Dawn of War 3 has finally drop-pod landed the franchise back in existence after six years since the last entry. Bringing back some systems from the first incarnation and removing some from the second, Dawn of War 3 is a blend of the two previous entries while adding some flair of its own. Will Dawn of War 3 live to see another sunrise? Or will dusk fall on the latest instalment?
As mentioned above, Dawn of War 3 continues the brand on a slightly divergent path. It bring back the base building elements of the first game and removes the customisable hero setup and RPG experience systems of the second. The result is a pleasant mix which doesn’t focus too heavily on either. This can be both a positive as well as a negative, depending on how you like your Dawn of War.
If you enjoyed enjoyed Dawn of War 2, you may be upset that there is no more loot hunting, and that ability customisation for heroes has been heavily pruned.
If you enjoyed the original Dawn of War, you may be disheartened to know that base building isn’t as expansive… there are just enough buildings to cover the various unit producers and unit upgrades.
I, for one, like the change as it places focus on the armies and combat itself rather than putting all your eggs in one basket, be it the impenetrable fortress or the invincible hero.
So how does it all come together?
Starting off with the campaign, you’re given control of returning heroes Gabrielle Angelos of the Blood Angel “Spess Mehreens” (a colloquial pronunciation), Gorgutz of the Orks and Farseer Macha of the Eldar. Control of each racial hero shifts about between missions as their individual army mechanics are slowly doled out in what feels like a lengthy tutorial. This is after the first three actual tutorial missions.
The story itself is serviceable but doesn’t really offer up any surprises. Pre- and post-mission nuggets of narrative are presented beside some beautiful pre-rendered, slightly animated art. Think of digital comics using stills from a CG cut scene, all voiced wonderfully. During missions themselves, voice overs present objectives and conversations between characters push towards the next post-mission story revelation.
When it comes to playing the game, anyone who has any familiarity with any of the previous games should be able to pick up the general flow easily. Once initial base foundations have been laid, capturing resource points that are scattered throughout the map and building a sizeable army are your next priority. From there, it’s a matter of out clicking your opponent and using your heroes’ abilities at the right time.
Each mission has you select up to three “elites” which form your little pool of heroes, and can be made up of singular character types to more advanced squads of specialist troops to mechs. Each of these generate experience from in-mission kills that – in turn – unlock choices for character buffs; things that don’t play a huge impact in game. In fact, I mostly forgot that they were a thing.
New elites can be unlocked through the expenditure of “Skulls,” a currency earned from levelling up heroes during a mission. This is a somewhat slow process, as even when you have completed the campaign, you would have accumulated only enough for about a quarter of the elites on offer.
The three playable races (humans, ork, elder \ space elves) feel quiet distinct from each other, and Relic has done a great job in giving each buckets of flavour. The marines are the more simplistic to control of the group with straight forward units and abilities.
The Eldar are the regular fast but squishy stereotype known for elves with plenty of tricks up their sleeves. They also require more forethought with building placement. The Eldar can create webway portals which project a large sphere of influence, increase the movement speed and shield recharge rates of units inside. They also have the nifty ability to link buildings together to create wormholes between them, allowing you to travel about the map with ease.
The Orks are the least competitive of the three in terms of power but probably the most fun.
On top of the standard flow of battle, Orks need to manage their unit upgrades through the use of scrap metal. Wrecked buildings, vehicles, some unit abilities and the Waaagh! Tower all drop scrap which any unit can rummage through to improve their gear. The Gretchin (worker unit) also has the ability to create vehicles from scrap at a reduced resource cost when compared to building new. The bigger the scrap pile, the better the choices available.
As each ork unit has an extra ability once upgraded, managing cooldowns while ordering them about requires some excellent coordination. Lastly, the Waaagh! Ability (which can be activated to boost speed and damage for a limited time) reveals your buildings and units under the influence to your opponent – a major downside. For me though, it’s well worth it for the Mad Max Fury Road inspired metal music that’s blasted for the duration of the Waaagh effect.
Definitely a race for those who like a challenge.
