WP: Who has the honor to speak with us? State your name, rank and occupation!
I'm Jeff Lydell, and I'm a producer on Chaos Rising.
WP: When Dawn of War II left off, we had a fairly big campaign, some high-level characters — we're at level 20 — and there's a good story line behind it. Where does Chaos Rising fit in? Are we going to play the same characters? Are these going to be all-new characters? It's an expansion pack so you have a new race in there with the Chaos Marines, but how does it all fit together in the big picture?
JL: When the Tyranid invasion concluded — if you finished Dawn of War II, you know how that ended — the Blood Ravens have regrouped for Chaos Rising, and it's now a few months later. You're following the same set of characters, but we're also adding Jonah the Librarian to the cast. Jonah's a very powerful caster. He's not the strongest melee guy, he's not the strongest at taking damage, but he brings a whole new bag of tricks with offensive spells, buffs for your friends, heals, and a whole lot of psychic abilities that are just for him.
WP: Jonah doesn't have a squad. He flies solo, much like the Space Marine force commander. Why did you make the decision to not give him a squad?
JL: That's just kind of how Librarians roll. (laughs) They're kind of a heroic character amongst themselves, much like the force commander. Having a squad of casters didn't make as much sense as just having one really powerful dude.
WP: In the original game, cover was a huge aspect of how you played strategically. If you got into good cover, you got a good defensive bonus. How much of a role does cover play in the expansion?
JL: Cover, flanking, suppression — all the core mechanics behind tactical combat — are all still really big. We've just added a whole new bag of tricks, so the guy behind cover could be flanked, he could have a grenade thrown at him, or you could cast Jonah's Ignite Soul ability, and that's going to get him out of cover in a real hurry.
WP: Going along with the character traits, obviously we've got the skill tree. In the original game, once you went down a skill path, there was no way to re-spec. With the expanded skill trees in the Chaos Rising expansion, are you still stuck with what your character was if you've played through the original game, or do you have the option to reset that once you've seen the new skill trees?
JL: We're probably going to give players the chance to fully re-spec once at the beginning of the game so that they can take their imported squads and redistribute those points. Something else that I should point out: If you didn't play the original, you can start Chaos Rising fresh. We give you a profile that's appropriately leveled; we give you enough gear to get started. There's no requirement to own the original Dawn of War II.
WP: Is this going to be a stand-alone expansion, then?
JL: Yes, so the multiplayer communities will be the same. It's actually the same build, but which game you buy determines what you have access to, so if you own Chaos Rising, you get the Chaos Rising campaign and you get to play with Chaos online. If you own the original, you get to play with the original four races online and you get to play that original campaign.
WP: If you own both, does it just merge together?
JL: That's right.
WP: What about the Corruption mechanic? The Corruption tree is a new tree put in for Chaos Rising. I'd hate to call it a skill tree, but it seems to float next to the skill tree.
JL: It does certainly tie in to the skill tree. You have a bunch of abilities. Now, Corruption is a metagame that we've built around choices that you make in the battlefield, choices that you make with your squads, and the decisions you make are going to have an impact on what skills you get to unlock. Corruption is going to be one of these powerful temptations throughout the campaign. You're going to want it. There are certain rewards you get out of going down the Corruption path that you can only see that way, so what you do in-mission is going to have a direct impact on how you customize your squads.
WP: Aside from Jonah, what other new units are we going to see in Chaos Rising that you can tell us about?
JL: Within the Chaos army, we've shown off several of those. We've seen the Chaos Heretics, Chaos Space Marines, Chaos Plague Marines and the Aspiring Champion. We have quite a few more. (laughs) There was the Chaos Predator, several variants of the Dreadnought, including auto cannons, missile launchers, and power claw-equipped Chaos Dreadnoughts. We also have the Bloodletter and the Bloodletters riding on the Juggernauts. The Chaos army looks quite unique standing next to everything else.
WP: The Chaos Marines have a very solid look, but how different is their play style from the Blood Ravens? In multiplayer, if you're switching from marine to marine, is it really that much of a difference?
JL: I'll get into a lot of details regarding multiplayer later in the year, but one thing I will say is that Chaos is built around the mechanics of worship. The choice of gods that you have is going to have a direct impact on your play style, and we think players are going to find that very interesting.
WP: When you were going in to bring them into the game to build the expansion around it, what parts of the Warhammer lore did you really dig into? Were there any stories or novels that the dev team read and thought would be good material, or did you go back to the source books?
JL: Well, we always look at the source books for the visuals and the concept art around any of the models we make, and we use that to inspire the different characters we're going to build. When it comes to the story, this story is about the temptation of Space Marines and Chaos and the adversarial relationship they have. That pretty much describes every book that's ever been written on them, staring with Horus Heresy. It's hard to say if there's one that stands out, but it is quite true to the flavor of Chaos in Warhammer 40,000.
WP: For someone who's maybe been a fan of the RTS series but hasn't really delved into the lore and the backstory, how would you summarize the Chaos Marines?
JL: Chaos Marines are the fallen angels, so Space Marines, the Adeptus Astartes, are considered to be gods among men by the general populace. Chaos are those angels who fell. They've given in to severe temptation, and they have a very adversarial, personal hatred of the Space Marines. That's something that we've embraced fully in the design of the race.
WP: We know that you don't want to spoil the story, but are we going to see the return of Tyranids or Orks in the campaign, or are you really focused on the Chaos Marines?
JL: All the races that we've already shown are going to be present in this campaign in various capacities. Without giving away spoilers, the main adversary that you're up against is Chaos.
WP: If you had to sum it up in two to three sentences, what really makes Chaos Rising an expansion pack that's worth playing?
JL: Chaos Rising adds in really big ways to everything that players love. Players love war gear, players love leveling and progression, and they love the tactical combat that we've had with our players. We've added a new character, and that opens up new opportunities with tactical combat. We've added new types of war gear, and we've added this whole new progression tree with Corruption and ways that it ties back. We've also gone back and looked at some of the problems we had with the original campaign, some of the complaints, and we've tried to close up every single one of them. All the complaints about repetition? Every mission in Chaos Rising is unique. Every mission has its own objectives and its own flavor, and there's no template that's visible when you're playing.
WP: Aside from repetition, what were a few of the major complaints that you got about Dawn of War II?
JL: Some players didn't feel that the small squad focus was what they wanted, so to address that, we've added variety. We do have some missions that are built around a very small army doing a very tactical series of objectives. We also have a few other moments in the campaign that capture the large feel of armies clashing against each other.
WP: Is there anything about the game that we haven't talked about that you wanted to add?
JL: Chaos Rising is going to be shipping in March 2010, and I look forward to playing it with everybody online.
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