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Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War III review

We give our verdict on the third game in the series.

© SEGA / Relic Entertainment

It has been eight years since Dawn of War II was released, but Relic Entertainment is back with the sequel. This time they plan to meld its two predecessors together and hopefully make that perfect action RTS that we’ve all been waiting for.

Dawn of War III boasts a healthily sized campaign. You’ll be switching between the three playable factions throughout and learning the basics, plus the nuances of each of the factions. I enjoyed the campaign thoroughly and surprised myself, I tend to go straight for skirmish and ignore the story modes of RTS games, but this time around I wanted to learn more about Warhammer 40K. It impresses from the start, luscious graphics combined with superb sound effects immerse you in the Warhammer 40K universe, watching my Heavy Bolter Devastators rip through the enemy and turn them into a gooey red paste was a treat.

Between each mission, there’ll be a briefing, consisting of text-talk which will provide most of the context to what you’re doing. Occasionally there’ll be a rendered cut-scene but not often enough. I remember Command and Conquer with their live action cut-scenes, and I think we were a little spoiled with them, anything less of that just seems a little boring.

Watch the new Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War III – Fragments of War launch trailer below:

 

It’s frustrating that you have to switch between the factions so frequently, after every mission you’ll have to change. I understand that this makes sense in a storytelling perspective, but because the factions play completely different, it would have been nice to practice with one before having to learn on the spot with another.

This brings me to the three playable races; Space Marines, Orks and Eldar. The Space Marines are able to utilise drop pods when spawning units so you can reinforce on the move. The Orks can upgrade by looting scrap from fallen vehicles while also being fed scrap through the Waaagh! Towers. Eldar are the masters of the Webway, which means they’re able to transport their units through linked buildings anywhere on the map and even teleport entire buildings!

These drastic differences are compounded by the Army Doctrine system, which boils down to a list of perks you can apply to your army before beginning a mission or skirmish. You’ll have to unlock these using the Skull currency, which you get for completing matches and levelling up your elite units. Some of these skills you can only earn through the elites, so you’ll find yourself switching heroes within your favourite army just to share the experience gains.

© SEGA / Relic Entertainment

Dawn of War II didn’t have any real form of base building, it focused more on unit tactics and combat. I wasn’t a big fan of this, resource management and base building are half the fun. Dawn of War III adds a level of construction that was previously ignored. Although there aren’t many buildings to construct, the focus is still on unit tactics, but you’ll have more options in terms of how you go about distributing your resources. It’s a far shy away from the depth of say, Star Wars Galactic Battlegrounds for instance. Not only do you get to play with a million different units [yes, a million] but you’ll also have the choice between factions from all eras. I would have preferred more emphasis on base management rather than combat micro-management.

There is only one game mode in multiplayer, it is best described as MOBA-like. You have to first destroy the enemy’s Shield Generator, then Laser Turret and then finally their Power Core. This does prevent rush styles of play which is great, early units won’t survive very long against the turret, so you’re safe at the beginning of the game. You’ll have to balance defence and attack, deciding when it’s best to try and contest their Capture Points, it might be wise to defend their first attack and then follow up with a counter. Resources are gathered by owning these Capture Points, they are found evenly spread across the maps and will provide you with the necessary Command and Energy points you’ll need to create a formidable army. Reaching further into the map to capture more points could give you the edge to win but could also spread you too thin and leave you open to a bigger, more ferocious attack from the enemy.

View some screenshots from Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War III in our gallery:

It’s tremendously fun and mid-to-late game it can get super tense. You’ll be flicking through every unit, trying to maximise damage output from their abilities, while at the same time defending your capture points and managing your main base. This gets hectic, and you’ll often find you’ve forgotten about a unit and its either sitting idle in the corner of the map or its getting munched down by a battalion of Ork Boyz. At its most epic you’ll find the limitations more than just an annoyance but actually a hindrance. You can’t zoom out very far, which at first is fine but when you’re trying to organise multiple fronts of battle you need to have a tactical view of the map. Also, it is a nightmare firing off your unit abilities. In a stack, the strongest hero will be displayed on the HUD panel. You can use their abilities fine, they’re the most powerful anyway, so that makes sense. But when you want to use your infantry’s Vortex Grenades or your dreadnought’s Stun Slam, you’ll have to pick them out from the rabble of fighting mobs. An ability button above their card would have done wonders in lessening the forced micro-management. It would have been nice to have been able to re-map keys as well, this is 2017, how is this still a problem?

Despite some gripes with the controls and limited choice of races. Dawn of War III is excellent, it has been polished to the highest degree, from graphics to gameplay. As there is only one game mode, it has been refined to produce the most amount of fun. Units look great, and with the added bonus that you can repaint them yourself with the army customisation options, the colours you pick are even named after their Citadel counterparts. There are plenty of elite units within each race, all able to level up and gain experience. You’ll always have something to achieve and aim for, and with the Army Doctrines, you can refine your playstyle to maximise its potential. Alongside the gory gameplay and spot-on sound design is a lengthy campaign, you can delve into the surprisingly well-written story and lose yourself for hours. For any fan of Warhammer 40K, I don’t have to recommend this to you because there’s a good chance you’ve already got it. But for those looking for a combat RTS [emphasis on the combat], with AAA quality graphics and design, look no further. Dawn of War III takes all the best parts from its predecessor and crams it all together to make something better than the sum of its parts.

Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War III was reviewed using a digital code supplied by the publisher.

Publisher: SEGA Developer: Relic Entertainment Release Date: April 27, 2017 Reviewed On: PC/Steam

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