I can remember when the Warhammer 40000 Dawn of War series was new and it was quite successful. A sequel and several standalone expansions later further proved Relic’s prowess at the RTS genre and their expertise in Warhammer 40k, but alas, I never really took an interest in Warhammer or the games. When tasked with reviewing Warhammer 40k Dawn of War III, I knew I was behind the curve but was interested to check this franchise out.
Without really knowing where the series has been, I can’t really speak to what has changed with DoW III, but players are once again revisiting the endless battle between the Space Marines, Eldars, and Orks. This time, all three factions are clamoring to takehold of an ancient super weapon that might finally give them the edge in battle. The opening cutscene that greets players before the main menu is pretty epic and beautifully done. Once the main menu appeared, I was surprised that the game chose low resolution detail for my rig, but a built-in performance test and lots of customization options are available to tweak your visual experience to meet your machine’s capabilities. Relic recommends a 3Ghz i5, 8GB, and 2GB 770 or 7970.
A thorough guided tutorial is available for players from the start and at anytime from the menu, and this helped me get my feet wet. When you’re ready, the Campaign mode takes you through story missions for all three factions, giving you a pretty strong introduction to all of them. You’ll start with the Space Marines which are probably the most familiar and basic faction for anyone that’s played an RTS. Space Marines have tech, but are otherwise very much grunt-like in their approach and tactics. The Eldar are easily the coolest of the bunch, and use psychic abilities to regenerate, move about quickly and silently. The Orks are somewhere in the middle of these two you might say; their strength comes in numbers and general scrapy-ness. The campaign is fairly strong, but not especially memorable in terms of story or mission variety or content.
Each faction also has Elite characters and Doctrines that you earn during play. Elite Points are stored until you have enough to unlock an Elite character; these powerful characters are like your superweapons with cooldown timers, so saving them until the right moment is typically best to help ensure your faction wins out. These reminded me somewhat of the Gods you could call upon in Age of Mythology. Elites carry Doctrines that give you passive abilities to help fine tune your preferred style of play which goes a long way to creating variety that you can encounter in online multiplayer.
In terms of presentation, DoW III looks and sounds great and that was evident to me from the opening cutscene. Unit detail is quite impressive, from textures to animation and sound effects. If you have the hardware for it, and I don’t, I’m sure rendering this in 4K looks amazing. DoW III has its flaws, and like any new game it’s being patched (another released today) to address concerns, but it’s a solid RTS experience set in a the very well established Warhammer 40k universe.