Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War III Multiplayer is the Best of Dawn of War

The Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War franchise has been in a rut. Both Dawn of War and Dawn of War II have maintained solid player bases over the years, but the destruction of former publisher THQ put the franchise’s future in jeopardy. Sega’s acquisition of developer Relic Entertainment, however, has yielded fruit. Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War III is coming and we went hands-on with the title at GDC 2017.

While we got a good look at the game’s single-player campaign at E3 2016, our hands-on time at GDC 2017 focused entirely on the multiplayer. Relic Entertainment approached Dawn of War III’s multiplayer with the intent of creating a game with the same staying power as the previous titles. Players will be able to take the battle online in a variety of 1v1, 2v2, and 3v3 maps with three primary objectives. To win, players will need to destroy their opponents shield generators, turrets, and power core. They have to be destroyed in that order, and it doesn’t matter if the opponent has any additional structures or units on the battlefield. Once that power core is gone the match is over. Dawn of War III gets intense, especially as both teams scramble to capture resource nodes, deploy units, and build up defenses. Yes, you can build up your defenses in Dawn of War III.

Traditional RTS base building returns from Dawn of War. Players will start with their main fortress, and can then expand their land by building a variety of unit producing, upgrade producing, and defensive structures. It’s an element that was greatly missed in Dawn of War II and proves invaluable as players shore up their defenses at valuable resource nodes, buildings, and shield generators.

Of course, before you can even play the game and build your base, you need to pick a faction. Dawn of War III features three main factions, each with their unique units and playstyles. The Blood Ravens Space Marines, led by legendary commander Gabriel Angelos, are the tankiest of the factions, and the easiest to pick up and play. This faction may not have many units on the battlefield, but can quickly call in reinforcements from drop pods. Their super-ability, Orbital Bombardment, fires a powerful laser that gains in size and power the more targets it vaporizes. Be careful though as it’s destructive power is extremely slow.

Next up are the Orks, led by Warlord Gorgutz. Orks are best in large numbers with a Warboss leading the way. They love war, and they love looting. Most units gain upgrades by looting destroyed vehicles and scrap. Their super ability is Rokks, in which they deploy a powerful traktor beam to rain asteroids from the sky.

Finally, we have the Eldar, led by Farseer Macha. The Eldar are the assassin faction of Dawn of War III. They are best used by catching enemies unawares, and then fading back into the shadows. Their Webway portals allow them to relocate their armies around the map easily. Eldritch Storm is their super ability capable of slowing the movement of enemies and striking them with damaging lightning blasts.

During the demo, we played as Orks and went up against an army of Space Marines. Utilizing the strengths of the Orks, we were able to amass a vast horde capable of steamrolling the Marines. Despite being able to call in drop pods, the Marines were unable to stem the flow of the horde. One of the devs pointed out that if we had played differently, i.e. did not focus on horde-building and unit scavenging, the Marines would have been able to gain the upper hand. Though we didn’t get a chance to play with or against the Eldar, it does feel like Dawn of War III will be properly balanced, even with the powerful Elite characters.

Elites are Dawn of War III’s homage to Dawn of War III. These are powerful, compelling, and exciting units with unique powers and passive abilities. Players can take up to three of them in battle at a time, and deploy them based on how many Elite Points they require. Elite Points, represented as a purple diamond, are doled out at certain points in a match, and how powerful an Elite is determines how many points are required to summon them. An early game Elite can cost as little as two or three Elite Points, but a powerful Elite like the Space Marines’ Imperial Knight Solaria can cost as much as nine points. While only five Elites were available for the demo, Relic did promise that there will be plenty more in the base game.

Finally, there are Doctrines — special powers that can be passive or active. Players will be able to choose from different Doctrines depending on what faction and Elites they pick. While each faction has their own pool of Doctrines available, additional Doctrines are earned through the Elites. For example, Gabriel has a unique Doctrine that gives drop pods a healing aura. It encourages experimentation, which we weren’t able to do in our demo due to the low amount of playable Elites.

Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War III is coming along quite nicely. Multiplayer matches can last a long time and each faction brings something unique to the table. The different units, Elites and Doctrines make for a variety of different gameplay combinations, and the demo only scratched the surface. While only time will tell if Dawn of War III will have the staying power its predecessors had, it feels like Relic Entertainment is pulling out all the stops to give it legs.

Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War III is out April 27 on PC. Be sure to read our interview with of Dawn of War III Game Director Phillipe Boulle here.