The Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War series, much like its tabletop counterpart, places you in charge of a group of futuristic warriors set on defending humanity from the alien threats that lurk among the stars. The first game in the series focussed on letting players command large armies in battle, while the second game mixed things up a bit by focusing more on a smaller squad of heroes. Although both games were completely different in the way that they played, both quickly found a place in my heart. Now, Dawn of War III is set to once again mix up the formula.
Dawn of War III kicks off with a familiar face as Space Marine Gabriel Angelos and his fellow Blood Ravens are tasked with finding a sacred Eldar relic. Standing in their way, of course, are the tough as nails (and thick as wood) Orks and the pointy-eared Eldar. It might sound like a cut-and-paste plot, but as expected there are quite a few twists and turns to keep things interesting. Throughout the single player campaign, players will cycle through each of these three races, allowing players to experience missions from various perspectives. It’s an interesting mechanic but much like a double-edged power sword, this does come with some negatives. Each race in Dawn of War III differs in the way that they play. The space marines are the Swiss Army knives of the Warhammer 40K universe who rely on strong individual units. The Orks focus on scavenging and brute force (not necessarily in that order). By collecting scrap dropped by exploding vehicles, as well as Ork towers, the Ork armies are able to upgrade their units in order to become more formidable. Lastly, we have the Eldar who offers players more hit-and-run tactics as their units are shielded and they are able to teleport their buildings. Think of them as space wizards (with pointy ears).
Seeing as each race plays drastically different from the other, it can be difficult to get acquainted with them when player control continually shifts between each race. This said, experiencing the campaign from the perspectives of each race does add to the narrative. I did appreciate the fact that single player campaign adds quite a bit of variety to “go from point A and destroy point B”, as players will be tasked with scavenging for resources, holding out for a certain time against waves of enemies and destroying certain objective points.
As mentioned, Dawn of War III sets out to in essence combine the mechanics of the previous Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War games letting players command large armies while still having access to hero units. Players will be able to produce new units and upgrade their defensive and offensive capabilities just like you would expect from an RTS. Where Dawn of War III changes things up a bit is with the addition of hero units (Elites). These units can be levelled up and equipped with better and more advanced equipment and have quite a few active and passive abilities. It quickly became apparent that although these units are the pride of the Eldar, Space Marines and Ork armies they can still die quickly if not taken care of. This means that learning how each character’s abilities function in combat can become the difference between living to fight other day or lying in your own pool of blood.
While on the subject of dying horribly, bases not only function as a place to continually pump out new soldiers to send into the fray but also act as a place to heal wounded soldiers. As your squishy sacks of blood and bone aren’t able to patch themselves up, it becomes quite important to know exactly when to retreat in order to heal your units (or recharge their shields). There were quite a few moments when I found myself retreating too late only to lose a whole squad of units to enemy fire.
Multi-Player mode in Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War III takes the form of 1v1, 2v2 or 3v3 skirmishes as players try to destroy each other’s shield generators, turret and then, finally, their base. This three stage victory mechanic helps to eliminate those early rushes and allows newer players to get to grips with the game without dying immediately. Multi-player feels very reminiscent of an MOBA, which helps add another level of strategy to the “go destroy this guy” tactic found in most RTS titles.
Visually, Dawn of War III looks great. There are few things as exhilarating as seeing your detailed army, along with the Elites, smash into your opponents as all sorts of particle effects light up the battlefield. This extends to the audio as well – seeing as the voice work is suitably over the top, especially when it comes to them bloody Orks.
Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War III is a strange amalgamation of the mechanics from first two games, and while this does work for the most part there were times when the base building and micromanagement of your Elites just didn’t work as well as it should. This said, I did enjoy waging war and spilling blood playing as three unique factions. And while the story might feel slightly disjointed every now and then, it kept me intrigued enough throughout my play through. Dawn of War III might not be perfect, but it is a charge in the right direction. Now, excuse me while I go kill some more of them umies.