Q&A with Raphael van Lierop at Relic for Dawn of War: Winter Assault

By Matt Bailey

THQ's Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War - Winter Assault has just been released on PC, and we have an interview with Raphael van Lierop, Assistant Producer at developer Relic Entertainment.

What are your favourite new features of Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War - Winter Assault?

Well, we worked very hard to make sure that Winter Assault was a big evolutionary leap forward from Dawn of War, so it’s difficult to pinpoint one specific thing. I suppose I’d have to pick the new race – the Imperial Guard. They really suit my personal playing style. I tend to be a more defensive (i.e. less aggressive) player, building up my base defenses before heading out to wreak havoc on the battlefield, and the Imperial Guard are really perfect for this type of strategy. Plus, they have tanks. Lots and lots of tanks.

How has the single player campaign changed?

One of the areas we felt Dawn of War suffered in was the single-player campaign. It was enjoyable and action-packed, but it wasn’t very long and you were only able to play Space Marines. So, one of our main goals in Winter Assault was to improve that aspect of the game. To do so, we created two ‘threads’ in our SPG – Order, in which you get to play the Imperial Guard and Eldar forces, and Disorder, in which you get to play the Orks and Chaos. Ultimately all races have the same goal, so you just know that’s going to lead to lots of interesting conflict even among allies. I’d say the campaign is just generally a lot more substantial.

The Imperial Guard are making an appearance in Winter Assault. What do you think the new race will bring to the game?

I’ve already touched on this in an above response, but I think the biggest thing the Imperial Guard add to the Dawn of War experience is the alternative playing style they support. Because of the way the resourcing system works in Dawn of War, players are encouraged (even required) to spread out into the maps early on and take control of Strategic Points. If you don’t do this, it’s going to be very difficult to win against opponents who do spread out aggressively. But, this kind of quick forward movement tends to be more appealing to experienced strategy gamers, and the more casual RTS player can feel a bit intimidated. With the Imperial Guard, you can still spread out and take control of these vital points, but you can do so feeling more confident. You garrison your squads inside these extremely tough structures that they can fire out from, and these structures are linked by tunnels so it’s easy to move troops around without exposing them to enemy fire. Add to that a healthy roster of pretty badass vehicles, and you can see why the Imperial Guard really appeal to both the more defensive player *and* the aggressive player. Because really, you don’t have to play defensively to enjoy the Imperial Guard – you’re going to get a ton of enjoyment out of them either way.

How will the online play be enhanced in the add-on?

In addition to adding a whole bunch of new MP maps (over 20) with Winter Assault, many of which feature our new winter terrain set, we’ve improved on various aspects of the online game. In fact, this is something we’ve been committed to since Dawn of War launched in September of last year (2004). With each subsequent patch (we’re at 1.4 right now), we’ve continued to tweak systems and address bugs, and we feel our online systems are a lot more robust than they were when we launched. Having said that, probably Winter Assault’s biggest enhancement to the Online play of Dawn of War is through the streamlined tech tree. We devoted a lot of design and play balance resources to addressing various aspects of the tech trees for all races, things we felt would really help keep the game fresh for our healthy community of Dawn of War players.

What plans do Relic have for the next-generation consoles?

I’m not directly involved with that part of Relic’s product strategy, but perhaps you’ve heard about our Xbox 360 title – The Outfit. We announced this at this year’s E3 to much acclaim and excitement. It’s a very new kind of game for Relic, and the games industry as a whole, and we’re really jazzed by how it’s turned out. For more information about The Outfit, visit www.theoutfitgame.com.

We would like to thank Raphael van Lierop for taking the time to answer our questions.

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