WAAAAAGH! Dawn of War 3 is finally here!
It has been a long wait too. Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War was released in 2004. It was a ground breaking RTS at the time. Introducing a unique resource point control system, it had polished graphics and animation to boot. It was also widely praised for its balanced, intense, multiplayer experience. Complete with several expansions, DoW 1 was long lived and enjoyed by many, right up to the release of DoW2 in 2009.
Dawn of War 2 was controversial, splitting the fans of the first game. DoW2 did away with base building and focused on very small tightly controlled tactical skirmishes with far fewer units, requiring a lot of micro. A lot of fans enjoyed this change, arguing that it gave the small number of units in each match more value and allowed for more intense and competitive matches. A great many other fans, my self-included were less enthused with the new gameplay. Instead opting to continue playing DoW1 with its massive battles and more macro focused strategic game play.
With the release of Dawn of War 3, it’s clear that Relic have listened to the player base and created something that should appeal to fans of both predecessors. The single player campaign offers a lot of fun. For players new to the series it gives a good taste of the lore and flavour of the 40k universe while providing a great grounding in how the different armies work.
Each mission swaps from the perspective of one race to another, while following an overarching narrative. In the first mission you find yourself playing as Space Marines, then the Orks and so on. The missions focus on elite hero units. These are named characters with massive hit points and devastating special attacks.
Elites are capable of defeating several squads of regular units. They also gain persistent experience from kills and level up over time becoming more powerful. The Hero units are a great way to drive a campaign, enduring characters feel more valuable and losing an elite unit can seem like a big loss. Though, they can re spawn after a time.
Campaign difficulty seems pretty well balanced, not quite a stroll in the park, but not keyboard-breakingly hard. One of major criticisms of DoW1 was that while fun, the campaign was too easy and not challenging.
Multiplayer in DoW3 is an interesting mix of the first two games. There are three Factions available at launch, Space marines, Orks and Eldar. Each has a unique playstyle and all seem well balanced so far. Space Marines are the most straight forward army to use, being a great all-rounder. The Orks are all about pumping out plenty of units while the Eldar are the glass cannons of the bunch. The Elite units from the Campaign feature strongly here too. They’re the first thing you choose and customise when starting a multiplayer game and new elite units can be unlocked using skulls, the in-game currency earned by playing.
There are plenty of elite units to unlock for each race and you need to choose three before heading into battle. Skulls are also used to unlock army doctrines. Army doctrines are passive upgrades that can affect things such as global army mechanics to single small changes for certain units. You choose three of these to take into battle in addition to the elites.
Base building is back, but on a relatively small scale. You won’t be finding many players turtling up or covering the whole map with buildings. The maps are well designed and encourage exploration and offensive gameplay. If you want to win, you not only need to capture and hold the control points scattered around the map to generate resources, you also really need to try and deny your opponent as many control points as possible.
It won’t take long for any base to get overwhelmed if the enemy is generating resources faster than you are. Victory is achieved by destroying the power core every base is built around. Total base annihilation isn’t necessary and there’s little point building secret little bases down out of the way for resurrection sneak attacks.
Over all DoW3 is a really solid entry into the RTS genre and probably will end up being the best game of its series. The campaign is compelling and entertaining. Multiplayer skirmishes are fun and fast paced, however the elite hero units seem a bit too overpowered in multiplayer. I understand they appeal to the fans of DoW2 and anyone who enjoys really getting their APM up with crazy micro, but I feel the elites draw a bit too much focus away from the strategic whole of a battle.
I would love to see a “no elites” multiplayer mode available for those of us who prefer to just go toe-to-toe with standard units.
Dawn of War 3 was reviewed with a promotional copy provided to PowerUp! by SEGA.
Game Title: Dawn of War III
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