Eeeeh… I have no witty introduction. Dawn of War 3 is awesome.
I will assume the game starts a few years after the previous ones had left off, since I haven’t played any of the old Dawn of Wars and some of the characters mention knowing each other in the past. In the present, three factions exist in the world. The humans ~religious nuts~, the eldar ~elves, sneaky, but at the same time too proud in their heritage and viewing other races as inferior~ and the orks ~orcs, scrap collectors and by far the best part of the game~.
Some sort of prophecy was made by an eldar chick in the past, telling of a super-powerful spear being in a reemerging planet-kind-of world, that only appears once every few thousand years. Both the elf leader and the human leader hear of this, deciding to take the weapon for themselves. Our heroes, a paladin named Angelos and the elf farseer Macha, start questioning the motives of their respective masters, who are going too much out of their way for the spear. Soon, it is revealed that the prophecy might have been misinterpreted and it would be best to leave the spear where it is, as its powers can corrupt. Of course the faction leaders will hear none of it, so our heroes have to go rogue (separately), starting down a long path of backstabbings in order to save the galaxy.
Now you might be wondering, where do the orks fit into all this galactic drama? The answer is that while the human and the eldar campaigns are all about business and fate etc, the orks are just… well, «f@cking around» best describes it. Our ork hero is «the Boss» Gorgutz, a really, really ambitious ork set on leading all ork clans (not towards any end, he’s just a greedy egotistical bastard, and you’ll love him for it). Orks are scrap collectors, living in the debris fields of fallen human and eldar spaceships. Gorgutz eventually figures out that a whole mechanical planet is scrapyard paradise, and sets on his own for the prophecised planet, while constantly foiling the plans of the eldar and the humans without even aiming at them.
If I have one complaint about Dawn of War 3, it’s the extreme change of tone when switching from eldars and humans to orks. The greenskins are so… Carefree, that the player can’t take seriously the rest of the story and the galactic threats. During an epic confrontation between Macha and Angelos later in the story, when the tension should be high, I caught myself laughing at the ork’s idea of «hacking» a console from an earlier mission (it’s exactly what you imagine). It almost felt like two completely different teams were handling the campaigns.
The menus are pretty much you’d expect from a strategy game: single player, multiplayer, army management (more on that later), settings, etc. The only original part is the war paint menu, I imagine inspired from the figure painting irl, where you can equip each of your units with each own tabard, colors, etc. Otherwise the main menu of Dawn of War 3 is pretty standard though, so lets get to the juicy parts:
Obviously you view everything from a bird’s point of view, as with all rtses, though the game does give you the ability to zoom. Dawn of War 3 has 3 kinds of resources: «Resources», the basic income, «Energy», the… other, basic income, and the «Hero Points». Outside of combat there are also the «skulls» you earn at the end of each mission, which you can spend on your army management. In-game, the two main currencies are gathered through specific locations. Each faction gives them a different name, but they are all basically «mining areas». More often than not, you will find yourself having too much of the first currency and too little of the «Energy», which means that you’ll have to confine to your most basic infantry units.
Also read our review of: Blitzkrieg 3
The main buildings and playstyle of each race are pretty much the same (unlike Starcraft 2 for example that felt like it needed to create brand new gameplay for each of its races) and what makes the difference for the factions is their gimmicks. The humans can orbit their troops on the battlefield, making for good surprise attacks, the elves can relocate their buildings anywhere they have vision, allowing them to escape base wipes easily and the orks have the scrap. Scrap is formed on piles around the battlefield and the WAAARGH towers (no, that’s their name, seriously) and the player can use it to either reinforce their current units, or spend it to create vehichle units much cheaper than their actual production cost.
I say «gimmicks» but the bonuses, or «specialties» if you will, truly make the gameplay of each faction distinct in the long run. Not that you don’t have options of course, some people could, for example, choose to play with the vehichles of the eldar because they’re missing a few screws. I’ll be honest here: The balance of the units still needs work, a lot of it.
The aforementioned vehichles work great for the orcs, since they can be summoned very cheap from the scrap piles instead of the shop, in exchange for a little extra time to heal them (scrap-summoned units start at 70% of their normal health). They are big, sturdy machines that can take a lot of punishment (even moreso if you use equip them with more scrap) and usually can take out infantry by the dozens. without losing significant health. Human vehichles are ok, mostly limiting themselves to 50 shades of tanks. Nothing too spectacular or conversation-worthy, especially since, unlike the infantry, they can’t be orbited on the battlefield. Eldar vehichles on the other hand are basically hovering targets for nearly everyone to destroy with little difficulty.
Other than the orks (who create vehichles specialising in murdering infantry), factions have little to no use for their vehichle units, with their resources much better spent in swarming the field with small infantry squads. That in turn, also means that anti-vehichle infantry are completely useless, as the only ones who will be using vehichles are also the best at killing said infantry. The end result is that it is in everyone’s best interest to just spam infantry, giving orks an advantage that puts them far above the other two. That goes double, since, after equipping themselves with scrap, ork infantry are also far superior to any respective eldar or human infantry (without being scrap-equipped they are the weakest though).
