Gabriel Angelos might have no trouble surviving, but chances are you might struggle a bit more in the Dawn of War universe. So if you’re new to the series, or your last taste of Dawn of War was back when the PS3 still ran Linux and the 360 looked like the Ring of Red Space Marines, here’s some tips for playing Dawn of War 3.
The campaign doesn’t tell you, but you’ll want to unlock army and faction doctrines as you progress through the campaign. (Image: Kotaku)
Whether you’re playing through the singleplayer campaign, or smashing through Orks in matchmaking, there are some fundamentals unique to Dawn of War that all players will want to know.
The first thing to know is that you have three resources to deal with: requisition, which is predominately used for recruiting infantry and paying for infantry upgrades; power, which is used for vehicles, higher end upgrades; and Elite points, which are used to deploy your biggest and best units onto the battlefield.
As Company of Heroes introduced so many moons ago, resource points are captured by having a unit stand on the point for a set amount of time. In DoW 3, however, you won’t recoup anything of consequence until a few generators are built on the point.
After capturing a resource point, you can build requisition (the yellow hexagon) and power generators, as well as an overall upgrade to improve the point’s output
It’s worth remembering not so much because of the time you’ll need to secure a point, but because of the amount of damage you can do with a raid on the generators. You’ll take some light hits from the listening post’s machine gun while you do, but it’s a lot easier to blow a requisition or power generator up than it is the entire point – and your enemy won’t be generating squat from the point until they’re rebuilt.
In multiplayer, there are also “escalation phases”. It’s basically a mechanic that influences how much requisition and power generators will make throughout the game, and it also dictates the amount of resources you get back when a squad dies.
Another key element, no matter what faction you represent, are the doctrines for Elite units and the factions themselves. You’ll need to unlock them by paying a small amount of skulls, a currency earned in-game through playing the campaign and multiplayer missions. Not all of the doctrines make a massive difference, but some of them can be utterly critical.
The Eldar’s Falcon tank, for instance, is surprisingly squishy due to the amount of anti-armour weaponry available. Vehicles aren’t great at retreating, and they often have turning circles and a slight delay that prevents you from immediately abandoning combat. But there’s a faction doctrine that gives Falcons a temporary shield, which can be the difference between keeping an extra cannon on the field for a little while longer.
Speaking of retreating, you’ll want to do so regularly – because reinforcing troops is often cheaper, and infinitely more practical, than having to rebuild a squad from scratch. It’s an important factor to consider in the middle to late stages of a multiplayer match, because once the tide of a battle turns your squads can get minced very, very quickly, especially when Elite units are doing their thing:
Speaking of protecting your units, one of the biggest changes with DoW 3 is the removal of cover. You’ll find pockets of grass and shroud on the map where units can hide, but for the most part you’ll need to spread out your army as much as possible – and focus on forcing your enemy to fight in chokepoints. There are small areas of “hard cover” that units can occupy, although it’s best to think of it as a replacement for the garrison ability from DoW 2.
The below is a match from the closed beta, but it’s a good illustration of the merits of spacing out your army and planning ahead. It’s a Space Marine mirror match, but the basic positioning can be used by all races:
Just about every unit in DoW 3 has an ability, and most of those either do AOE damage or damage in a line. Another reason for fighting out in the open is the animations: units will often take a second or two to use their ability after you activate it, because they’re in the middle of finishing their current attack animation, or their ability won’t start until they’re facing their desired target.
Case in point: the Wraithlord can’t start its charge until its facing the enemy, by which time the Orks have dodged well out of the way. (GIF: Kotaku)
Another thing to consider before jumping into battle is how much your Elite units cost. You can see the cost of each unit by the number in the purple diamond in the top-right of their portrait:
The game recommends a balanced loadout by default, which means one Elite that costs around two or three points, another that costs double that, and a final Elite like the Gorkanaut or Wraithlord that costs 9 or 10 points. You can adopt a faster playstyle that revolves around a trio of cheaper Elite units so you can be more aggressive with capture points early on.
One other thing: if you kill a shield generator or turret in multiplayer, you’ll be rewarded with an Elite point, requisition and power. Killing turrets early on is almost always out of the question, but if you win the first few engagements it might be worthwhile pressing your advantage to knock both shield generators out. The additional power can go straight into a tier 2 upgrade, or upgrades for your standing army, either of which should help you cement your advantage.
An example of how Gorgutz, the star of the Orks, benefits from scrap (Image: Kotaku)
Relic says the Orks are the most mechanically challenging race to handle in DoW 3, and for good reason. They’re the only race that can make use of scrap, materials that are either generated automatically by Waagh towers, or salvaged from the battlefield after the death of a vehicle or mech.
