Warhammer 40.000 has seen something of a surge in recently when the number of games set in this universe is considered. Some were better than others and others are mostly “okay”, but nonetheless WH40k is coming back swinging. Battlefleet Gothic: Armada is excellent, but that’s last year’s news. This year an old friend is coming back for the third installment. What awaits the Blood Ravens in Dawn of War 3 and what should the players expect? Let’s perform the rite of percussive maintenance on the auspex and take a look.
In the grim darkness of the far future…
For those who aren’t familiar with the Warhammer 40.000 universe, a brief introduction. WH40k is a setting created by Games Workshop back in the 80s, as an alternative for their Warhammer Fantasy line. 40k is a universe mixing and twisting many different themes and styles. Lovecraftian cosmic horrors, Gothic aesthetic, H.R. Giger-like monstrosities, power-armored battle nuns are all a mainstay and that’s just scratching the surface.
…there is only war
So what happens when you throw all of that into a single galaxy? A never-ending war, that’s what you get. The scale of Warhammer 40k warfare isn’t just large. It’s always grand, with frequent escalation into “grandiose”. Million-strong armies clash, armored demigods are torn apart by gargantuan insect-lizards, planets are destroyed like it’s nothing.
It’s spectacular, vivid and utterly ridiculous when taken out of context.
Warhammer 40.000 is amazing.
War for the relic
Dawn of War 3’s storyline revolves around an ancient relic – the Spear of Khaine. Although the actual relation to the Eldar god remains unclear, the remnant of the long-lost age is powerful enough to draw attention of several powers. Three of them, to be specific.
FOR THE EMPEROR!
DoW3 sees the glorious return of the Blood Ravens after a rough patch in their history seen in Dawn of War 2, the Chaos Rising add-on, and finally the Retribution standalone expansion. Gabriel Angelos is now the Chapter Master, and kept his God-Splitter thunder hammer known from previous games.
For those not in the know, the Space Marines are seven feet tall, heavily enhanced with genetic and cybernetic modifications, and encased in powered armor boosting their already incredible abilities to demigod levels. And most chapters, like Blood Ravens, have a thousand of them.
Blood Raven’s do not covet the Spear for themselves (because that would be heresy), but aim to keep it away from the other sides of this war.
The Craftworld sings to me
The second side are the Eldar, an ancient, graceful race hailing back to the times before humanity. Not as powerful or resilient as the other two factions, they more than make up for it with speed, finesse and psychic powers. They seek the Spear to aid their attempts to stop the continuous decline of their race. They are led by Farseer Macha of Craftowlrd Biel-Tan. Craftworlds are spaceships the size of kingdoms, and each is a self-sufficient environment with everything needed to survive for centuries and millennia.
And then there are the Orks. Oh boy, the Orks. Take stereotypical football hoolingans, mix them up with space pirates, add gratuitous Cockney accent and sprinkle with technology which works on a “Clap your hands if you believe” basis. For Orks there is no difference between war and a party, and they are having the time of their fungus-based life killing and dying by the millions. And remember: red wunz go fasta.
Orks are completely insane, absurd, hilarious and monstrous all the the same time. And their main reason to participate in the conflict seems to be Warchief Gorgutz ‘Ead’unter wants to get “a pointy stikk (sic)”.
Dawn of War 3 merges the best features of its predecessors. Large squads come back from DoW1, and not a moment too soon. Once again you’ll be able to field dozens units, up to 200 in case of Space Marines. Army composition will play a large role in the story of your success, and there’ll be more than one way to win, obviously. Base building and resource gathering is back as well, as is capturing strategic points on the map. It’s nice to see Dawn of War franchise come closer to its roots for its glorious return.
I need a hero!
Dawn of War 3 doesn’t shy away from what made DoW2 unique, either. The Elite units are a proof of that. Each army has several such heroes in the roster, although only up to three of them can be selected before any given battle. For instance Space Marines Elite units include Chapter Master Gabriel Angelos and Imperial Knight Solaria – a huge mecha walker piloted by a Noblewoman.
But they aren’t deployed automatically, no such luck. Each has a specific cost in Elite points, and you’ll have to think strategically whether you want to deploy a cheaper Elite immediately, or wait to deploy a heavy-duty unit a bit later.
Dawn of War 3 brings another thing to think about, namely Doctrines. They are large-scale buffs to your army to get to choose before initiating a battle. In addition to global doctrines that just work, your Elites will have some of their own. The kicker is they need to be deployed before they come into effect.
Between bonuses to traits, modifications to abilities or maybe even new ones, picking a proper Doctrine is as essential to your success as having an army composition appropriate to your playstyle and enemies you face.
Relic, the game’s developers, admit to taking some hints from the MOBA genre when designing some aspects of Dawn of War 3. This can be seen in the importance of protecting Power Cores – key location placed in the middle of your main bases. Protected by turrets and force fields destroying them is the only victory condition you need to care about. Which doesn’t mean you should play recklessly. DoW3 will allow for dramatic comebacks, but spreading your forces too thin or deploying Elite units at inopportune moments will still be bad ideas.
It’s been eight years since the Dawn of War 2, and six since DoW2: Retribution. A lot has changed in that time, but Dawn of War 3 seems more determined to do its own thing rather than to pander to current trends, despite taking some slight hints from MOBAs. Which is a good thing.
Blending both of its glorious predecessors, adding an easy to read visual style, and introducing Titan-class units are all steps in the right direction.
It must also be mentioned that, admirably, the pre-order bonuses are not going to divide the playerbase – they are unique skins for your Super Walker Elites. Small cosmetic treats are a good idea for a pre-order bonus, especially in a game that isn’t mostly about customization (despite its tabletop origins).
Whether the execution of all the ideas is excellent or not remains to be seen when DoW3 is released on April 27, 2017.