The controversial Dawn of War III came out this week with a change in formula that isn’t close to any of the previous titles in the series. The game has been drawing inspiration from its cousin, Company of Heroes 2, as well as other genres in an attempt to deliver a more appealing online multiplayer that would attract a larger playerbase.
Let’s have a look at what’s new and what’s gone in Dawn of War III while going through a bunch of tips meant to make your life easier as you get into the game:
Dawn of War III comes with only three races with a smaller number of units than usual but retaining the uniqueness in gameplay for each of these races.
The Space Marine is the standard race relying on orbital support in battle. The skies are the danger with the Chapter’s Standard dropping on enemies knocking them back while inspiring the army. Loading drop pods with units through the Orbital Relay allows for deployment directly on the battlefield causing damage on impact while bringing reinforcements. The Space Marine’s super ability is the Orbital Bombardment which places a beacon in one location and a controllable beam in a second location that’s dealing a huge amount of damage and forcing the enemy units in a levitating state. If the beacon is captured by the enemy the ability cannot be controlled anymore.
The Eldar rely on the Fleet of Foot, a speed buff provided by the Headquarter building and Webway Gates. The units have a lower health but are protected by shields which can be regenerated while within the psychic radius of the HQ and Webway Gates. Because structures play an important role in the Eldar’s army gameplay, they can be constantly relocated to newer and more advantageous positions. Eldar’s super ability is Eldritch Storm, a controllable energy storm damaging and slowing the enemies’ strake by it.
The Ork rely on numbers having bigger squads which can be upgraded through the race’s main mechanic, looting. Looting requires scrap which can be found in the form of vehicles’ wrecks on the battlefield or periodically generated by Waaagh! Towers, a multi-purpose structure which also plays a defensive role, provides buffs and help in advancing the Ork’s tech. Ork’s super ability is Rocks which brings a rain of rocks from the orbit on a static radius causing damage and slowing enemies in an expanding circle. This effect is followed by a gigantic rock that explodes dealing a huge amount of damage while knocking back and stunning the units caught in the impact zone.
The base building is back
For those of you who missed it, the base building is back and servers as a basic progression mechanic throughout the match. The base building ties unit production and upgrades to specific structures which have certain technology and resource requirements in order to be built. The number of buildings per race is quite limited but they do fit within each race’s play style.
A lot has changed in Dawn of War III and with the changes many iconic mechanics for the series are gone. The game relies now on an exact damage model that isn’t influenced by too many factors and some of the older mechanics do not fit into this new vision of the game.
The accuracy system is gone and so are the mechanics that influenced it: suppression, morale and cover. There is no leveling up system for units and the retreat option has been replaced by a cooldown based mass recall for Space Marines and other means of quick transportation for the other races.
While many of the cool mechanics that defined the Dawn of War series are gone, it isn’t hard to accommodate to the game’s newer and hero centric gameplay.
One of the main mechanics of Company of Heroes 2 comes to add versatility to the armies of Dawn of War III. Doctrines provide players with customization options for their army’s loadouts granting beneficial effects for certain units and buildings suited for specific strategies. Doctrines are unlocked with skulls which is an in-game currency gained by playing campaign missions or multiplayer matches.
Doctrines are split into three categories. The Army doctrines work for the entire army, be it infantry, vehicles and even buildings. Presence doctrines require the presence on the battlefield of the specified elite unit they are tied to. And last but not least, Command doctrines which are unlocked when an elite unit reaches level 3 and becomes available as an Army doctrine when that elite unit hits level 8.
Only three Army doctrines can be equipped at a time from a considerable number of options which means you’ll have to spend quite some skulls and experiment a little to find the right doctrines for your strategy and play style.
The standard cover system is gone but cover hasn’t been completely removed from the game. Heavy Cover are capturable zones on each map which provide a beefy protective shield against bullets and projectiles while keeping the enemy ranged units at bay. The enemies within these reinforced positions can only be attacked with melee units or after the shield has been destroyed by ranged units.
Heavy Cover grants a huge strategic advantage providing vantage points for cover fire helping to control key areas of the map. Use them wisely and don’t let them fall in to the enemy’s hands.
Stealth Cover is a mechanic borrowed similar to the bushes in MoBAs or the steam clouds of Starcraft II. The units placed in Stealth Cover are concealed and won’t auto-attack until they are revealed or ordered to do so.
Stealth Cover serves as a good way to set an ambush, scouting or just to hide vulnerable troops from incoming enemy troops.
A multiplayer match is now split between four phases called Escalations. At first, Battle Escalation refunds a portion of the lost units’ cost, but with each new phase the amount refunded is decreased in favor of a faster resource generation from captured resource points. The implications of this system have a great impact on the gameplay, decreasing the time between battles with each new phase and forcing players into stealing objectives from the enemy to get an economical edge.
