Community Review: Dawn Of War 3

This one’s only been out for a few days, but I’m betting that’s enough for many of you to have some strong opinions. It’s a beloved franchise that has gone through a series of drastic changes. Let your fellow Kotakuers know if it’s worth their time and money!

I had early access to this game, but still only managed to find a few hours for it. Such is the theme of this year, with way too many awesome games vying for our limited time. Alex gave a decent amount of time to the game in his preview, which you should check out if you’re interested.

In a nifty little twist of fate, after the recent sale on Humble Bundle of the Horus Heresy books, I read up to the first encounter with the Eldar just as I encountered the Eldar in-game. If that was a calculated move on the developers’ part, then very well done — but I’m willing to bet it’s the type of thing they had no control over. It increased my enjoyment of it, though. I had a similar experience of reading the original Robert E. Howard Conan books just as Age of Conan came out. That game had so many issues, but it was a great experience exploring the world through prose and pixels at the same time.

I digress!

We were all super duper looking forward to this, as big fans of Dawn of War and Company of Heroes. The series has brought back bases, which is a good thing for me. I feel like all too often, base building is referred to as a hard negative. I can dig both kinds of RTS – base or no base – but we forget that when we get rid of base building, we also get rid of one of the best parts of an RTS: Base destroying.

It’s great that there are three races, too. I feel like 40k games are sometimes held back by the assumption that the first two races that should always be used are Space Marines and Orks. It results in every asymmetrical matchup being littered with cockney jokes, which isn’t great for someone trying to be more serious about the game. This one has Eldar, and I’m very happy to see the space elves.

There’s been some criticism with regards to the game adopting MOBA-style victory conditions. You have to take out a shield generator, and then two turrets, and then a final building to win. Without having delved at all into the multiplayer, I can’t really comment on how this plays, but I don’t object to the idea.

If I’d liken it to anything, it’d be moreso Warcraft 3 than a MOBA, purely because of the focus on powerful hero units, and because almost every squad seems to have some kind of Q ability. Keep in mind though, I’ve only done the early stages of the campaign. There’s a time and place for most Q abilities — plasma grenades can be thrown, swords can be whirled around as an initiation, and hammers can be pounded into the ground to stun enemies.

Since most of these are area of effect abilities, it seemed like these systems placed a high priority on two micro techniques: Cycling through your squads hitting Qs, and scattering from your opponent’s Qs. I’m not sure if I want to spend every engagement doing this type of micro, but again, don’t take my word as gospel because I haven’t spent much time with the game.

I was a little worried after Alex’s preview because the scrap system sounded like arbitrary busywork. Routinely heading back to pick up scrap seemed like a system designed purely to take up headspace, the type of Diner Dash macro mechanic that Starcraft finally got rid of in Legacy of the Void. But it’s your squads that pick up this scrap, and it just means you can’t fully order units while keeping your screen on the battle. It seems like Waagh towers pump out scrap at about half the rate you can make normal squads of Bois, so in practice, there’s just a bit of extra micro; instead of setting a waypoint on the front line, you waypoint your towers and remember to power up with scrap before heading out.

I spoke above about how limited time is, and I felt a bit of that time was being wasted during one of the early Eldar missions. “We should head back to a webway portal to recharge our focus”, said my troops who had lost their shields. When I had walked back to the webway, the shields weren’t exactly recharging quickly, and I kind of resented having to constantly head back. I know the whole section exists to teach you the shield mechanic, but I’m busy — could that not have been done quicker? Also, I know Starcraft’s Protoss race is a direct copy of the Eldar, but did the Eldar in this game have to directly copy the Protoss shield system?

It would have been nice to see more cover systems, which is an important part of the tabletop game and the story. The first Dawn of War was just exploring an early version of a cover system before Company of Heroes really did it right. I guess I’m saying it’d be great if it were more like Company of Heroes, but hey, it’d be great if a lot of things were more like Company of Heroes. You could pretty much bring the Company of Heroes formula into any time period or universe and I’m on board with cash in hand.

How about you? Has anyone had time to get deep into the multiplayer yet? Has anyone finished the campaign? I hear there are a few surprises later on…

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