The first main entry in the Dawn of War series since 2009, Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War III has a lot to live up to. Fans of the series have been clamouring for a new game for years, and now it’s finally arrived. Before we get into the main body of the review, it’s worth mentioning that Dawn of War III is more like the original game rather than Dawn of War II, returning to a focus on large armies and base building rather than II’s more unit-focused gameplay. There’s still some of II in there, in the form of heroes, but it’s largely a return to the micro-management featured in the original Dawn of War. It’s not exactly an unwelcome return to the series’ roots, and you could even say it sets itself aside from the pack, but after so long away, is there still a place for Dawn of War?

Dawn of War III continues the story of Gabriel Angelos, Chapter Master of the Blood Ravens, as he searches for an artifact of Khaine, the Eldar Blood God. If you’re more a fan of the game’s two other races, the Eldar and the Orks, don’t worry; the campaign switches between the three races, showing its events from each perspective. Unfortunately, the pacing in the campaign is patchy, at best, and the story isn’t the best. It’s enjoyable fodder, but fodder nonetheless, and so it would be safe to say that its biggest bonus is how much it adds to the Warhammer 40,000 universe.

In terms of gameplay, Dawn of War III compares better to the original rather than Dawn of War II, with a large focus on micromanagement and base building. There’s still elements of the 2009 entry here, the most obvious being the three Elite units that you’re allowed to call in to bolster your army, but this is more like Warcraft III rather than previous Dawn of War games. Whereas Dawn of War II was an RTS with a focus on RPG mechanics, Dawn of War III streamlines these mechanics down and slots them into an updated version of the original game, and it works well, for the most part.

The inclusion of the Elite units is perhaps one of the biggest departures for not just the series, but the RTS genre as a whole. Using Gabriel Angelos as an example, he is a figure of dominance on the battlefield, able to wipe out small-to-medium forces with ease, as long as you manage his abilities well. They are true powerhouses in war, although they should be used sparingly, as they can only be deployed after accruing enough Elite points. If they are defeated, there’s a timer before they can be used again, and they become more expensive to deploy. If used together, or in conjunction with standard units, they can be absolutely game-changing.

Unfortunately, jumping into the game can be quite daunting, initially, faced by a surprisingly complicated User Interface that throws a little too much information at the player, which can be daunting. The tutorials help a little, but jumping into a game against the AI, I struggled to work out what the screen was telling me. Eventually, it became clearer, but for new players it might be off-putting. Struggle through it, however, and you’ll learn that everything you need to know is there right in front of you, although the text did seem a little small for my liking. In the heat of battle, being unable to read the cost of producing new units could cost you the game, but that’s an issue that can be easily fixed, so it’s not really much of a problem.

One major change that fans of the series might find strange, is the multiplayer. Yes, it does have the familiar base building and micromanagement as I mentioned before, but it doesn’t particularly play like we’re used to. As of now, there’s only one multiplayer mode, the objective of which is to destroy the power core of your opponent. To do this, you first must take down a shield generator and a turret, before finally moving onto the power core. Destroy this before yours is destroyed, and you win the game. If this sounds familiar to you, that’s because it’s basically how every MOBA plays out. Imagine the original Dawn of War with some mechanics borrowed from League of Legends, and you wouldn’t be far off. Does it work? Sometimes. It can be a little complicated at times, and games tend to snowball once one team has the advantage, but it is satisfying when things work out well for you.

It’s unfortunate that the game has launched with only one multiplayer mode, as well as a surprisingly scarce number of maps. Unless more is introduced soon, there just isn’t enough variety to keep people interested. Yes, what’s there is fun, and it works well, but it’s not hard to think that maybe a little more time spent in development might have resulted in something that might have offered more. The campaign clocks in at around 20 hours, which is respectable, but the multiplayer needs some fleshing out to reach its potential. It’s severely hindered by its inclusion of only three races, even if each one does play completely differently to each other. Hopefully, there’ll be some (free) DLC that adds more to the game in future.

In terms of visuals, Dawn of War III is nothing special. It doesn’t look bad, but it doesn’t stand out, particularly as you can’t zoom in too close to the battles. On the other hand, and it feels strange to complain about this, you can’t really zoom out very far either. It just feels oddly restrictive, only being able to zoom in and out on what feels like a very limited scale. Even zoomed out all the way, very little of the battlefield manages to fit into the screen, meaning you’ll have to move the camera around a lot during more hectic battles.

If it’s anything, Dawn of War III is a throwback to the RTS genre that enjoyed a period of dominance throughout the 2000’s. Is that a bad thing? No, not at all, but could it be better? The short answer is yes. A lot could be done to improve Dawn of War III, however, what we have now is more than good enough for a series that has been stuck in the wilderness for nearly a decade. It may not go down well with some veteran fans of the series, but it’s certainly worth giving a chance at the very least.



Author

Rhys Evans

I've been a gamer for as long as I can remember. My first console was a Sega Megadrive, and my first game was Streets of Rage. I've recently graduated with a degree in English Literature and Creative Writing at Cardiff Met University. I'm a fan of role-playing games and first-person shooters, but these days you can usually find me building cities in Minecraft. My favourite games are The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker and Bioshock.