Firstly Apologies for the lateness of this review, I’m well aware that the game has been out a few weeks by now and that there are countless reviews online already. Secondly this is my first review so apologies for any rambling. (no worries Mike, readers are well used to my ramblings by now - Al)
Dawn of War is one of my favourite PC games of all time, met only by the mighty Tie Fighter and Secret of Monkey Island. I still play it to this day, Dark Crusade and Soul storm regularly get a play through when I’m bored and fancy some action. I was slightly disappointed with the release of Dawn of War 2, the game was fun and I liked the RPG levelling up of my heroes but it missed the chaos of building a base then a massive force and sending a tide of Marines and Dreadnoughts across the battlefield to wipe out my foes. (DIE, DIE, DIE!! sorry -Al) When Sega bought out THQ Games a few years ago it was said that the Dawn of War series was done for and that we’d never see a third installment, even though the request for a third addition arose frequently from fans.
A year ago I saw a reveal trailer for DOW3 and my heart leapt for joy, even more so when I heard that base building would be back. Phenomenal. Imagine huge armies with today’s graphics smashing into hordes of armies, needless to say this bad boy was going to be pre-ordered.
I was lucky enough to play the beta back in late March and was impressed by the graphics although had a few concerns but put this down to only playing multi-player (no campaign missions were available) and only being allowed to play against human opponents as there was no AI option.
Upon release of the full game I dived straight into the campaign looking forward to playing the Blood Ravens again (a silly faction, that really probably should have been replaced by a bone-fide faction from GW but I understand why they made one up because then they don’t particularly have to stay on message with the lore).
My first game was great, the bases are back with all the building choices from before, some have changed, no longer can you build an Armoury and upgrade units to carry Heavy Bolters, you have to build a separate building, the Doctrine Chapel and deploy Heavy Bolters. The Armoury is still there but used solely to increase health and damage of units along with some unit minor upgrades.
There were a few changes. No longer could you just recruit Gabriel Angelos, he is now an elite character that you can spend Elite Points on (a new form of resource, obtainable from certain requisition points) along with two other elite slots that later on in the game you can change out to suit your needs, I prefer to swap my librarian for Terminators for example, there is access to an Imperial Knight but it will cost you 9 elite points and these build up gradually so you may wait a while before being able to deploy it. Each elite has special attacks that are devastating to normal units, it’s a cool mechanic as it melds DOW1 and DOW2 play methods together fairly seamlessly.
I do have a few niggles with the game however, the biggest one is the lack of an auto save feature. As you play through a mission, it unfolds in stages, you start with one objective then another one unfolds when you complete the previous and the map expands with the mission. However, there is no auto save feature so you can be playing along and get right to the end only to fall foul of a HUGE Ork horde thinking you’d go back to the previous objective. But no, you go straight back to the beginning. It’s really frustrating, for example once my PC just crashed and I’d literally just finished the mission only for everything to be wiped. I know it’s my fault as I should have saved regularly but in this day and age where most games save as you go, you feel like you’re being punished for not being a die-hard saver.
Second niggle is, no turrets. There is a drop pod that has Storm Bolters inside it which is nice but it’s not the same as capturing a point and being able to drop two or three turrets by the important points to help defend them. You can still build listening posts but these are just a single turret but they aren’t as hardy as they were before and they can’t be upgraded. The ability to reinforce troops on the field is gone, and as such you have to send the troops back to base to reinforce them (there is an upgrade that allows reinforcement at requisition points but this costs unlock skulls).
Thirdly there are only 3 factions, that’s it. No Necrons, no Tau, not even Chaos. But if the game is a success (fingers crossed) then expansions will fill the gaps, if they made the expansions with similar game mechanics to Dark Crusade or Soulstorm (where you have to take on a planet or a system) I’ll be the first in line with my money (TAKE IT ALL DAMMIT)
The last niggle is quite a big one and one that I’ve seen mentioned a few times. Playing through the campaign you start as marines but the next mission you play as Eldar, then the next you play as Orks. It’s good in the sense that you can get used to playing the other factions but I’m not a huge fan of the chopping and changing.
Eldar, aren’t tailored to my play style and using them is a bit of a chore. However the Orks are fantastic, funny and they have some nice mechanics. Being able to build some units from scrap piles (that are either pulled down from space by waaaaggghhhh towers or left behind from fallen enemy vehicles) is a nice touch, also units such as Boyz, Nobz, Shootas etc can upgrade themselves from scrap piles and increase accuracy or armour.
Each faction has access to many different elite units like the Marines, particular favourites are Striking Scorpions for the Eldar and the trundling behemoth the Morkanaught (or Gorkanaught). I have to add, it’s nice to see the foot of Gork (or Mork) as a special ability of the weird boyz, although the animation is tame, I’d have love to have seen a comical Monty Python-esque foot appearing out of the warp and squishing stuff.
Some people have stated that this method of play (the switching of factions as you go) feels like a massive tutorial for the multiplayer, and I can see why. As you progress you get access to more and more goodies, so in the beginning you get access to just the basics and when you get a grip with those you start to learn about other mechanics (such as the devastating mega bomb – Marines: Orbital Strike, Orks: Meteor strike, Eldar: warp storm). It feels like a natural learning curve but I get why people are saying it’s a tutorial for multiplayer.
Speaking of which, the multiplayer mode is a lot of fun, 1v1 2v2 or 3v3 are the default modes so anyone hoping for an 8 player mash up might be a little disappointed. Having said that I regularly play 3v3 with two mates against AI which always lead to large amounts of carnage. The mechanic of the multiplayer is thus: Destroy a shield generator, destroy a turret (a substantial beam weapon that will knock you down if you try and take it out before the shield generator) then destroy a power core.
I know that some people miss the old way which was just destroy the base. We play on Casual mode and it provides a big challenge for us (although we’re probably crap lol), just last night we were up against Orks, and the green tide was lapping close to the power generator when I sent my squads up the flanks and destroyed the power generator and we won. I’ve only played a handful of games against real opponents and a few of them had forgotten about the mechanic and as such I won games that I probably shouldn’t have, not sure how long that will last.
Lastly the graphics are fabulous, the maps are nice and balanced and the details are lovely. As the war rages on the field gets heavily scared and carnage is abundant, burnt out wrecks of whirlwinds and dreadnaughts litter the pock marked maps and the earth is scorched. The squad limit is 250 in most games and I’ve never really reached that number of troops but even with a sizeable battalion it looks impressive. Requisition tumbles in quite slowly so I can’t ever see me filling the army size (another tip: upgrade your requisition points to produce more req.).
Ultimately DOW3 is a good game, is it perfect and all that I hoped it would be? No but it’s better than nothing which was the alternative. You only get three factions that’s it. It’s screaming out for expansions and I’ll be amazed if they didn’t get announced soon. It seems like they were playing it safe, not investing too much into developing more factions because the game may not sell (a PC only release isn’t a safe bet anymore and I admire the courage it took to bring the game out). It’ll be interesting to see what factions come next and whether they will be able to bring Tyranids to the game as previously stated they said that they couldn’t do that faction as the DOW1 engine would not handle the army numbers, I think it’ll look amazing to see a horde of gaunts followed by a flying hive tyrantJ.
I run a fairly old rig now with an old i7 and a radeon 7950 on a clapped out asus sabretooth motherboard. The game runs fine (although the fans blow loud during a game lol), with no lag. Despite my niggles, of which I have listed them out, mostly the game is enjoyable, and finding a group of mates to play online will only increase the fun factor.