Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War III: review

  • Format: PC
  • Unleashed: Out Now
  • Publisher: Sega
  • Developer: Relic Entertainment
  • Players: 1-6
  • Site: https://www.dawnofwar.com/
  • Game code provided by the publisher

Crikey, it’s been six whole years since the last installment of Dawn of War. Unfortunately, (Warhammer 40,000) Dawn of War 3 probably isn’t the sequel you were looking for. It takes bits from both Dawn of War and Dawn of War 2 but hasn’t made a distinction between what was good or bad about either, and seems to have just chucked it all together with a few new things to boot. It’s by no means an awful game –  far from it in fact – but it lacks identity, and has gone for simplified tactics yet made controlling everything much more complex. We can’t help but think they didn’t know what they wanted to do with this one.

Three forces, Space Marines, Eldar, and Orks; all fighting on one planet, waiting for another planet to fight on to appear from the Warp. It crosses the stories of three Dawn of War faction leaders that we’ve seen in past games, fighting against each other in an entwined story.

It’s alright.

The Eldar are cunning, the Space Marines are loyal to their fellow servants of the Emperor, and the Orks are fighty and surprisingly cunnin’ too. The Orks are also fairly amusing, which is half of what Orks should always be (the other half is fighty) so it’s a spot-on depiction of them here.

The campaign is a mixed bag. The worst missions are the ones with base building and all the time in the world to complete your objectives. They border on being too easy for their respective difficulties. They also telegraph the bits where you might have to defend by yelling “They’re sending enemies to your base right now” to you. It makes it easier to tell whenever you’re about to be attacked, but in an RTS game with base building maybe it shouldn’t treat you like a child quite so much.

The best missions are the ones which just give you a few troops – like in Dawn of War 2. You get to pick your Elite troops (a new feature where you get powerful, specialised units to summon into the battlefield) with maybe a few standard troops, and potter about a level that’s fairly challenging and makes you think about what you’re doing. These levels stand out most when they are more or less just focussed on the Elites – because the Elites are awesome. You’re limited to three and aren’t allowed duplicates because they are very powerful. They’re also much more fun than your standard troops.

Elites are a big part of the campaign but they’re also a big part of multiplayer. You still get to pick three, but you won’t be stuck with the faction leader if you don’t want them. The other thing you get to pick is Doctrines, which give new abilities or bonuses to normal units, buildings or armies depending on what they are. They include things such as letting troops fire on the move, granting shields on an ability activation, or perhaps mutating an existing ability to function differently instead. It’s all quite interesting but it also makes some things even more difficult to manage mid-battle.

It’s an impressive game at times; huge armies look fantastic when they’re fighting each other, and give a real sense of scale. The issue is that, well, big armies are cumbersome and it’s easy to get lost in the fray. Especially when there are so many larger units that have joined now. Admittedly many of these are late-game Elite units, but they still take up a lot of screen real estate and the game doesn’t zoom out to show all that much for whatever reason. It’s all very micromanagey and not as tactically minded as previous games.

The cover systems from previous games are gone. Now we have captureable, hard cover, and stealth cover. Take a wild guess at how those work. This is where the game really does a disservice to itself. While both are tactically useful they’re also really boring, especially the hard cover. Putting a unit in captureable cover lets you create a shield that protects any units inside from damage until the shield is broken. Melee units can invade said cover, but if they are too large then they’ll sit outside smacking it instead, which is far less helpful and frankly annoying. Stealth acts as bushes do in most MOBAs; run in and you’re invisible unless someone else is in there with you. It’s useful, but why is there stealth cover there in the first place? Surely vantage points and fog of war would be better alternatives?

Some other stuff has changed too. Heavy weapons units that need to set up their weapons before firing can now fire in any direction without the use of firing arcs or anything like that. Thing is, that was part of what made Dawn of War 2 really good. That, cover for your squads, suppression (proper suppression, not the tiny bit of suppression you might get in this one), morale, fleeing, squads which actually work as squads, and more – all gone. Multiplayer seems to be almost dead already too, which might be due to there only being one game mode which involves a weird three-part defense rather than a total annihilation game type, or capture and hold, or something victory point based, or literally anything else. Even more surprisingly there isn’t a Last Stand mode (horde mode) which seemed to be one of the most popular bits of Dawn of War 2.

Dawn of War 3 says it’s trying to be more like the original, but it feels more like it’s trying to appeal to Starcraft fans. Company of Heroes is still Relic’s finest hour and the influence it’s had over this is, unfortunately, negligible. Dawn of War 3 promises bigger and better by giving you big fights, bigger armies, and even bigger weapons; but delivers that with fewer races, fewer game modes, and fewer tactical choices. It’s quite fun at times, but it’s a troublesome third entry to the series and doesn’t really directly appeal to anyone.

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Written by Sean P

I enjoy playing games and I enjoy writing things, so I decided to combine the two. I do bits here and there and have a twitter that mainly just announces things I've done as my life revolves around very little that is truly interesting.

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