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Dragon Age: Origins & Warhammer: Dawn of War II

Dragon Age: Origins (PC)

Why get excited?

Easy - this is Bioware's return to the fantasy RPG after the glories of Knights of the Old Republic and Mass Effect. Billed as a spiritual successor to Baldur's Gate (though this time there's no official Dungeons and Dragons license), Dragon Age takes the sort of rich, open, narrative driven gameplay we've always loved in the company's games to a new darker fantasy setting, and also retains the party mechanics and tactical combat that RPG traditionalists prefer.

We can also expect a lot of moral choices, and Bioware is keen to point out that, while these aren't black and white, the decisions you make will have definite consequences for you, your party and the wider world. Arguably the most exciting 'proper' fantasy RPG since The Elder Scrolls: Oblivion, Dragon Age: Origins should be a must for fans of the genre.

Curb your enthusiasm?

Maybe only fans of the genre. Dragon Age: Origins might be too traditional for a wider audience used to Mass Effect, Oblivion and Fallout 3, and with no existing Star Wars or D&D material to fall back on a lot rests on how compelling Bioware's new fantasy universe is.

ETA: Spring
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Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War II (PC)

Why get excited?

There are always new RTS games on the horizon, but next year brings us two of the most exciting prospects in ages: Blizzard's StarCraft II and Relic's sequel to the much-loved Dawn of War. We're as thrilled at the prospect of more StarCraft as anyone, but Dawn of War II is arguably the more interesting sounding of the two. Games Workshop's dark sci-fi gaming universe was always a powerful setting, but Dawn of War was the first game to do it justice, thanks to a mix of streamlined RTS mechanics and remarkably bloodthirsty combat.

The sequel takes this even further, stripping away much of the base building and resource management that we associate with RTS games so that you can get straight into the action, commanding Space Marines as they battle Orks, Eldar and Tyranids, wielding high-powered, futuristic weaponry that can now batter and deform the environment. The depth comes in an RPG-like levelling system for squad commanders and a set of selectable 'accessories' - heavy weapons, artillery and the like - that you can choose and deploy during missions. Cleverly, the single-player and multi-player games diverge, with the latter offering a slightly more traditional RTS experience for fans of the first game. Built on a new version of the engine that powered Company of Heroes, Dawn of War II could be the game to take over that game's 'best of genre' mantle.

Curb your enthusiasm?

World in Conflict and the recent Command and Conquer titles have already given us a stripped-back RTS experience, and Dawn of War II needs to give us something deeper and richer if it's going to better those games. And while Dawn of War has a large and loyal fanbase, its sequel needs to work harder to win over the C&C-loving masses.

ETA: February
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