, which can call down massive buffs - raising the dead as ghosts to fight for you, or temporarily blinding the entire opposing force, for instance.

Pleasure-through-pain sorts the Dark Eldar don't really go in for the higher power stuff, but they do like a soul or two. Their leader, the Archon, can devour the spiritual energy of his foes, becoming stronger with each feast.

How? By swaddling them in barbed wire and sucking the life out of them. Ouch. Sounds more Clive Barkery than Jericho.

Even if the new factions are too much like outsiders for you, Soulstorm's bringing the finest DoW singleplayer game yet. The map of the last expansion, Dark Crusade, now covers a galaxy rather than a single planet - seven space-rocks split into 31 territories. Each zone chucks out different buffs, and larger ones if you can claim an entire planet.

The long game it is then, and, clearly, the biggest Dawn of War expansion yet. Tyranids? Pah. Who needs 'em?

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