You already know that Retribution, Relic's just-announced second expansion for Dawn of War 2, is finally giving the series some proper Ork love--the franchise's first-ever Ork campaign will be the centerpiece of the expansion. We got Jeff Lydell, Lead Producer at Relic Entertainment, to talk about it.
PC Gamer: Why Orks?
Jeff Lydell: We've wanted to do an Ork campaign for a long time, and they bring a whole lot to the table in terms of tone and humor. On top of that, they're one of the iconic 40k races, and we are thrilled to have given them a chance in the sun.
More of this man's words, many of which reveal exciting information about the angry green people we adore, inside.
PCG: It's tempting to think that the tone of the expansion will be more lighthearted than the previous, due to the way Orks are generally thought of as the reckless hooligans of 40k, but does that make it harder to write a compelling or dramatic plot for Orks?
Lydell: Some parts are easier, some are harder. Getting a motivation for Orks to go and fight is definitely easier, since they are always looking for an excuse. The Ork campaign is definitely a lot funnier than anything we've done in the past, I think the players are really going to like it. As for what's more difficult, I know Ork characters are harder on our actors' voices, and they need longer breaks between sessions after doing them.
PCG: They do scream more than Space Marines, yes. A little further--are Orks going to be portrayed as the “misunderstood good guys” or will the players be unabashedly be playing a ragtag team of villains?
Lydell: The Freebooterz are definitely not the good guys. Of course, since this is Warhammer 40,000, there aren't really any good guys, there is just “your side.” The Freebooterz are in it for themselves, just like everyone else. That doesn't mean they can't be endearing though, I happen to be pretty attached to my Ork characters after playing with them this much, even though their primary motivations are murder, destruction and theft.
PCG: Those motives seem congruent with the "space pirate" aesthetic you're giving this group of Orks. How does the scale of the new campaign compare to the previous expansion? Will it be as long as the original Marine campaign? Will it have the same semi-open structure?
Lydell: The Ork campaign will be about as long as Chaos Rising, and have a similar structure. There are several branching and optional missions. You also have wargear, leveling, and lots of cool new stuff to unlock.
PCG: How does the way you play change as you progress?
Lydell: You start out with a small number of heroes with limited skills and abilities, then quickly unlock more and more abilities for them, as well as find new types of gear to use. In addition to this, you start out able to produce small numbers of sluggas and lootas, and eventually are stomping around with large numbers of orks and ork vehicles.
PCG: Dawn of War 2 was about very small-scale, tactical squad combat, and Orks tend to be about very large-scale hordes of troops--how did you reconcile those?
Lydell: Great question. We have a brand new feature for Retribution, where we let you build squads on the battlefield in addition to the heroes you bring down. We've also raised the limit on the number of troops you can control at once, so if you want a pile of Sluggas running around the map, be our guest.
PCG: Building! That's a major change. Will that affect how familiar or analogous the Ork squads feel compared to the Space Marines? Will their weapons and abilities rely less on tactical timing and more on filling the air with Slugga bullets?
Lydell: There are some similarities between the races' from a purely academic view. In reality, the Orks have a unique twist on everything. Mr. Nailbrain the mekboy, for example, can field lots of weapons similar to Avitus' heavy weapons, but he also has access to lots of gadgetry. He can teleport and repair, use disruptive shields, but he isn't very tough in melee. The Warboss is capable of calling in other Orks once you upgrade his Waaagh ability.
PCG: Can you give any examples of alternative weapons we might find later in the game?
Lydell: Yes! Spookums the Kommando Nob can equip a grappling hook. It's not the most precise device, but it does let you fling him a long distance and quickly get him into or out of trouble. Alternatively, you can use it to revive a fallen hero, and pull him towards you, or at least in your general direction.
PCG: The Orks' love of looted tech does make opportunities for that kind of messy, scavenger personality. Will we see a looted dreadnought or vehicle as one of your squads?
Lydell: You get more than one. When you locate an Ork Teleporta Platform, you can field deff dreads and tanks by building them. You can also unlock upgraded weapons for them over the course of the campaign.
PCG: In DoW2 there didn't seem to be much point in leveling certain stats on certain characters, like melee for Avitus or ranged for Thaddeus. Is that still the case, or are there squads where very different stat distributions lead to equally viable builds?
Lydell: I've been told by some that ranged Thaddeus could be really powerful, but getting back to your question, one of the changes coming is the melee/ranged trees are being merged into a single offensive tree. We also make a point of unlocking a new ability with every level, guaranteed. This means you are get to choose a new ability or trait every time, and the rewards are always meaningful.
PCG: Were there any squads in DoW2 that lots of players used, or that lots of players benched? What did you learn from the squads players chose in DoW2?
Lydell: Funny that, Cyrus was the least selected squad in DoW2. He was also capable of soloing entire levels on his own, and a ton of players swore by him. The big takeaway from DoW2 was people liked having options on how to play, and we are preserving that in Retribution. For example, if you are facing a suppression team, you can sneak your way up close to it and ambush it with your Kommando Nob, or you can grab the Warboss and several squads of boys, activate the Waaagh ability and completely overwhelm them.
PCG: Considering all the work that went into animating and voicing them, should we expect a cameo from any of the Space Marine heroes in Retribution?
Lydell: Yes. The details would be a spoiler, so I won't say who.
PCG: Drat. I hope it's Cyrus. Cyrus wearing an papier-mâché Ork mask as a disguise, going undercover. What about Last Stand mode, then? You'll be adding something to DoW2's wildly-popular, free DLC, right?
Lydell: We don't have anything to share at this time.
PCG: Awwman. You're killing me here, Jeff. Last question: if you're focusing on the single-player, will Relic be adding another race to multiplayer? If not, I'm pretty sure this will be the first Dawn of War expansion ever to not add one.
Lydell: We don't have any information we can share on multiplayer at this time.