Warham­mer 40,000: Dawn of War III

An­drew White­head scoffs at table­top war game nerds from be­hind his piles of Poké­mon cards

Hyper - - EDITORIAL -

Watch­ing some­one play Warham­mer 40,000: Dawn of War III is both en­gag­ing and in­tim­i­dat­ing. It looks like chaos, but the one be­hind the key­board and mouse knows it’s a con­trolled chaos. Of­ten real-time strat­egy games lack the flair of other ac­tion-fo­cused gen­res, mak­ing them less fun for new­com­ers to watch. But man, when that or­bital laser came down to wreak dev­as­ta­tion across the icy planes of Acheron, I couldn’t help but think how much I wish I was the one do­ing that.

“It’s been seven years since the main Dawn of War II and about five years since the last ex­pan­sion,” says Philippe Boulle, Game Di­rec­tor on Dawn of War III. “So we’re well aware of that, and we re­ally wanted to make a game that ap­pealed to the fans of the fran­chise but was also open to ev­ery­one that was new to it.”

To ease new­com­ers into the world of Dawn of War, the cam­paign fea­tures one long nar­ra­tive fea­tur­ing all three playable fac­tions. The first, and eas­ily the most iden­ti­fi­able, is the Space Marines. These ge­net­i­cally en­gi­neered sol­diers spe­cialise in con­cen­trated fire­power and can call in re­in­force­ments with drop pods.

“That means you can be fac­ing one Space Ma­rine scout squad and think, ‘Oh, I’ve got this cov­ered,’ and then bam, bam, bam, there are heav­ily ar­moured sol­diers there,” says Boulle.

Relic was stay­ing tight-lipped about the other two fac­tions, but did talk a lit­tle about the El­dar, a race of space elf war­riors who view Space Marines with com­plete dis­dain. Dur­ing the demo their su­pe­rior mo­bil­ity helped them move quickly across the bat­tle­field to per­form fast hit-an­drun-style at­tacks.

The fi­nal fac­tion of the game wasn’t on show at this time, but what would a Warham­mer game be with­out Orks? Usu­ally, act­ing as the comic re­lief in the se­ries, the Orks will ap­par­ently play more out­wardly ag­gres­sive, but Relic isn't re­veal­ing much about them at this point.

TELL ME A STORY

The story of Dawn of War III fol­lows the afore­men­tioned fac­tions as the de­scend onto the frozen planet of Acheron af­ter learn­ing of a se­cret weapon hid­den be­neath the planet’s sur­face. Some fa­mil­iar faces are re­turn­ing, in­clud­ing Ork horde leader War­lord Gorgutz and Farseer Macha of the El­dars, while the Blood Raven Space Marines are led once again by the cel­e­brated and vic­to­ri­ous com­man­der Gabriel An­ge­los.

“I’ve been play­ing Warham­mer 40,000 on and off for 25 years,” says Boulle. “But there was a time when I knew noth­ing about it and I just fell in love with that lit­tle minia­ture … So we wanted to do that same thing. We have a big epic story, but a small cast where you’re fo­cused on a few char­ac­ters that you guide through this whole story. We spent a lot of time and ef­fort on it and I think peo­ple will be re­ally happy with it.”

Within each fac­tion’s armies are your reg­u­lar units and the more pow­er­ful hero units. At the be­gin­ning of the live demon­stra­tion, the le­gendary Space Ma­rine Gabriel An­ge­los ar­rived on his own on the planet of Acheron quickly cuts a bloody path through a group of El­dars. Soon af­ter, though, en­e­mies be­gin a ranged counter-at­tack from across a ravine, but the quick use of his God-Split­ter abil­ity sees Gabriel launch at his new en­e­mies and com­pletely an­ni­hi­late them.

Adding an­other layer of plan­ning is choos­ing your three Elite Units. A story-cen­tric hero like Gabriel will

al­most al­ways take up one slot in the cam­paign, but you can cus­tomise the re­main­ing slots with power units of your choice.

Af­ter few more skir­mishes, backup ar­rived in the form of a 15-me­tre tall Im­pe­rial Knight mech be­ing pi­loted by Lady So­laria. New El­dar war­riors closed in, but her Gatling Bar­rage cut them down where they stood. As the bat­tle pro­gresses, more Space Marines ar­rived in drop pods and joined the fight. There were mo­ments when things got too in­tense and the weaker Space Ma­rine had to take cover inside em­placed dome shield sys­tems, rather than hav­ing to take cover from cer­tain an­gles like in Dawn of War II.

At this point the developer tak­ing the demon­stra­tion com­mented that he had got­ten too cocky and may not be able to fin­ish the mis­sion.

But even­tu­ally the hero unit Gabriel was able to call down an or­bital laser strike and clinch vic­tory.

It’s hard to ex­plain in words how Dawn of War III looks when be­ing played. It’s a a vi­o­lently beau­ti­ful game that jux­ta­poses burn­ing red lava be­neath frozen blue plat­forms or ice lit by the white-hot glow of ma­chine gun fire. Relic has made sure to use just about ev­ery colour in the pal­ette to paint the per­fect pic­ture of in­ter­stel­lar war­fare.

THE HID­DEN DETAILS

Relic isn't ready to talk about mul­ti­player just yet, but there were as­sur­ances that it will be re­vealed some­time soon as they know how im­por­tant it is to the se­ries and its fans. In fact, the team has been lis­ten­ing to fans through­out the de­vel­op­ment of Dawn of War III and vet­ting which re­quests make the most sense for the game and which should be left be­hind this time around.

“Things like the re­turn of base build­ing,” said Boulle, “[it was] largely ab­sent from Dawn of War II but was very present in Dawn of War, it’s back in Dawn of War III. There were game­play rea­sons we wanted to bring that back but it was def­i­nitely also be­cause the fans missed it, so we brought it back. Peo­ple also en­joyed the he­roes in Dawn of War II, so that gave us a lit­tle in­cen­tive to leave them in there.”

From what I have seen of Warham­mer 40,000: Dawn of War III, I’m con­vinced this game will con­tinue the al­ready strong legacy the last two games es­tab­lished. And what makes it even more en­tic­ing is Relic is con­sciously mak­ing Dawn of War III the per­fect jump­ing-on point for new­com­ers while still wel­com­ing back fans who have stuck by the se­ries for over a decade.

BASE BUILD­ING WAS LARGELY AB­SENT FROM DAWN OF WAR II BUT WAS VERY PRESENT IN DAWN OF WAR. IT'S BACK IN DAWN OF WAR III

It's called 'Warham­mer', not 'Stand-around­look­ing-cool­ham­mer', dammit!

In Warham­mer, a hero's death is the only kind you should strive for

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