A rampaging horde of green-skinned Orks has just carved up your entire front-line army, and is charging towards your only remaining base. There’s no time to reinforce your last few squads of battered Space Marines - better hit that restart button and try again, right?
Not when you’ve got Imperial Knight Solaria waiting in an orbital drop pod, you don’t. Calling down this 40ft walking behemoth of a battle mech can instantly turn the tide of any fight, with giant battling guns that’ll turn marauding savages into nothing but red mist.
Welcome to Dawn of War III.
Developer Relic’s third Warhammer RTS outing takes the best bits from the previous two entries in the series, mashes them together, and ramps up the carnage to almost ludicrous levels. This hybrid style doesn’t always hit the mark, but it’s still a refreshing change of pace from the current crop of League of Legends-style action strategy games.
Been hankering for a traditional top-down RTS? This’ll scratch that itch.
THE RACE IS ON
Dawn of War III marks the first time you’ve been able to play as either Orks, Eldar or Space Marines from the off, instead of waiting for pricey expansions and DLC. All three Warhammer: 40,000 stalwarts have their own place in the single-player campaign, and are fully unlocked for multiplayer mayhem out of the box.
Strategy newcomers should feel right at home with the Space Marines. These gun-toting, chainsword-wielding religious zealots see a square peg and a round hole, and hammer that peg into place with an orbital drop-pod. Build up enough resources and you can fill these pods with assault infantry, battle tanks or the hulking Dreadnought war machines, then fire them down to any point on the battlefield.
The Eldar are much weaker, but have regenerating shields that keep you safe enough to pull daring hit-and-run attacks, and warp tunnels that let you zip around the battlefield. Orks need to get up close and personal to do any real damage, but have the sheer numbers to throw wave after wave of cheap units at your enemy until you break them down.
You aren't given the chance to settle into one race, though. The campaign pinballs you between all three, forcing you to experiment with new units as they unlock with each new level, before taking them away for an hour or so.
Eventually you'll settle on a decent mix of melee and long-range infantry, so you’ll be able to take on most fights head-on - just don’t let the enemy get too close. A long-distance Heavy Bolter isn’t much good against Eldar warriors that get right up in your face.
ONE UNIT ARMY
It sounds a lot like the familiar Rock-Paper-Scissors style of RTS play, but isn’t quite that simple. Each unit has a place on the battlefield, and you’ll need a mix of them if you don’t want to take a pounding the minute you encounter some enemy troops with a better unit composition.
Or, you could just call in one of the new Elite units and take on the world like a futuristic space Rambo.
Elites act less like traditional RTS units and more like the hero characters from MOBAs such as League of Legends and Heroes of the Storm.
They’re far more powerful, have unique abilities, and can take a real licking from weaker units before eventually going down. Oh, and they’ll ruin your day if you’re on the receiving end of a beating from one in the multiplayer mode.
Space Marine commander Gabriel Angelos might look like a bit of a wally for bringing a giant hammer to a gunfight, but it hits so hard it’ll literally fling smaller units across the map - if they don’t simply explode in a shower of gore. It doesn’t matter if a squad of long-range snipers see him coming - he’s got enough health (and a terrain-covering leap) that’ll close the gap before they’ve managed to get a few shots off.
This is great in the campaign, letting you roam around each map dishing out damage while lesser units hold the fort back at home, but they can completely negate any kind of strategy you had going in a multiplayer match.
It’s a good job, then, that you’ve actually got to earn Elite points to unlock the truly powerful end-game units. Even basic units have to be researched and unlocked back at your base, using power and requisition.
This resource management was removed almost entirely from Dawn of War II, but makes a welcome return here. It turns every match into a constant land-grab, forcing you into small skirmishes over Requisition points, instead of encouraging turtles that like to upgrade and defend until they’ve got a game-winning army.
These points are scattered around each map, and slowly generate power and requisition once you’ve stuck a flag in one. Lose ‘em and your economy gets starved, but control enough and you’ll be able to call on those all-important Elites.
It’s not an easy task, though, now that you don’t get defence bonuses for placing your units in cover. Relic giveth, but Relic also taketh away. This long-standing series mechanic made sense, as it was intrinsic to the Warhammer tabletop game, and, while ditching it has sped up combat quite a lot, fans of the previous games will be disappointed to see it go.