Every Ork unit can upgrade themselves by collecting scrap, but you can also use gretchen – Ork’s builder unit – to build advanced units and Waagh towers from the scrap. Waagh towers function as basic turrets as well, and you need to build at least five to unlock all the Orks’ units and upgrades.
Waagh towers cost half as much to build from scrap as they do from scratch, but even a discount Waagh tower will upgrade your army to tier 2 (Image: Kotaku)
You’ll want to prioritise abilities that help close down the range between troops. Orks, especially without scrap, can be quite fragile past after the early game. But the tradeoff is that you can have a much larger army – and it can go pound for pound with the Space Marines and Eldar, provided you’re not sloppy when it comes to collecting scrap and reinforcing your troops.
Orks have a good early to mid-game as well: their forces require a little less requisition than the other two races, and their tier 2 units, like Tankbustas and Deffgun Lootas, don’t have any power requirements at all. It’s possible to work around a strategy that prioritises fast level 1 infantry health/damage upgrades over earlier Waagh towers, although if you don’t get a good advantage in the early game you might find yourself struggling to match your opponent once tier 2 and tier 3 units come into the fray.
Gorgutz’s hammer can help Orks close the distance, a key strategy against the Eldar (Image: Kotaku)
As for the Elites, most people will have the star from the campaign, Gorgutz, in their loadout. His two stock abilities are handy for stunning enemy troops and helping your squishier forces close the distance: apart from damaging enemies and slowing them down, his spinning hammer also functions as an AOE shield against projectiles. You’re taught this in the opening Ork mission, but it’s a lesson that can be easy to forget.
Boyz are the bread and butter of Ork armies, and out of the gate they have a channelled ability that pumps them up before battle. You’ll want to either channel this just before heading into a fight, or find some shroud to hide behind though, as mass ranged units can still mince enraged Boyz to pieces. But when you’re only dealing with two or three sets of infantry in the first few minutes, Boyz are the best all-around unit for their damage and durability – so get in the enemy’s face!
Trukks can be a good counter to this: they’re cheap vehicles that can launch infantry forward, although you’ll never want more than a couple as their weaponry isn’t that effective. Trukks can be made from the Dakka Hut, and they only cost 300 requisition and 25 power – a bargain for their utility in the early game.
Zapnoggin is more of a spellcaster-type hero: he has a small frontal cone ability that does massive damage to infantry squads, but little to vehicles and armour. He can also use scrap charges to call down giant fists, and the range is fairly substantial. It’s a slow moving projectile, however, and Zapnoggin is squishy at best.
Wazmakka, another recurring character from the campaign, offers more utility at the expense of raw battlefield carnage. He can call down charges of scrap at will, which you can use to beef up your armies beforehand. Stormboyz are a cheap Ork elite that function much like the Space Marines’ assault squads: they have a jetpack that lets them stun and close down enemies, but they have little HP and their secondary ability is a sacrificial one. Their jetpack does ignore cover, however, making them a great early game tool for breaking shield generators. They’re also a good counter to the Deathwatch Marines elite for the Space Marines, making their inclusion (for now) pretty essential in multiplayer.
Meganobz are one of the more interesting Elite units, at least when fully upgraded. Their second doctrine gives Boyz a shield when channelling their Shout, nullifying one of the biggest weaknesses of the Orks’ basic unit. The Meganobz can also generate an electric wall to block off or zone out opponents, which can be immensely helpful in splitting an army in a major battle.
Another thing worth remembering is that Ork buildings cost less to rebuild, so don’t be shy about spending some extra requisition on a forward barracks. A reliable opening strategy that gets you on a good footing is to send your first gretchen to capture a nearby resource point, while building a second. The second then captures the next nearby resource point, while the original constructs a Waagh tower on high ground in a central location. From here, you can pump Boyz out of your main building while applying pressure from the centre: the Waagh tower gives you a place to reinforce, while also generating scrap to improve your troops.
Wraithlords slice through enemy forces like butter (Image: Kotaku)
Speaking of reinforcing from forward bases, let’s talk about the Eldar. Whether you’re in the campaign or in multiplayer, move your buildings around. Webway Gates will be the main building you move around, as they boost Eldar speed and shield regeneration in a wide radius. (Much like the original DoW games, really.)
The extra movement speed is really key, because Eldar units are the most costly and therefore the hardest to replace. They’re a great race to play if you like harassing your opponent in that StarCraft style, as many of their units are great snipers, have stealth abilities, or are tailor made for hit-and-run tactics.
