Original “Dawn of War” Franchise Reviews

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    It’s been a while since I’ve reviewed games, the last one being gone home…as I’m still suck in the “Starcraft: Brood War” campaign reviews on the Zerg Campaign. I don’t feel comfortable reviewing the campaign or a game until I’ve finished the campaign and got to try out the other features. For “Dawn of War” this will be easy, minus the “Winter Assault” campaign of the 2nd game which I remember being rather difficult.

      I’ve read some of the “Space Wolf Omnibus” as well as some of the Codexes on the different factions, so the world has always been rather interesting to since college, as my introduction to this universe was through “Starcraft” who took inspiration from this game.

    This is a franchise that inspired “Starcraft” as the Zerg are inspired by the Tyranids, the Protoss by the Eldar and the Humans have space marines in both worlds and tend to have governments that end up being based in nobility or tyranny, and of course having no elected leaders. Where the emphasis on Starcraft was on politics though, Warhammer 40K has more so been on magic and survival as the different factions rarely if ever worked together due to them representing the worst of humanity so often (fear, zealotry, etc.). 40K is also more fun in a lot of ways as the Orks, love to fight for the sake of fighting.

   In each of these reviews I’ll go into gameplay, what faction I enjoyed the most and how I thought the story campaign was executed. These will be the deciding factors on what score each of them get, and when I get a better computer I plan to do this for the “Dawn of War 2” franchise as well.

The Original Starcraft Campaign Reviews – Episode 2 – The Zerg Campaign – Destiny of the Overmind

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“My children, the hour of our victory is at hand. For upon this world of Aiur shall we incorporate the strongest known species into our fold. Then shall we be the greatest of creation’s children. We shall be… Perfect.” -The Overmind

We continue the Original Starcraft Campaign Reviews with Episode 2, the Zerg Campaign. This campaign is masterful at showing you the zerg perspective and the creepy destructiveness that defines their species.

The story picks up where the last one left off as the Overmind has created you a Cerebrate (living brain larva) to control a brood and protect the chrysalis which holds a special weapon that will be the future of the Zerg.

The first few missions involve you getting the chrysalis out of Tarsonis while other Cerebrates like Zsaz and Daggoth show you the ropes and give you help in your quest. Eventually you have to defend the chrysalis until it hatches, revealing Kerrigan, the Queen of Blades of the Zerg. With her, you then destroy Raynor’s base as she tells him to never challenge her or the Zerg again.

From here you are helping Kerrigan develop as an agent of the storm as she has psionic abilities she still must unlock so you invade a terran science vessel to get the information. it is here that Zsaz fears Kerrigan being the death of the Zerg as he sees her as too strong willed and she tells him nothing will stand in her way.

Next you are challenged by Tassadar and the Dark Templar on Char. Kerrigan goes to face him and destroys the Dark Templar on the planet only to discover it was a ruse by Tassadar in order to kill a cerebrate. After the Overmind is in mourning and it is up to you as Kerrigan to destroy Zsaz’s brood after which you hunt down the Dark Templar and run into Zeratul who is in charge of the Dark Templar you are hunting.

Next is the invasion of Aiur as Zeratul’s killing of the Cerebrate gave the Overmind a glimpse into his mind as to the location of Aiur and the knowledge of their shared heritage as creations of the Xel’Naga. It is than you begin the invasion and establish a foothold to get the crystal that is needed to summon the Overmind to Aiur. After is the final battle in which the Overmind is summoned over the first Xel’Naga Temple on Aiur that you destroy in the mission. It is here the Overmind tells you his goal that now the Zerg will be perfect as they were made to be “Perfect Essence” and Protoss were “Perfect Form” and that now that Aiur belongs to the Zerg, the Zerg can absorb the perfection of form making them unstoppable.

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Here is the assessment of the episode:

The Pros: Gameplay – The gameplay is fantastic with the Zerg and helps you understand the strategy of how to play them. The Zerg win by creating lots of units at once and overwhelming force, since most of their units are the weakest in the game. In the campaign you experience how to best use this and most of your enemies have large bases and usually start out higher on the tech. tree than you do.

