Dawn of War II is a major change from other RTSí in that instead of generating generic units to fight your battles, you are saddled with your 6 primary squads who gain experience and level up throughout the game. You are limited to taking 4 squads into any given battle, including your Force Commander. Because of this, the player must understand exactly the kind of enemy he is going to face. For instance, if you are encountering massive amounts of infantry, youíll probably want Avitusí heavy bolters to cut them in half before they reach you. Knowing what you are facing and what to deploy with becomes a strategic decision in and of itself, especially when you consider the types of gear you have equipped.
Dawn of War II features a similar level system as Dark Crusade, the second expansion pack for the original game. Whereas Dawn of War limited your commander to leveling and gear rewards, the sequel grants all your squads the ability to gain experience and increase 4 attributes: health, ranged damage, melee damage, and energy, the latter of which is required to execute special moves. Leveling each attribute will unlock certain traits or abilities, such as the taunt ability for Tarkusí tactical squad. This opens up a lot of possibilities for customization of your army, whether you want to focus on ranged or close combat, or perhaps a mix of both. War gear further allows you to customize and maximize your firepower to suit your specific needs. When you combine the level system with the collectable war gear, you end up with a very deep RPG element that works extremely well to hook you into taking as many optional missions as possible to get that next level.
Campaign mode is played out over 3 planets, as you vie for control between the Orks, Eldar, and fearsome Tyranids whose only real goal is to consume everything in the universe. After completing the introductory levels, you can then choose any order to complete the missions available to you at that time. The only real limit you have is the number of times you can attack in one day, normally defaulted to a deployment. Upon completing a mission, you are rated on a scale of 1-5 in 3 different areas: speed, percentage of enemies killed, and number of your squads still conscious. Depending on your score, you can earn additional deployments during that day, which helps you beat optional assignments that are only valid for a brief amount of time. The player has a lot of control in how they play the game, which gives a welcome open-endedness and allows you to choose your next target. Since each mission awards you a specific piece of war gear, this gives you the choice to go after what you deem valuable.