The Eldar has a lot of army doctrines that you’ll want to unlock as soon as possible, too. Avenger Shield improves the shields of Avengers from the off, and you can get it early on during the campaign. Howling Banshees are a core melee unit for the Eldar, and Improved Scream allows them to blind and silence targets when they charge. Presentient Robes gives more shields to Shadow Spectres, the long range infantry that hovers over terrain and does more damage over time. And as mentioned before, Focus Shield gives the Falcon tanks a crucial get-out-of-jail ability.
You’ll need a little bit of everything troop-wise to succeed with the Eldar, but the fun of the race is that (at least so far) it’s possible to have success with a range of compositions. Banshee-focused armies, especially when upgraded with their charge ability, can be a great way to tie up an opponent while rangers or spectres deal damage from afar. Similarly, a ranger-centric army can make it exceedingly difficult for enemies to gain ground, especially if a squad or two is hiding in shroud with a grenade to slow proceedings down.
The trick is to be precise. Make sure you have a logical pathway in your mind for the army you want, and don’t waste time and resources chasing unrelated upgrades. If you decide to rush for fast wraithblades, for instance, don’t needlessly burn power on infantry before then. But if you do commit to a heavy walker strategy, make sure you’re active about getting your production facilties and Webway gates forward – because Eldar walkers are some of the slowest movers in the game, and the last thing you want to be doing is playing hide and seek with your opponent’s army.
In general, most choices are valid – although without a patch or two, and certainly the necessary doctrines, you’ll probably find that Eldar vehicles are best ignored in favour of the Wraithblades and Wraithguards.
On the hero side there’s more flexibility. Jain Zar is a solid damage dealer and melee attacker, and can tie up an enemy briefly for other banshees to charge in (or for rangers to pick squads off from afar). Macha is a good harasser from afar, with her spear and AOE damage, but her stasis ability is better used early on as a delaying or stalling tactic than something to gain territory. Warp Spiders are an interesting unit to pair with a banshee-centric army, since they can create a portal that allied units can travel through. The Wraithlord and Wraithknight are fairly solid picks, however, and their squad-slaughtering leap requires little experience or practice to use well.
The Tank of House Varlock costs a hell of a lot of Elite points to deploy, but your enemy tends to run the second they see it, so it all works out
Like the human race in every other RTS made in the history of video games, Space Marines are the most adaptable of the factions. And that’s the best route forward, whether it’s in the campaign or multiplayer: patiently.
The advantage of the marines in multiplayer, especially, is their ability to deploy specific upgrades depending on your opponent’s army composition. Tactical Marines, for instance, can equip a flamethrower or plasma guns – but unlike the previous DoW games, the whole squad gets upgraded at once rather than one soldier at a time.
It means you need to be thoughtful when choosing upgrades, especially since Space Marines aren’t cheap to reinforce. But they do have a good balance of troops: assault squads are fantastic for stunning and disrupting enemies, and they have the highest health of the lower tier units. They also do more damage than anything hand-to-hand besides the Dreadnought, Ork Nobz and the Wraithblade – but you can get Assault Marines much sooner, provided you can pay the requisition needed.
Space Marines also have access to drop pods, which let them call in units onto the field of battle instead of having to recruit via a barracks. The drop pods also knockback and damage enemies back on landing, and with the Marines’ range of abilities and a Elite or two, it’s possible to just repeatedly stun enemy troops with one ability after another. Word of warning though: drop pods don’t build units as fast as regular barracks or depots, but they do build independently of your production structures, so it’s a handy if you’ve been sloppy on your macro and need to burn through resources.
In general, the strategy with the Marines is to evaluate your opponent’s army composition and then use a core amount of properly upgraded Tactical Marines to counter. From there, you can decide whether you need a Dreadnaught or two for melee-heavy attackers, Devastators for swarms of infantry, or Predator tanks if you need to dislodge a mass ranged army from afar.
Patience is the key with Marines. You want to pick the right upgrades, and you want to pick the right battles. As far as their Elites go, it’s become pretty standard to have Kill Team Ironmaw as default; their default flamethrower is a nightmare for low level infantry, and getting them out early is far more useful than Gabriel Angelos later on.
It’s basically a requirement to have Imperial Knight Solaria for the end game, much for the same reasons: she does so much damage, and is so durable, that any other choice is inferior to some degree. In between Ironmaw and Solaria, the Venerable Dreadnought is a good third wheel. Its plasma storm ability prevents your tactical marines’ plasma guns from overheating. In general, anything that improves your bread and butter units is probably a priority doctrine.
Solaria has some beastly abilities. (Image: Kotaku)
So that’s some tips on how to play Dawn of War 3, both in general and for each of the races specifically. I didn’t mention this earlier, but each of the races also has an ultimate ability that lays waste to the battlefield for a short duration – but winning with any regularity will depend on your actions well before those ultimates become available.
Are you picking up Dawn of War 3, and if so, what race are you likely to play?