Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War 3 Review – A Battle of Brawn but Not of Wits

Warhammer 40,000 has come a long way since its beginnings as a tabletop wargame that’s still being played to this very day. The franchise has branched out to books, video games and even got its own CGI movie. Arguably the best of all the Warhammer 40,000 games have been the Dawn of War games. Developed by Relic and published by now defunct THQ, The first Dawn of War game was a true blooded RTS game, featuring resource collecting and base building to create a massive army to decimate your foes. The sequel had you commanding a small elite squad against enemies of far greater numbers.

Both games featured all the favorite factions of Warhammer 40,000 including the Tau, the Eldar, the Necrons, the Orks, the Imperial Guard, the Tyranids, the forces of Chaos and of course, the star attraction of the Warhammer 40,000 universe: the finest warriors of the Imperium of Man. They who defend mankind and know no fear. The Adeptus Astartes. The Space Marines.

Now with the latest chapter of the Dawn of War series, the focus is once again on building a massive army by gaining resources and constructing training grounds and factories. Enter the 41st Millennium once again and prepare only for war in Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War 3. It is the 41st Millennium and in the grim darkness of the future, there is only war! A powerful weapon lies in wait to be used. Locked in deadly conflict, the Eldar, the Orks, and the Blood Ravens Space Marines Chapter all contest to secure this weapon as glory, in this case, isn’t of great importance as survival is.

The Dawn of War series has returned to the RTS roots found in Dawn of War 1. Resource collecting, base building and recruiting units that were absent from Dawn of War 2 have now returned, allowing you to increase the size of your army and provide better equipment for units. You’ll start off with the main base where you can recruit standard troops and a unit which specializes in construction. This unit will construct buildings that will allow you to recruit a larger army with better soldiers and vehicles complete with upgrades including increased damage to enemy units, new weapons or increasing health.

You’ll soon amass Space Marines, Orks or Eldar at your command and charge at your foes to leave a trail of death and destruction in your wake. Battles are incredibly exciting to watch as you charge your men headlong into the front lines of the enemy. The gunfire from units is deafening. Bones crunch and flesh cuts as troops become locked in grisly melee combat and overall the absolute anarchy that’s happening onscreen is a marvel to behold.

When things get tough for your units, elite units are at your beck and call, provided that you’ve accumulated enough elite points. The Chapter Master, the Warboss, the Farseer and others will join your ranks and lead your troops to victory. These units are so powerful they can take on battalions of enemy troops by themselves. They have special abilities that can attack multiple enemies at once or provide cover for friendly units. You can purchase more elite units by spending skulls, which is in-game currency accumulated through battle. They make all the difference in battle and using them along with your troops will have anyone stupid enough to stand against you in complete ruin.

The multiplayer is the true highlight of this game. It can be incredibly exciting as you quickly scanning the arena to see where to send your troops next. The objective of multiplayer is to destroy a power core being held by your opponents. You’ll need to grab resource points on the field to get more units on the front lines and especially to bring elites into battle. It’s imperative also that you hold these points if you want to garner enough resources to get more soldiers and your elite units in the fight.

You can take your battles with up to 6 other players or against up to 6 AI opponents in fast-paced and energetic battles, which is really the highlight of the whole game. You’ll have to act quickly and charge forward with all haste. The action never stops, there’s no time for a break and you’ll be frantically sending units to the front to secure resource points in a desperate attempt to conquer the arena.

Dawn of War 3 uses elements from the previous 2 games and puts them together to create something that’s fast-paced and thrilling. This style will satisfy those who want faster gameplay, yet those who are familiar with the series and RTS games in general, will find many changes not to their liking, along with other problems that prevent the game from surpassing previous entries to the series.

Dawn of War 3 runs off the new Essence Engine 4.0, but unfortunately, the in-game graphics look like a downgrade from Relic’s earlier titles. Units aren’t very detailed and the effects look rather bland. The maps themselves lack any detailed textures and there aren’t any post processing to make the arenas seem alive and exciting. The game sounds fantastic, however. The soundtrack is great, the voice acting is superb and the thunder of gunfire, roaring battle cries and gut-wrenching death knells all echo throughout the battlefield, emoting for all that in the 41st Millennium, there is indeed, only war.

The game does feature a campaign where you’ll play as all 3 factions to gain an understanding of how each faction operates, but it’s really just a glorified tutorial for the multiplayer. It’s good at teaching you about unit abilities, acquiring requisition and recruiting units, but earlier Dawn of War games have had much better campaigns that were just as exciting and as important as the multiplayer, whereas here multiplayer is now the primary focus.

For those looking for fast and frantic battles, multiplayer is going to be the highlight with Dawn of War 3. It’s intense, it’s thrilling and will keep you at the edge of your seat at all times. However, for those looking for something that involves a deeper layer of strategy, you won’t find it here sadly. All you need to do is build enough units to hold the line, secure enough requisition points and buy time to acquire your elite unit so you can send him or her over to the enemy and wreck everything up. There’s no strategy involved, no need to build up a powerful army and use specific units for specific jobs, just spam enough to help out the elite units.

Units that you send out on the battlefield do not have the imposing presence as in previous Dawn of War games. Their only purpose is to support the elite units and serve the job role of cannon-fodder. They may be able to hold the line and be useful in ambush plans or assault, but they’re only just used to hold the line and buy time for elite units to join the fight. Even if other units feature upgraded weapons and abilities, the elite units take center stage.

For now, the faction roster is limited to the Eldar, the Orks, and the Space Marines. There are no Tyranids, Tau, Chaos or anyone else in sight. Dawn of War 1 and 2 had almost every faction to play as from the outset, with more added with expansions. Perhaps other factions may be added again in the future, but for now, the roster limit is 3 factions.

This game is a definite mixed bag and not for everyone. It does use elements from previous Dawn of War games such as the resource collecting, base building and the emphasis on heroes and elites leading your armies. Dawn of War 3 encourages you to rush units out and begin fighting ASAP. As a result, those who want a more deeper experience will be disappointed. The emphasis is no longer on cunning strategies and tactics but about rushing out elites and spamming special attack powers.

Relic has definitely tried to gain a different audience. In particular, those who are fans of MOBA-style games like League of Legends as the gameplay is much faster paced than your typical RTS game. Nevertheless, there is actually a good amount of fun to be had in this game. Battles are fast, frantic and fun especially in multiplayer and the atmosphere of the Warhammer 40,000 universe has been captured well. If you decide to grab Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War 3, you may enjoy marching your men headlong into glorious battles.

This review was based on a digital review code for Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War III on PC provided by Relic Entertainment.

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