Squads and reinforcements
The mechanics that stand the test of time in this ever-changing franchise are the squads and the ability to reinforce them. Infantry units are produced as squads which benefit from infantry wide upgrades and squad based upgrades. The lost members of a squad can be replaced at reinforcing structures at a fraction of the cost retaining any squad upgrades in the process. It’s wise to constantly retreat nearly dead units to reinforce them and save precious resources and upgrades in the process.
Elite units and their crucial role
The Elite units are one of the new and probably the most important mechanics in Dawn of War III. Each race has access to a wide enough variety of elites split between multiple self-explanatory roles: Nuker, Assassin, Crowd Control, Support and Tank. These units have unique abilities as well as doctrines tied to them and have the potential power of wiping entire armies if properly used but a limit of three per army. Picking the three elites to synergize with your strategic choices, play style and doctrines bares a decisive strategic significance.
In battle the elite units have a spawning price ranging from 2 to 10 elite points and can be respawned for free after a certain amount time from their death. The elite points required to spawn them are gained every 120 seconds and this process can decreased with 20 seconds for each resource point captured that grants a bonus towards elites. The cost management system for spawning elites requires potentially match deciding choices. Spawning cheaper elites early on can give you an advantage over the enemy army, but saving the points to spawn one of the more powerful units can have devastating effects against unprepared enemies or have a backlash effect.
Mastering the elites is the key of becoming a good Dawn of War III player and this won’t be an easy task. There is a lot of testing, planning and decision making involved in the process before even getting into the micromanagement and only those dedicated enough to the game will probably get there.
The micromanagement hell
You’ve probably guessed by now that Dawn of War III is a micromanagement heavy game. Each race has plenty of units with useable abilities which come on top of the elites which have a few abilities of their own. More abilities are gained through upgrades (e.g. Tactical Marines – Flamer) piling on the list of keybinds to remember and use. An additional factor that’s forcing players into micromanagement is the army’s size which is quite big in comparison with Dawn of War II. Troops must be split between multiple, shared or alone, control groups for a better management.
In the heat of battle Dawn of War III becomes rather a test of speed than tactics, requiring extensive attention and fast reaction from the players as armies can quickly melt under the joint fire and abilities coming from multiple units.
Progression systems have crawled their way into the modern gaming and are now taking over strategy games as well. Dawn of War III succumbs to this popular trend rewarding players for their work and teasing them to play more.
Skulls can be gained through singleplayer missions and multiplayer matches which can then be used to unlock new doctrines and elite units. The unlocked elite units have a progression of their own consisting in 10 levels granting doctrines, skulls, skins and even army paints. I strongly recommend playing the campaign before jumping into the multiplayer and not because it’s for a good part a glorified tutorial, but because the skulls and elite levels gained through the campaign will come in handy.
Don’t rush into tech!
A wise thing to do when playing the online multiplayer is to avoid rushing into tech. The first stage of Battle Escalation is usually a harassment phase for map control with most players spamming units and focusing less on building and even less on upgrades. Rushing tech puts you into an army disadvantage and as in most matches the first minutes dictate much of the game’s pace, being outnumbered could catastrophic effects.
Reinforce at your teammate’s structures
Sharing the same race with a teammate in multiplayer comes with a big advantage. Squads can be reinforced the teammate’s buildings meaning, in most cases, that manpower can be split to help your team with a reduced risk of losing units.
Scouting is vital
The sound effects in multiplayer have a greater role than immersing the players into the game; they can provide warnings about possible attacks. The tromping of heavy boots on metal, the water splashing or the terrifying song of Waaagh! Towers can give up the enemy’s plans, but without vision this can be as much of a warning as it can be paranoia. Produce scout units and spread them in strategic locations to track the enemy’s movement. But don’t forget, while invisible, scouts can be spotted by Listening Posts or through other means.
Forward Operation Bases seem to be the way to go in Dawn of War III’s multiplayer. Having production structures built on a strategic point closer to the battlefield has its risks and rewards. While a bad fight could leave structures vulnerable to attacks, the benefits are undoubtedly worth this risk. A FOB provides a fast flow of units to the battlefield while at the same time allowing healing elite units and reinforcing squads in the battle’s proximity.
Don’t be afraid to build production structures further away from your main base but choose the spot carefully and make sure it’s well guarded.
Get creative with the Army Painter!
As expected from a game based in the Warhammer 40k universe, Dawn of War III comes with the customary and rich in color Army Painter. The armor for every unit type, no matter the race, has been split in multiple layers which can be painted. A plethora of colors has been made available from the get go with different shades and nuances with more unlocked through progression to give the players enough options to create personalized armies. Get creative and form your own Chapter, Warband or Craftworld!
Visit the in-game Codex
I covered some of the most important mechanics and features of Dawn of War III but going through all of them would take a considerable amount of time and space. Visit the in-game Codex hidden under the Learn tab to get detailed information about the gameplay mechanics of Dawn of War III.
Much has changed since Dawn of War II and while some of us might not agree with these changes, we have to accept the game as it is and adapt to its new gameplay. I hope this short guide proves useful in learning the new ways of Dawn of War III. And always remember that no matter how troubled the times, The Emperor protects!