Previews// PAX West: Dawn of War III

Posted 13 Sep 2016 10:45 by
FOR THE EMPERROOROORORORRRRRRRORORAAAAGH!

*cough*

Sorry, I'm compelled, indeed required to type that three word sentence when writing anything about Warhammer 40,000 and this should be no exception. Dawn of War III is steeped in the mythos of the Warhammer 40,000 universe and to not acknowledge that would be utter folly.

Dawn of War III is very much a return to the original formula of the DoW series while adding a great deal to it to bring it up to date with current game design advancements from the RTS realm.

So yes, there are bases to be held and constructed and units do descend from the heavens in drop pods rather than get constructed within the base. However, there are additional powers that are granted to the player that alter the pace of Dawn of War III and increase the risk of being on the wrong side of a battle when at first you thought you had secured victory.

Those of you reading this who are not familiar with the DoW series and how they play, here is the basic premise: the player takes command of troops that are brought from off-world to the planet where the theatre of war is located. Resource gathering is done not by mining something on the map but more by taking control of strategically placed resource-gathering modules. These produce power and resources that are needed to maintain the forces that are called into the fray.

This removal of the need to gather resources changes the focus of play away from the building and more to the management of units into discrete platoons that are gathered together using a series of keyboard shortcuts that can enable the player to issue orders to multiple platoons to converge on a single target from differing vantage points.

Progress through Dawn of War III is measured through the conquest of areas in a very methodical and deliberate manner. As the player takes control of each area the battlefront is pushed back towards the opposing army until they are reduced to defending their base against the almost unstoppable flow of the war machine the player has constructed while playing.

At least that's the theory anyway. More times than not, the enemy has a means to cut the player off from their supply chains by mounting a feint that forces the player to retreat in order to defend parts of the map they thought were secure.

All very DoW like yes, but what about the changes and additions referred previously? Well Dawn of War III gives the player the ability to drop troops into a battle from orbital platforms outside of their base. It is limited to three and the drops are dependent on the resources the player has at their disposal. They also have a cool down timer, so must be used sparingly. They do, however, provide the ability to add much-needed firepower when a player's army is about to be routed.

Another change is the special powers the player can invoke, which cause a significant amount of damage over a short period of time. I played the Space Marines, who were battling the Eldar race, during my time with Dawn of War III. During one battle I was being overwhelmed by a very strong force of the Eldar which came out of nowhere from the west of the map. Panicking, I triggered an orbital strike laser that can be moved around like any other unit, only it is immune from damage and lays waste to anything in its path. By triggering this death from above weapon I prevented defeat from occurring.

All of these additions make Dawn of War III a more unpredictable experience than in previous incarnations of the series as players can level a playing field very quickly, provided they have these abilities to hand. For they all have very long cool down timers so they cannot be used repeatedly due to their power.

I played the alpha build of Dawn of War III at PAX West 2016 and I was really impressed with how well it held together during my time with it. Yes, there were some glitches. Units became stuck on scenery, causing them to do a very strange little dance and at one point I had a whole platoon stuck into a forcefield that I needed to get past in order to progress. But these are forgivable considering the stage of development Dawn of War III is in.

Visually and sonically everything is up to par and in line with Relic Software's strict quality controls. Everyone is barking orders as if it is their last utterence and the use of directional warnings from where attacks are coming from onto the player's base is a great touch.

Dawn of War III is due out on Windows PC early next year.

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