Review: Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War III
Developer: Relic Entertainment
Genre: Real-time strategy
In the grim darkness of the far future, there is only war.
For the last 30 years, this phrase has been synonymous with the iconic Warhammer 40,000 tabletop wargaming franchise by Games Workshop. If you were to say it aloud, there is an incredibly high chance you’ll have someone close by who’ll know where it’s from. The franchise has a legion of dedicated fans of the tabletop games, books, lore, and videogames, and with the release of the 8th Edition Ruleset just around the corner for the tabletop version of the game, hype is pretty high at the moment, making the release of Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War III right now a real prime opportunity to capitalize on that hype.
The campaign of Dawn of War III takes turns in telling the story from perspectives of the three major factions featured: The Space Marines, the Orks, and the Eldar – all with their own seemingly unrelated agendas and objectives that eventually intertwine into one big brawl for control of a mysterious xenos artifact known as the Spear of Khaine.
The legendary commander, Gabriel Angelos, and his Blood Ravens chapter of the Space Marines, are sent on a mission for what he is told is of vital importance to the Imperium of Man by an Imperial Inquisitor, only to find himself torn between fulfilling his oath sworn duty to the Emperor, or disobeying a direct order to protect his fellow citizens of the Empire currently under siege on the planet of Cyprus by the local Ork horde.
The Orks, currently lead by Gitzstompa, are on a mission to find as much scrap as they can, and eliminate the local humies (humans) on Cyprus. Gitzstompa so so sure of his position among his own Orks, that he is oblivious to the discontent of his leadership among his band of green-skinned savages. One particular Ork, known as Gorgutz, is so discontent that he secretly undermines his authority under the guise of imbecility and failure.
Our final faction are the ever elusive Eldar, a race of what I call “Ninja Space Magic-slingin’ Elves” with an abundance of arrogance. Their pursuit of the xenos artifact is guided through a series of ancient prophecies, and they’ll stop at nothing to secure it for the Eldar.
If you’re a Warhammer 40K fan, chances are you’re already loyal to the death to a particular race or faction. I myself love me some Chaos Space Marines, but they’re not in this game yet. But out of the three available races, the only ones I don’t quite click with are the Eldar. Something about them just makes me cringe and want to commit genocide on them. Ork dialog is always good for a laugh, and the Blood Ravens are amazingly fun to play as.
Each campaign mission cycles through the available factions, starting with the Space Marines, then Orks, and finally to the Eldar. All missions have a series of objectives that must be carried out, which vary in the strategy needed to complete them. For example, one mission will feature a straight-forward enemy hunt, while the other will be wave defense.
Of all of the missions I’ve played so far, each has lasted approximately 30-45 minutes each on normal difficulty. I often found that I’d build up a large force to attempt to overwhelm the groups of enemy mobs scattered around the maps, but by the time I reached any objectives, I’d lost approximately 60 percent of my overall force. To put things in perspective, when you’re fighting with squad versus squad, combat seems to be quite evenly matched in that you’ll often walk out with only one or two troops out of a squad of five once the battle is over.
Now take that, and apply it to a huge battle with other non-basic units mixed in, such as Dreadnoughts, champion heroes etc, and that’d give you an idea as to what it’s like. Each mission is challenging, and remains on the right path to what a real-time strategy campaign should be like.
Scattered across each map are a series of nodes that must be captured to generate the required resources for recruiting new units, errecting buildings, and more. The more resource nodes you control, the faster you accumulate them and the faster you can deploy troops to the slaughter. In traditional RTS fashion, you’ll start with a base with a single builder drone unit and a main building from where you can deploy new structures to build vehicles, upgrade troop stats like armor and damage, secondary abilities and so on. It’s great to see base-building back in the Dawn of War series, which is something I felt was really missing from Dawn of War II. While I did enjoy the survival modes of DOW2, it still didn’t feel like a proper RTS without being able to manage your base and army.
Building an army and a base full of structures isn’t going to gain you the victory, however. Dawn of War III does a great job in giving you multiple options in how to succeed with your fight, including multiple pathways to get to or achieve your objective such stealth zones to hide your troops, or shield generator platforms so you can stand-off against oncoming waves of enemies ( which are particularly good for slower, heavy weapons troops). Once you’ve mastered how to move your troops through the battlefield carefully to take out the enemy with precision and tact, and you’ve mastered the economy, you’re pretty much set for action.
Each faction has three main hero units with unique abilities that they can bring to a fight. Not all of these abilities are offensive though, as some abilities provide some much necessary defense against your foes. For example, Gabriel Angelos wields a giant two-handed hammer that he slams down on the ground to create a huge shockwave, knocking back enemies in all directions, and if you position it right you can knock enemies off the map, taking out a huge chunk of their force. Another example is Gorgutz’s Claw Swing, which is more defensive than it is offensive, swinging in a circular motion creation a pseudo-shield to protect allies in a certain area.
