As with many of the great moments in life, I’ll begin this one with some honesty – I didn’t like Dawn of War 2. It’s not that it was a bad game it just isn’t the kind of game I like to play, so when I heard the new game in the Dawn of War franchise was an RTS I was curious as I generally enjoy games of this genre.
Like all of the Games Workshop created games this has a massively mature and full back story as well as a host of fascinating characters – which for the purpose of this review past making this point I’m going to completely ignore because; It’s there, it’s really amazingly detailed and you’ll either be in geek heaven with the lore or it’ll just add a depth to the game. Either way, it’s all good.
Booting up the game and performing the customary maxing out of the graphics and lowering the in-game music (a point on why later) was very quick and easy. Same goes for general navigation around the game’s menus, it’s all very logical and a good user experience. Graphically this game is gorgeous from top to bottom and beginning to end. Gameplay is fast and slick although I did note a minor lag between when I ordered a unit to perform a task and it actually moving. Most likely just an early bug, which I fully expect will be fixed in an update shortly. There’s an army painter option which is very cool and allows you to customise your guy to your heart’s content. Flashed me back to my time spent as a youth in my bedroom with the Warhammer 40K models blue tacked to the end of the paint pot for painting, and even allowed me to recreate my old colour scheme. Nice touch and appreciated.
Firing up the campaign mode I was presented with the tutorial options and going through these, whilst not particularly challenging, was useful in terms of learning where all the buttons were on screen and the control basics. The campaign mode is played as all three races present in the game, one point I liked was you rotate through these and the story unfolds, allowing you to learn the tactics for each. Each race has their own Elite characters with special abilities, those who played the earlier games will be familiar with the concept of the Hero, for the initiated it’s like a tank with special abilities in the form or a man/orc/thing. There are also tactical units which range from hand-to-hand squads up to heavy tanks and heroes; each game has a unit cap and the better units naturally cost more.
The unit construction, base construction and resource collection elements of the game are very user friendly, the buildings and user interface for construction and unit queues are all as you would expect in a modern RTS and would be clear and easy to use for those not familiar with the genre (if such a person exists?). With the time I had to play this prior to writing the review I didn’t get a chance to finish all the campaigns as some of these can take a bit of time especially if you mess around and build all the units, etc. That being said, I will go back and finish these once this review is done.
You start the campaign as the Space Marines and have to hold a position while being attacked by a few waves of enemies, then you play as the Orcs and lastly the Eldar before it rolls around all the races again. Each time you roll through the races you progress to the next stage. The campaign is a good play and I enjoyed it, the AI were appropriate for the level they describe, which is good as a lot of RTS games vary in description of easy, medium and hard even allowing for some variance for player ability. What really excited me about Dawn of War 3 wasn’t the thought of playing against the computer though – it was playing against my mates!
Hence time to write about the multiplayer element of Dawn of War 3; and I’ll start by saying it’s good, it’s really good, in fact, it’s an ice cold beer delivered to you while lying on the beach in the baking hot heat kinda good; however there is a bastard element to it as well! Where although you have the beer, your mate doesn’t get one and has to watch you enjoy yours… Yes that’s right this is a multiplayer real-time strategy game and I do emphasise the strategy element. When you play your build game well and get your tactics right you can really frustrate and bombard your opponents, watch out for other players though because commit the wrong forces to the wrong attack and you can be very vulnerable, it’s fast paced and I really enjoyed whooping some serious hours into this and into my opponent’s digital faces. The resource points really add to the strategy element and the indirect attack can be highly effective.
The resource element of the game focuses on two primary elements: Requisition and Power, with the addition of Elite points this brings the total to three. This is one element of the game where I feel further refinement is required as often I find myself with an abundance of Requisition and no Power despite my anal upgrading of all capture points. Again, I’m confident this will be addressed in future updates as has been the case with other games in the Warhammer 40K franchise. The scale of the multiplayer element has been well executed and army sizes fit the maps well; although I did find that I would appreciate being able to zoom out a little further on the map and seldom (if ever) used the zoom in function.
Keeping a balanced attack and defence force while attacking multiple enemies in Dawn of War 3 is certainly achievable however you won’t pull it off every game and this is what makes it so compelling, there is no certain outcome at the beginning of the match and everyone has a fairly equal chance of winning. Old school RTS players will have an advantage in this aspect though as this game really does play like a proper old school RTS from back in the 90s, like Command & Conquer, it’s got that urgency about it and time outside in the real world flies by while you’re playing Dawn Of War 3. Big brownie points and massive respect to Sega and Relic Entertainment for pulling this off.
With that said, there are elements which could use some further tuning such as the online matches which were somewhat cumbersome and laggy (although I don’t have great broadband so this may have been a contributing factor). The user tips were on occasion vague or meaningless. One immensely frustrating issue I encountered was that when I was playing iTunes in the background the game refused to go full screen, instead, I would always see the Windows 10 bar, which slides the screen down. Admittedly I didn’t really troubleshoot the issue past rebooting and it still being there, however, I found this to be very annoying.
There are a few minor niggles with Dawn of War 3 however it really is a great update to the franchise and a good RTS game making it very easy to score this game a solid 8. Fixing balancing of the resources and the character responsiveness on launch would have brought this to a 9, so impressed I am with the rest of the game.