We learned a valuable lesson at CES last week: Don't demo an RTS game on a trade show floor. Why? Because it's nigh-impossible to hear a developer's instructions over the deafening noise of geek-outs. It turns into something like this dialogue snippet from our hands-on experience with Warhammer 40000: Dawn of War 2:

Relic:
"So, you'll quickly want to set a rally point here." *taps screen*
Joystiq: *clicks on random units* [units march off-screen]
Relic: "Okay, so if you look at this icon, you'll see that your character is earning zeal. You might want to build some heavy firepower units for support."
Joystiq: *attacks enemy power generator* [cue: bad move!]

It was just too darn loud at CES to get good instructions, and Relic only had one demo station on hand, which obviously did not feature any PVP gameplay. Naturally, we had StarCraft 2 in mind as we fooled around with Dawn of War 2, measuring Relic's RTS against what we've played of Blizzard's next blockbuster. We can say that Dawn of War 2 is currently winning in the looks department. As we watched an Imperial Tank literally roll through walls and crush them into powder while Space Marines jumped over the action with jetpacks, we were remiss to have left our drool bib back home in the hamper.

We've embedded a pair of videos from our session after the break, including producer Mark Noseworthy blowing stuff up!
McElroy, drunk with power, attempts to "beat" this game on his first try.

Here are the key details we cobbled together over the din of the show:
  • You can set a rally point on your character for tracking purposes: set it; forget it; and watch all the backup units come to you.
  • Just like in the original Dawn of War, there are no servitor units that mine your resources. Still loving that. "Warhammer is not about chopping down trees," Noseworthy notes.
  • Relic has brought in a lot of features from Company of Heroes, Relic's WWII RTS game, like suppressing fire. It'll be important for your character to take cover in buildings and behind objects.
  • You can play as a Space Marine, Ork, Eldar, or Tyranid, and select a Hero Commander type: Offense, Healer, or Defense. For the Space Marine race, that translates into Force Commander, Apothecary, or Techmarine. It's similar to the doctrines in Company of Heroes, but you can make your choices before heading into battle.
  • Also similar to Company of Heroes is the ability to split up your squads: send one guy out to a power point, and another to a requisition point.
And, as promised, here's Noseworthy blowing stuff up:

This article was originally published on Joystiq.