This works incredibly well when you’re making the push against enemies who are shielded who can hit you, but you can’t hit them because they’re elevated or whatever else. As you play through the various campaign missions and multiplayer, you earn new rewards like abilities and skins for your heroes, which can be equipped so that each build is unique to the player themselves, as opposed to having stock standard characters with no customization.
Some of the best moments I’ve had come from unleashing the abilities these characters have. Gabriel Angelos is by far my favourite, with his huge-ass hammer that he swings around like some sort of baseball pro, just smackin’ Orks left and right. It’s quite magnificent to watch, really.
Outside of the campaign mode, you’ve got your multiplayer. This plays like a combination between the single player of Dawn of War III, and many common elements found in other real-time strategy games. Games can be composed of two to six players, with the opportunity to do team battles as well. Each map has been carefully designed to allow players to protect their bases how they see fit, but also employ a vast array of battle strategies against their opponents.
There’s really only one real objective to win a multiplayer match, and that’s to destroy your opponents core. After you’ve taken over the resource nodes on the map, built your army up, and given them all upgrades and special abilities, you can push forward into the enemy base and push towards their core. You’ve got to fight through a few other structures first like a shield generator, turrets, as well as your enemy’s force before you can reach their core.
As soon as you’ve destroyed their core, it’s game over. Each of the pre-built structures like turrets and the core have their own special defensive abilities which must be activated manually, but gives the player a bit more control over their defense. Overall, I couldn’t help but feel like I was rushing bot-lane in League of Legends as myself and a mate went head-to-head with this. It’s a solid multiplayer system, but I can see how it could also be perceived as a tad shallow.
There are no other game modes outside of the campaign and multiplayer, which is a bit disappointing. Even more disappointing is the lack of the survival mode from Dawn of War II, but maybe we’ll see this later down the track with a new update, or even dare I say it, with DLC.
One of the other features in-game is the army painter, where you can create your own army of Space Marines, Orks, or Eldar, with colours that you can buy from the actual Warhammer model stores. You start with some of the more common colours, and earn others through playing in-game. There are a few pre-defined colour combinations for the various canonical groups of each faction, for example the Blood Ravens and the Dark Angels chapters of the Space Marines, which feature swatches of red, gold, and white, or green and white. These painted armies can be used as for your own army that you use in multiplayer matches. I ended up making a chapter of Space Marines called Deathguard XIII that were death black, toxic green, and pale white. They were pretty sick, pardon the pun.
Visually, the game is gorgeous. It’s been almost 10 years since the last Dawn of War installment, and it’s easy to see the difference visually between the two games. All in-game models have a great amount of detail to them, which doesn’t create any unnecessary performance hit either. It’s a nice balance between visual detail and performance, which is great to see. In-game environments are also another great feat to the game, which are lovely to look at. One thing about Warhammer 40,000 that I’ve loved since I was introduced to the 40k universe is its use of semi-medieval and gothic architecture, in a futuristic setting. Flying space cathedrals, as Michael would say.
While the level design is visually pleasing, there isn’t much in the way of any sort of interactivity with the environment. There’s usually a heap of debris scattered around the place, like barrels, that are just static and don’t do anything. I spent quite a bit of time trying to get Gabriel Angelos to smash a barrel to make it explode, but alas it did nothing. Something that would definitely add to the overall gameplay, but I fear would also detract from the game performance too.
The sound effects and audio design are great as well, with each bit of voiced dialog coming through my PC speakers with incredible definition and clarity. If you are unlucky enough to have let one of your main heroes die in battle, you’d get a chance to resurrect them via dropship. From the game interface, you’d be able to select a dropship and place it where you’d like the unit to spawn. As the dropship descends, you get a short yet epic score of music that sounds as though your chosen hero has come to save the day from uncertain demise. Y’know, that really epic feel of absolute badassery.
Overall, Dawn of War III is a solid entry into the series, and even moreso a solid RTS game. It does feel somewhat hollow in some areas, particuarly multiplayer with the lack of multiple gamemodes as we’ve seen previously in the series. However the campaign is most enjoyable with incredibly challenging missions, fantastic voice dialog, and gameplay to keep you entertained for hours on end. If you’re a Warhammer 40,000 fan, definitely check out Dawn of War III.
|Dawn of War III is another great entry into the series, although we reserve that it does feel somewhat hollow in a few areas. The voice acting is great, the visuals are great, and it plays really well as a real-time strategy game, but beyond the campaign and standard RTS multiplayer, there isn't much else. Still worth it for any Warhammer 40,000 fan.||4.2 4.2 ( on 5 rating)|