Keep in mind though, the game is still being developed, so if you’re reading this one month later the balance could have been fixed. The company releases patches every few days as I’m writing this and variouses rebalancings are being done constantly.
After each game, the player receives skulls based on his performance, which he can spend either on elite units or army doctrines (I think that’s how it’s spelt), aka permanent bonuses to his units. Up to three elite units and 3 army doctrines can be active at the same time and I gotta say I found quite a few of them (you’ll see how many there are from the images) to be quite useless, at least for my playstyle. During battle the player will be busy managing his hero units, who play like moba characters with QWE abilities, so there will be few times when you’ll have the luxury to select your infantry machine gun squad #34 and order them to throw a grenade at the enemy’s melee squad #26, meaning that only passive doctrines make an actual difference.
Enough beating around the bush though, time for the real question:
-Is it better than Starcraft 2?
To my own surprise, the answer is that yes, I enjoyed the Dawn of War 3 campaign more than I did SC2’s campaign. The primary reason is that Dawn of War 3, rather than having three different campaigns for each of the fnctions, has the player switching out to a different faction after every mission, interwining the fates of the heroes with the sacred bonds of CONSTANT BACKSTABBING. The switch thing lets the player learn all factions at the same time, keeping the story interesting and the gameplay varying (the design of the maps is also really creative), soon turning Dawn of War 3 to an almost addictive experience. (on the other hand it does make the tone changes even more obvious).
(Keep in mind, I was running the game only with Cortex on, without it it was borderline unplayable for my system.)
Dawn of War 3 is pretty average as far as graphics go. I don’t mean that it’s bad, by no means so. It just doesn’t immediately draw attention to itself like the antagonism does. The maps are too overloaded with details, to the point that you don’t end up remembering much, other than a clusterf@ckl of debris lying around. On the few occasions where I got to see water, or anything different than metal for that matter, I was left fairly unimpressed, soon leading to me lowering the resolutions since there wasn’t much to see anyway.
Same goes for the buildings design. With the exception of ork buildings, which stay memorable due to the bright yellow color and their unnecessarily huge size, everything else just fades to memory after a while, with the Eldar buldings being all about portal-y white and the human buildings… Eeeeh… What were they like again? See? That’s what I’m talking about! Thankfully the unit design is a definite improvement, with the infantry and vehichles of all factions being distinct from each other (though few are memorable). To sum it up it’s the Gears of War thing. You remember the general sensation of the game, you just can’t remember any of the specifics.
It’s really weird, but Dawn of War 3 is one of those games were turning down the graphics actually makes the game look better. With full graphs there’s just way too much sh!t going on on-screen for the player to keep up with. With fewer details on the map you can appreciate the beauty of the aesthetics unhinged, as your ork batallions stomp every living thing in their path to pasture.
The sound is on a different scale though. All units have different quotes and lines when opposing different enemies («Oi! Look over there! It’s the humies!»), displaying the incredible level of detail in Dawn of War 3. Likewise the voice acting of the heroes in the cutscenes or the pre/post game dialogues is superb, with the voices of everyone fitting their character exactly. The elves are arrogant and sneaky at the same time, the humans are muscleheads all about honor, the orks are hilariously suicidal with their plans and in general the game leaves a really good impression to the ear.
Now there were a few problems in-game with the way the game handles the player orders. With the AI being slightly dumb, if a unit is attacked by an enemy beyond their visual range they won’t respond at all, with me seeing later that a single squad of snipers had manage to wipe my entire army because the idiots couldn’t think to either inform me, run away or run towards the shots. This got really irritating at times, since my own vision was often unobscured due to nearby buildings, so it’s not like I couldn’t see the enemies attacking my units, it’s just that the units apparently didn’t feel like taking advice from others. On that note, it really bugged me that idle workers would not automatically try to repair vehichles and nearby buildings, especially since the repair is free in this game.
it was also a complete mess trying to select the one block in the army whose health was low and needed the health pickups scattered throughout the map. I would often accidentally send a 90% force of brutes to get their health restored, while the poor chap with the machine-gun could barely keep his blood from flowing out from the bullet wholes at 5% half an inch away. It’s expected that such problems would arise when swarming the opponent with infantry is the most viable path to victory, but the game could have made it a bit easier with a few UI tweaks. No such luck yet, we’ll see in future patches.
To sum it up: It’s a diamond in the roughs. There is still a lot of patching to be done and SEGA is on it, but the game in general is very, very addicting. Sure, there are a few technical issues here and there and plenty of rebalancing is needed, but Dawn of War 3 has a very strong story and a very fun gameplay that put it easily among your top 3 RTS lists. Gamehorizon approves purchasing it 100%, even for non-strategy fans. Got it, hummies?
Dawn of War 3
- Orks. Everything about them.
- A very strong story.
- Distinct gameplay for each faction.
- Good voice acting.
- It's wonderful to see your army amass.
- Fantastic map design.
- There is TOO much detail in the graphics.
- Quite a few rebalancings needed right now.
- Humans are boring.
- Tone changes don't do either the fun orks or the grim human and eldar justice.
- Many doctrines are useless.