In the Grim Darkness of the 41st Millennium there are only people building models, painting them and rolling dice all over the world. Fans return home and hope to experience the same joy they had while playing on the tabletop and have their models brought to life as they fight with large walkers loaded with unfathomable amounts of weapons and killing equipment. At least they don’t have to wait for very long as the god emperor has bestowed them with a new Dawn of War but will it satisfy them?
After a long wait we finally have the third core instalment in the Dawn of War franchise. Dawn of War 3 is brought to us by the same team as the other games and they have been working tirelessly to take what the fans have been saying and making something to excite all. So let’s break the game down and explore what they’ve done. From what I’ve experienced with the game it seems to have the heart of the original full blown RTS that was Dawn of War 1 with the haircut of Dawn of War 2. This is more of an true RTS experience compared to Dawn of War 2 but there were some things from Dawn of War 2 that enrich this game and add a bit more meat.
So the base set up with Dawn of war is that you are leading one of the iconic factions from the Warhammer 40K universe. With Dawn of war 3 you’ve got the Space Marines lead by Gabriel Angelos (Name dropping for the fans as some the leaders are returning characters), The Orks lead by a warboss called Goregutz and the Eldar lead by Farseer Macha. Each faction is vastly different in how they play and each of them has a group of “Elite” Units which is the callback to Dawn of War 2 which will be explained later. Dawn of War 3 is more like the original RTS as you are building bases and capturing points on the map to gain resources to improve your army and expand your forces but the Elite and Hero units are what makes this game a bit more than a traditional RTS.
Space marines are the most standard out of the 3 available races due to their balance across the board of units and are also the ones people will recognise as they are the poster boys for not only the game itself but it’s overarching parent franchise. Eldar are designed to move around the map and take their base with them where ever they go so they don’t get homesick. Most of the troops are based around lots of damage in a very short amount of time and hopefully that combined with the abilities of their elite units will deal with any enemy force. Then you have the Orks. Orks are all about having lots of units, making them wear pots on their head because it’ll make them “ ’arder ” and running at the enemy until they are a red paste about a mile behind you. What I love is that the developers have taken the time to craft each army to make them as close to the tabletop experience as possible but opening up the mechanics and the world of Warhammer to newcomers. I only really got into Warhammer after playing the first Dawn of war and falling for the franchise as a whole and I did have fond memories being brought up while playing this and talking about it with friends. Orks should be a wave of green with lots of pointing things and them screaming cockney insults in order to make them kill better than the other Orks. Elder should be by design to have lots of damage but will take wounds easily and Space Marines should be the one in the middle as it always has been.
Now I just want to make a point before going on much further. This is more of a defence than anything but it works into what I’m saying. Relic has been getting a lot of flak for only having three races at the time of release and writing. The original Dawn of war only had 4 races at launch and didn’t get more until a year later. If you want more races at the start then feel free to wait because I have confirmation from the developers I spoke to when I was invited to a press event in London that more are on the way and they will be unique. That uniqueness is what allows the game to step from core RTS to a hybrid of sorts thanks to the elite units and the doctrines.
The elite units are special troops you can deploy during multiplayer games. During the game you will find points which give you elite points. Claiming those objectives will give you elite points periodically and you will be able to spawn an elite unit once you have the amount needed. The amount of points you gets increases over time as each multiplayer game is split into phases that give more and more to you so you can have larger battles while playing. These elite units range from the heroes like Gabriel Angelos and Macha to the Wraith-knight and Imperial Knight and those are the game changers. Huge amounts of damage and their sheer scale makes them a force to be reckoned with. Each elite has a set of abilities which help in battle but also have some passive abilities that you can take to help other units or just the elite in question. These active and passive abilities do kind of push you into a certain playstyle as some units will benefit from being next to other units and so on but if you don’t like that playstyle you can just change the units you take in the next game. On top of that there are the Doctrines which are army wide passive abilities that range from increased range under certain conditions to adding to faction specific mechanics like the Orks’ scrap collecting or the space marine drop pods.
A lot of the main mechanics shine in the multiplayer. That’s where the elite units get to stomp around to their hearts content and also where you as the player will be spending most of your time. Multiplayer will be set up a bit differently compared to previous instalments. Players will have an energy core guarded by 2 shield generators and 2 turrets further down the map. Your objective is to take the turrets, then the shield generator and then push into the base and destroy it to win. It’s not the assassinate or destroy HQ objectives of RTS past. This is taking the MOBA style of base rushing and mixing it within an RTS which is a refreshing change for the genre as it gives a main objective to run alongside destroying the player’s units and buildings. The Campaign works as the introduction to how the game works and to level up the elite units with the story showing the viewpoints of each of the factions and allows you to learn each one quite extensively but multiplayer is where you’ll be testing yourself.
There are a few things I’m thankful for with Dawn of War 3. The Army painter being back and allowing me to have my pink marines and now my pick towering behemoth to scare my enemies. The elite units allow me to pad out the game and make sure that my core army is able to keep up with the elite units and their abilities. The detail on everything with this game is refreshing down to the details on the characters and the red mist they become after a terminator squad unloads their assault cannons onto unsuspecting space elves but I really hope it doesn’t get to a point when everyone is playing the same way and there is no variation. I hope the extra races come out soon and I know they will be all unique but this game does deserve some love but there are some things I felt would of added to the game. Like more cover for units in firefights and some sort of extra defensive structure so you don’t have to rely on having two forces in an army all the time and have those be able to defend the resource points as they are very slow to obtain resources.
If you are a fan of Dawn of War or even just Warhammer 40K in general then this game is something to look into. There are some really good ideas here that have been stylised to fit with dawn of war enough to make it refreshing but some minor tweaks wouldn’t be frowned upon.
A big thanks to Relic Entertainment and Sega for inviting me to London to preview the game and for providing the review copy for this game as well.