Warhammer video games have always been a little touch-and-go for me. The tabletop franchise is incredibly popular, and its collectable figurines possibly even more so — I know I have had eyes on a few of those for some time now. The problem is that the rights to adapt the franchise into video games is not adequately monitored. As such, just about anyone can make a game from the lore behind the tabletop game. I distinctly remember trying out Warhammer Vermintide and promptly uninstalling the game after just a few hours.
Fortunately, Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War III is the third instalment in a highly successful video game series from Relic Entertainment. While I have never played Dawn of War II, the lore of the books have kept me intrigued enough to keep up to date with the story. This was needed given the eight year gap between Dawn of War II, and the latest release that is Dawn of War III! Thankfully, Relic Entertainment realised that the wait has been incredibly long, which is why the third release in the series is pretty spectacular. Yes, that may be a spoiler for my final thoughts on the game, but it was honestly very good. Without further ado, let us get to the review.
While I have already mentioned that I did not play the second game in the franchise, I believe that Dawn of War III must have been influenced by it. With that said, I had no problem getting to grips with the game’s controls. Interestingly, there was actually lot of the first game in there too – a bit like how StarCraft 2 draws on the original.
In essence, the game is just like any other strategy game out there. You start out with a select few units and steadily work your way up the chain of command, until you are able to control more and more units. Unlike other real-time strategy (RTS) games, however, this game has minimal resource collecting. Instead, players must capture nodes across a level. By doing this, you acquire the necessary resources to upgrade units and keep Elites (or heroes) all nice and powerful throughout the level. I must admit that the game felt like it was rushing me at the start, but I think that is only because of this mechanic.
With that said, a big focus in Dawn of War III are the heroes. The game calls them “Elites”, and by that degree, they really are worth the name. Elite units hearken back to the Warcraft days, where the lore-heavy campaign missions tended to follow one important character and a select few units. As such, you can expect your hero to come equipped with crazy powerful weapons, fancy armour, and awesome abilities. Capturing nodes and killing enemy units awards you with Elite Points, which you can use to summon and upgrade Elite units. Using Elites in multiplayer matches rewards you with skulls, which you can use to unlock even more Elites.
Base building, another huge feature absent from the second game, has returned and although it is not to the extent that I wish it was, it suffices and feels natural. The game allows you to build anywhere, so long as it makes sense to build there.
Another nice feature is the exceptional artificial intelligence featured in-game. Right from the start, the game teaches players the fundamentals of using the correct units to get the job done. While it was a while ago, I distinctly remember failing quite stupidly on that very first bit in the campaign where the game tried to teach me how to use one particular unit’s jump ability. Another nice feature is the ability to let your units take cover. There are not a lot of opportunities to do so, but it helps immensely when you do.
The story in Warhammer games usually takes small snippets from the books and lore and adapts them into a few hours worth of gameplay. The Dawn of War franchise, fortunately, is a lot stronger in that regard. While told in a very linear fashion, the story feels refreshingly deep. Unlike many games that tend to dilute the stories in favour of grind and repetition.
In this case, Dawn of War III’s single player campaign takes players through a few chapters of the initial playable factions. Those factions belong to the Space Marines, Orks and Eldar. Whether a veteran of the franchise or a newbie, these are the factions that you will get to play in the game.
In the Warhammer universe, Space Marines are genetically engineered warriors. Their creed is to protect mankind from the worst possible threats that pop up from all parts of the galaxy. Since humans tend to be a bit squishy, Space Marines don huge suits of power armour and make use of big vehicles. They operate in strike forces, and tend to be a match even when their numbers dwindle.
The story begins with the player controlling Blood Raven Chapter Master, Gabriel Angelos. Gabriel is a prominent character throughout many of the Warhammer games, and two of the books. As an elite unit in your army, Gabriel is very formidable against smaller groups but can fall fast if he is pitted against larger groups of enemies. He is very versatile, however, and sending him into enemy territory is quite unforgiving for the enemy. Just like Gabriel, the Space Marines that you command do work extremely well for all types of gameplay, and can be devastating if commanded correctly. They are also deadly at long range.
The Orks in Warhammer are just as brutish and violent as you have come to expect from other franchises. They tend to be very dangerous and have very volatile temperaments. The Ork society is split into thousands of warbands, with a few prominent warbands popping up every now and then. Orks also outnumber all other races by a factor of at least ten, but their primitive instincts prevent them from working – efficiently – toward a common goal. As such, Orks in Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War III tend to be best in short skirmishes to the death. Be sure to bring lots of Orks or the other factions may prove deadly.
In Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War III, the Ork warband players control is led by Gorgutz ‘Ead’unter. He was a prominent figure in the first Dawn of War, having appeared in the base game, and its expansions. Gorgutz is a collector by heart, and will collect pretty much anything you can think of. This might be why Dawn of War III features a resource system that is exclusive to them: Scrap, which drops off destroyed enemy units. Scrap can be used for temporary boosts and upgrades on Ork units, including Gorgutz who uses Scrap for some of his abilities.
While I like the Eldar the most, I must admit that I know very little about them… and for good reason: no one does. The Eldar are the last survivors of an ancient civilisation of rulers. They were said to have ruled over huge parts of the galaxy very long ago, using their incredible knowledge of the psychic realm and advanced technologies. Given their background, and their incredibly ancient beliefs, the Eldar think very little of other races. Their disposition is only positive when they believe it will further their own means. Eldar units move very fast and work best if used in quick, gorilla-warfare type skirmishes. In-and-out is best, since Eldar units are quite vulnerable – possibly more so than basic Ork units.
Autarch Kyre is a formidable field commander for the Eldar. He uses an ancient blade that can devastate a battlefield if used correctly. Like many Eldar, he is a quick melee unit that can also hover above the battlefield. His blade allows for excellent crowd control against smaller Space Marine or Ork groups.
The main focus of all factions, however, is the Spear of Khaine, which was locked away in the ancient world of Acheron. The Spear only emerges from Warp every 5000 years. As you can imagine, an artefact as elusive as that is very alluring… to just about every living thing in a fictional universe.
Led bu Autarch Kyre, the Eldar follow a prophecy that leads them to the Spear. They believe that the Spear will empower their Craftworld. Similarly, Gorgutz and his Ork horde are also trying to vie for control over Acheron. Gorgutz believes that Acheron, the world on which the Spear of Khaine resides, is filled with riches. Meanwhile, as these two factions duke it out, the Space Marines arrive with their leader, Gabriel Angelos. To make matters worse, the Blood Ravens attempt to prevent everyone from reaching the Spear. As the Chapter Master, Angelos believes the Spear is too powerful for anyone to attain… that is until the Warp begins to prove that it is a deadly force of its own.
The story references a lot from the first Dawn of War and very little from the second. I cannot help but feel like that is Relic Entertainment’s way of shoving the second game under the rug and hoping time will let it be forgotten. This, to me, feels like a cheap way of disregarding a very important chapter in the story. I am a big lore geek and stuff like this tends to get me down. With that said, I do feel that the story in Dawn of War III moves at a reasonable pace. There are parts here and there that make it feel disjointed — especially when the opposing factions have similar and quicker stories. However, even then, merely calling that out is pretty much the extent of my critique. The story is really well done, especially if you consider the enormity of the Warhammer universe.
In today’s day and age, every single game has a multiplayer component. Given that Dawn of War III is a RTS title, it makes sense for it to also have multiplayer. Now before I continue, I must clarify that I am not the kind of person that plays multiplayer like my life depends on it. I enjoy it, but I prefer to play these kinds of games for the story versus being a noob online. As such, I clocked around three or four hours with the game’s multiplayer before my writing of this review.
Where I praised the singleplayer campaign for keeping the base building basic, I must praise multiplayer for being the exact opposite. Here, the game hearkens back to pretty much any old strategy game of yore. Resource collecting is a big must here, and so is building huge bases and massive armies. In essence, a multiplayer match ends up as two factions facing off against one another. Players need to destroy shield generators to get to the defences. This also opens up resource nodes that can be captured for extra resources.
Perhaps my biggest gripe with the multiplayer mode is that there is very little variety. There are eight levels, which helps a bit, but that is about it. Besides choosing different factions, and changing up your strategies now and then, nothing will keep you playing for long.
In terms of performance, Dawn of War III was a blast. I had very little loading times on my modest mid-tier gaming rig. I found that most of the loading happened before I even entered the game, which usually gave me enough time to grab a coffee before jumping into the campaign.
During my time with the game, it ran at a solid 60 frames per second (fps). Right from the start, through to the end. With that said, however, I almost want to say that cutscenes were capped at 30 fps, but I cannot be too sure since I am not sensitive to frame speed changes. I only notice it when the drops are significant.
When all is said and done, I must say that I had a fantastic time with the game. It is an incredible experience to finally enter the Warhammer 40,000 universe again and to not feel overwhelmed. Dawn of War III manages to introduce all characters without making players feel like they absolutely had to play previous titles, while still keeping the lore nice and intact for veteran players.
The singleplayer campaign was a nice introduction to the main playable factions, and multiplayer ended up being a feast, albeit a short one with limited replayability. I love the Warhammer franchise and the lore surrounding it, and as such, I may be considered a little biased. With that said, I do feel like the game was very good, and that it is worth its full-price value. The game is available on Microsoft Windows, Linux, and MacOS.
|Time Played||32 hours|
|Acquisition||Review copy courtesy of Ster-Kinekor|