Title: Dawn of War III
Platform: Windows, Steam
Reviewed on: Windows
Players: Single player, Multiplayer 3v3
Written by Whistler 23rd May 2017
Ah the bleak (and hopefully fictional) future that is Warhammer 40K, no other franchise has encapsulated such an apocalyptically dark universe that deadly serious, yet is also home to orcs who sprouted from the ground that have vehicles that go faster because they’re painted red. What makes it bleaker is I really suck at the tabletop wargame. Thankfully the 2004 RTS, Dawn of War finally allowed me to throw my space crusaders against waves of orcs and their faster-
What hampers the experience is how DoW3 plays it’s card so safe and yet makes odd design choices, dilutes the formula and outright chucks out integral elements that made the series more than a run of the mill RTS with a W40K paint job (no, I know that makes little sense). On paper Dawn of War 3 borrows heavily from the original title with the base building and massive scale armies fans enjoyed while injecting it with the bigger than life hero units of it’s divisive sequel. However in what seems like an attempt to cater to a broader audience, base building has been overly simplified with each of the three factions having a barely a handful of structures with little to no variety in terms of function. The clear emphasis on aggressive gameplay may be deemed refreshing for some, but the removal of defensive structures and the limited buildings as is, entirely eliminates diversity in gameplay and leaves us with a strategy title severely lacking in strategy.
The cover system has also taken a pretty big hit in terms of quality.
Where once upon a time the cover system allowed you to position units for additional defence amongst rubble, craters, and against structures; likewise terrain that would naturally leave them vulnerable would apply the appropriate penalties. These terrains and structures allowed for strategic variety between maps and kept different playthroughs fresh. Not only that, but the original cover system gave maps a tangible feeling that heightens the experience as you command your battalions, take cover and even garrison within buildings. Instead here it’s been all thrown out (likely due to the larger scale armies) and substituted with this weird bubbleshield system. Sprinkled throughout maps are static locations that once occupied, and I guess after they replace the batteries, provides protection to units stationed within except from specialized range fire and melee units (of which there is a lot of melee units). Rarely do these feel all that useful given how easily they’re circumvented and not only that, these bubbleshields feel painfully clunky and stapled on with spit and wishful thoughts.
Strategy in general is perhaps the greatest casualty as DoW3 attempts to stay relevant in a modern gaming environment. Borrowing elements from the likes of League of Legends, DOTA and by extension Warcraft III, DoW3 will have you focusing your micromanagement on casting elite abilities. In fact most units have some form of ability and your elite hero units often play heavily into your strategy but the sad thing is, a zerg rush will do the job just fine roughly 90% of the time. This works with incredible efficiency especially in the single player campaign where the AI will mostly leave you alone except for the occasional poking allowing you to simply build up an army and send your horde from objective to objective.
Now it really sucks that once again the faction roster has been reset to the crafty Orks, pointy eared Eldar and the Emperor’s boyscouts, the Space Marines. Sure, DoW1 only beats this selection by a whole one with the Chaos Space Marines but that was over ten years ago and since then we’ve been able to play with the Tau, The Sisters of Battle, the Imperium of Man and the Necrons. Each faction added a whole new plethora of playstyles and additional layers in the game of rock, paper, lascannon. Now there are some nice touches to the three way power struggle, the Eldar’s craftiness bleeds organically into their tools who can use gates and portals to deploy troops which is most certainly geared for multiplayer as opposed to the campaign. The Orcs take a gleeful pride in their unapologetic approach to rushing their enemies. By far the Orks are my favourite race this entry, their ability to create hordes on mass for cheap and then deck themselves out using scraps is awesome (if a little overly simplistic). I will shamelessly admit just how giddy I got the first time I activated their Waaagh tower’s ability, blasting heavy metal to hype them up for a Waaagh induced stomp rush.
Which is a shame cause god am I sick to death of the f***ing Blood Ravens, the video game poster child faction for Dawn of War’s Space Marines. The Blood Ravens are as colourful as Vanilla Ice; they’re boring is what I’m saying. Thankfully they don’t hog the entire campaign that sees you jumping between the three factions as they weave together the overall narrative (which granted is it’s own palette of beige paint) but it doesn’t detract from just how mind numbingly uninteresting they are.
It’s clear however that multiplayer was the bigger focus in development, matches play out much faster as opposing sides battle for resource points while building their armies to rush the enemy team’s core.
Up to 3 players per side must battle through their opponent's turrets and shield reactors to gain access to the core in a fashion very much so akin to that of the popular MOBA format. Battles escalate quickly and are not for the faint of heart, but likewise are not for those looking for a paced out strategic campaign that allows for a slow burning and satisfying conquest.
Which is why in the end, Dawn of War III feels like one step forward and three steps back. It becomes rather difficult to fathom who is this title’s intended audience. Those looking for epic stories of galactic conquest and drama in the campaign will be left disappointed by the dry narrative and those wanting a complex strategy will find the streamlined mechanics lacklustre. Map designs and character models are distinctly Warhammer 40K if a little defanged, but it’s all rather tired in terms of design. Relic Entertainment are a developer who have a decent line up under their belt, but this right here feels like a product of rushed development where the core design got muddled somewhere between realization and conceptualization.
In a gaming industry where Warhammer titles are coming out left right and centre under a multitude of different developers, DoW3 is a title that will be quickly forgotten as the fanbase look for other titles or simply roll back to playing previous entries in the series, Dark Crusade anyone?
Fast paced multiplayer,
Orks feel awesome to play as,
Variety of special abilities.
New Cover System is just lame,
Snorefest campaign feels like an overly long tutorial,
Stiff unit animations,
Oversimplification of strategic elements.
Dawn of War III is an inconsistent product from a usually consistent developer and scores a tired 6/10.