Visually, the game is gorgeous but unless you have a decent rig, prepare for low frame rates. I settled for an average 40FPS on my system while using “high” settings for the most part. Frames dropped considerably during effect heavy battles but that was something I was willing to put up with when the game looks this good.
Controls are what you’d expect with plenty of hotkeys tied to the left hand side of the keyboard and all building types mapped to the same keys. So no matter what race you’re playing as, you know that you can select the worker unit, press C to build then R to choose the listening post. Same goes with unit abilities. All start from Q and work their way across.
I did have some issues with the cursor. I’m not sure if it was just me or if it was a graphics thing, but every now and then I feel like I had to click \ drag a couple of times to get the group to select. OR sometimes I could have sworn I’d picked out a unit to use their ability and noticed that it had deselected instead. It didn’t happen often enough to confirm it was the game but was enough for me to question it. That said, out of all the games I’ve played, I didn’t feel like me winning or losing had anything to do with a miss click. That prize goes to the Titans.
Dawn of War 3 is the first game in the series to allow you control of the super heavies: the Titans (large scale walker units). Taking up a large amount of real estate on screen, the Marines Imperial Knight, Eldar Wraithknight and the Ork Morkanaut (and in multi, The Gorkanaut) are game winners. They all have a very different feel matching their accompanying race:
- The Imperial Titan is a slow and steady tower of death, armed with high powered, rapid firing cannons on each arm and missile battery. Rubbish in close quarters though.
- The Wraithknight is the opposite: shielded, nimble for its size, and wielding a sword so you can literally leap it into the fray and chop units to pieces.
- The Morkanaut, like the Orks themselves, is odd. It doesn’t have an exceptional amount of fire power, and is relatively slow and cumbersome to wield.
What it DOES have is the ability to launch one of its metallic fists and then retract it back, dragging along anyone caught in its path be it friend or foe. The Morkanaut also has the ability to project a spherical shield of scrap damaging those caught in the maelstrom as well as being able to self-heal. Sort of. Worker units can be spat out of its stomach which you can then order like any other worker unit, repairs included.
Once these units are on the field, the rest of your army can feel a bit redundant. Unless you specifically built anti-tank units and ensure they keep their distance, a fight can often end up with just the two titan’s left standing, punching each other amongst the dead.
I was unable to get into a multiplayer game vs other people with the review code. Playing against AI was the only option. At the moment, it feels a little light – probably due to the lack of races available. Yes, StarCraft also only has three to choose from, but StarCraft also has a butt-tonne more in terms of unit choice with multiple unit synergies – something that DoW3 lacks. I’m sure that won’t be an issue in the future with expansions and whatnot, but right now, it is. Instead you have the option to paint your army in different colour patterns as dictated in Warhammer 40,000 lore.
The multiplayer battle format adds only a pinch of variety to what we’re already used to. The aim is not to destroy all your opponents’ buildings and units, but to remove their core – a set structure in the heart of your opposing force. Limited resource points also force skirmishes over control lest one player retain a commanding income lead and therefore the ability to build a bigger army faster.
Dawn of War 3 takes some decent steps toward creating a fresh approach and is definitely heading in the right direction. Given time, and with a fuller roster, it may become a mainstay RTS amongst the competitive crowd. If you are only interested in the single player portion you’ll enjoy the ride, but once the credits roll (which could take up to 20 hrs) you won’t have any reason to jump back in.
A very solid effort, and I’m very much looking forward to what’s next.
Hey Rohan here,
Simply put this game is amazing: a fantastic addition to the series. As long as you are only playing single player.
Ben and myself tried a number of times to play multiplayer together, eventually working out that we were suffering a problem of incompatible versions – even though neither of us could update to a different version. Instead, I tried later that night to connect with some random players to play a game, and every time I tried it dropped the game as soon as it launched. I am willing to admit that I don’t know why and could not hazard a guess as to who’s side it was on, but considering my PC build date I would err on the side of it being a bug in the game.
So in short: Story is great. Graphics are nice. Just don’t expect to have a good experience on multiplayer at the moment.