The Cinematics – The Zerg Cinematics are great, you see Kerrigan’s destruction of the science vessel, what she witnesses inside the Chrysalis, the Zerg attacking Aiur and the Overmind appearing on Aiur. In each of these it has the haunting, creepy feel to it that defines the Zerg as a species so welle.e

Kerrigan the Queen of Blades – Kerrigan as a Zerg is one of the best antagonists in any video game or science fiction story. She was made a Zerg against her will and is now infested to the point that she only knows destruction, though at the same time she independent enough that the Cerebrates and Overmind cannot stop her from doing what she wants. She is their perfect agent, free willed and dangerous enough to wipe out any threat that comes their way. A fair amount of the missions are taking care of her chrysalis, but once she is awake she is a lot of fun to play as to watch her conquer in the name of the Swarm. She is the Overmind’s Dragon in Episode 2.

Zsaz – The Cerebrates don’t really have free will as we know it as everything they do is for their father the Overmind, but Zsaz is the only one who calls out and sees the dangers of Kerrigan’s independence. He sees the dangers of her humanity which makes him an interesting character.

Daggoth – The largest of the cerebrates, Daggoth is the one who is the closest one to a second in command. He is the one who has Kerrigan destroy Zsaz’s brood when the Overmind is out of commission from his depression and it is he who helps defend the Chrysalis sending you his special Hunter Killers.

Tassadar – Tassadar is the Gandalf of this campaign. He sends an illusion to trick Kerrigan and sees how her anger is leading to her destruction. He is wise and smart and the first real example we have of the protoss. He is the one who first hurts the Overmind too, since he is the one who is distracting Kerrigan so the Cerebrate Zsaz can be killed. To quote him, “So long as you continue to be so predictable, O Queen, I need not face you at all. You are your own worst enemy. ”

The Overmind – The Overmind is fascinating. He is one of the earliest creations of the Xel’Naga and seeks to destroy what they left behind to become greater. It is his seeking of perfection, and also revenge that leads him to attacking Aiur so that he can have perfection of essence and form. This creature is fascinating and I like that he is triumphant in his campaign as he is a much bigger threat than Mengsk ever was and sees the big picture. He is the one who tells us of the Zerg and Protoss creation by the Xel’Naga and thought of creating Kerrigan as the Queen of Blades.

Okay: Zeratul – We see him briefly at the end of the Campaign when Kerrigan is hunting down the Dark Templar. He has his famous “Though we strike at you from the shadows, do not think that we lack the courage to stand in the light,” during the fight. Tassadar is given a bit more characterization though as he interacts with you in a few instances. Zeratul only does so once.

This campaign is awesome, and more difficult than the Terran Campaign, as it assumes you know the basics. The characters in this are really cool, which is interesting when you are giving character trates to giant brain larva (the Cerebrates) and an all knowing, consuming brain (The Overmind) but Blizzards writers and art team made it work. This campaign is better than the Terran Campaign of Episode 1 and I definitely recommend it.

Final Score for this campaign is 9.3 / 10. Would have been higher if Zeratul had got more moments and more characterization of the Cerebrates.

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Edge of Tomorrow (2014): A Great Approach to a Space Marines and Alien Invasion Story

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“Edge of Tomorrow,” directed by Doug Liman has along with “Pacific Rim,” helped re-establish my faith in original Sci. Fi. stories in regards to Hollywood. I’ll get into the why in the assessment, but first the premise which in and of itself is promising.

It is loosely based off the Japanese light novel “All you Need is Kill,” where Rita’s name comes from as well as the origin and name of the mimics and the UDF (United Defense Force). After watching the movie I look forward to reading it in full.

Edge of Tomorrow is about Cage (Tom Cruise) a corrupt army officer who is conscripted into the final battle against the mimics (the aliens who have conquered nearly all of Europe), resisting every step of the way he is on the battlefield and it is there he kills an Alpha (mimic general) and get’s it’s blood in his system which allows him the powers of the mimics to repeat each day. From here it is him being trained by and working with Rita (Emily Blunt) to stop the mimics conquest of Earth.

Here is the assessment:

The Pros: The premise – Is awesome! He’s basically living in a videogame, but the A.I. (other characters) can end his infinite lives if they give him a health pack (Blood transfusion) rather than killing him…it makes thing at stake, not to mention the trauma of having to die again and again “Groundhog Day,” style. The premise is fascinating since it’s ties to videogames are more subtle than other movies (“The Gamer,” etc.).

The technology – The United Defense Force (UDF) has a unique take on Space Marine outfits. They are mixture of modern day but also have new and old things (robotic arms that can fire attached to the back, and in the case of Rita’s character – a sword). You can tell they took tribute from Warhammer 40K and Starcraft (two of my favorite sci. fi. worlds).

The Characters – It would have been easy to make all the characters stereotypes…but the movie resists that. Tom Cruise’s Cage being a media relations slimy coward (reminiscent of Wikus from “District 9,”) is great. Cruise usually always plays likable characters so it is nice seeing him play someone who will die a bunch of times before he finally learns to be a decent human being.

Rita – Emily Blunt’s character Rita is awesome. Nicknamed “The Full Metal Bitch,” she is tough and complex…a commander worth following and someone who has been hardened by war but can see the bigger picture because of her getting the ability that Cage had at one point earlier before the film takes place.

The Squad – Cage’s squad of criminals is pretty awesome. They each have interesting quirks that set them apart from others in this genre. From the guy who doesn’t wear pants and lets it all hang out, to Ford who took his friend’s place after his friend was killed, to Nance who is a bit crazy.

The military/United Defense Force – Isn’t perfect in this, it isn’t some jingoistic tribute to them like most Michael Bay and Oliver Stone movie…it is a bunch of human being in a tough situation trying to deal with it as best they can. You see this in their fear of Rita and Cage when they find out about their abilities and to their following “The Plan” of the invasion of Normandy even after Cage and Rita have proven they see that it will fail. The good (heroism against the invasion) and bad (unquestioning loyalty above all else, distrust of new ideas or things) is shown really well in this film.

The tribute – The invasion of Normandy as a tribute to D-Day is handled well too. The human cost is shown by Cage living the failed invasion (in this universe) each day. You get to know the characters and what drives them. Their, “So what’s?” in regards to what they do.

Okay: The script – Didn’t have fantastic writing, but was okay. It wasn’t bad, it just didn’t elevate anything since it tried going for a pretty weak trope that I’ll go into in the cons.

The cinematography – The cinematography isn’t anything special. It is better than Doug Liman’s other stuff (the Bourne Series) but that isn’t saying much. It isn’t bad, but it isn’t great.

The Mimics – A lesser version of the Tyranids and Zerg. There were some interesting ideas with them but like the Muto in “Godzilla,” they weren’t fully realized. Found the Kaiju in “Pacific Rim,” more compelling. These guys weren’t bad…but the Tyranids and Zerg (where I think the inspiration came from) have a lot more complexity as a species. The Mimic’s Omega (Think Zerg OVermind – controlling brain), is just kind of their and we don’t get their motivations. Cage says their motivations don’t matter at one point, but I disagree – motivations make a peoples or individual compelling.

The Ending – It leaves you thinking if it’s all just in his head and if the Omega came back…since it never explains how he’s repeated the day with them victorious. This kind of takes away from the sacrifices and they go with the implied romance at the end again…when that was one of the weaker parts of the film.

Cons: The Romance – Rita (The Full Metal Bitch) falls in love with Cage (Tom Cruise). What the hell? We see no reasons for this, since she is a pretty asexual character, devoted fully to her cause. She saves his him multiple times, but also kills him multiple times. The friendship eventually makes sense…it is her learning to trust again, not the romance.

The sexualization Rita – A lot of times her character is shot in such ways that sexualize her for Cage. From her doing Yoga (and you hearing a really strong breathing in) to her kissing him at the end. Again, she’s the Full Metal Bitch…Cage is never comparable to that…in the end he is an average corrupt Joe who becomes more…but not someone who seems to interest her in any way at all. It was tacked on and brought the film down. If they wrote her differently it would be more believable, but not for the character we see and come to know.

I recommend this film highly. It is no “Pacific Rim,” (see how Rita was handled) or “District 9” (Tom Cruise is no Sharlto Copley) but it is a really good film. Not the best this summer (that still goes to “Captain America: Winter Soldier” – Which I saw months before starting this blog) but it is an enjoyable experience and manages to change some tropes and handle other sci. fi. tropes in such a way to create a really compelling story. One of my favorite films for sure and the best Tom Cruise Sci. Fi. film since “Minority Report.”

I give this film an 8.4 / 10.