Thursday, 16 June 2016

Dawn of War 3 - E3 Details, Story and Gameplay

Hitting the gaming world with surprising strength despite the massive number of info leaks, fans have been delighted with many new reveals. We have seen the first signs of a new Legend of Zelda release, a very tasty look at Dishonoured 2 and even odd rumblings surrounding Red Dead Redemption 2's bizarre absence, there's a lot to talk about. However, as Warhammer is our eternal wheelhouse it seems best to stick to the core essentials on this occasion, especially given how many heavy hitters are leaving Dawn of War 3 in their shadow.

So, what has E3 unveilled to us thus far?

The Story:

As expected, the game is avoiding yet another fresh start and is instead following the events of Retribution. Having established that the Blood Ravens ending is (at least partially) canonical, Gabriel Angelos is now Chapter Master of the remaining companies. Having worked to rebuild their strength, the chapter is drawn to the world of Acheron following rumours of a lost super weapon advanced beyond all reckoning. However, they are not alone as both an Ork WAAAGH! and an Eldar Warhost soon arrive after them.

Thus far the story elements depicted suggests that only the Blood Ravens will be playable. While this might obviously change closer to release, it would not be surprising to find Relic returning to the single faction campaign as opposed to the multitude of paths Retribution offered.

Core Mechanics and Returning Elements:

Rather than copying a single concept or series wholesale, as established before this is to be a combination of Dawn of War I and II's best elements. This means that most heavy weapons will once more be required to be set up and put in place rather than fired from the hip. Equally, the same cover elements such as bunkers, walls and ruins will serve an importance role as ablative armour for troops taking cover. 

However, base building is once more an essential part of the game and cannot simply be ignored. You will be allowed to construct a multitude of various structures and supply depots to build your army, but without all the needless busywork of constructing workers or managing resources. Instead these will be gradually accumulated over time by an unspecified means, allowing players to focus far more upon direct combat. 

Thus far we have seen plenty of old favourites returning, with the brief gameplay trailer featuring Assault Marines, Scouts, Tactical Squads, Dreadnoughts, Drop Pods alongside a brief cameo of some Assault Terminators. on the Craftworld Eldar side of things, we also have Guardians, Dark Reapers, Vyper Jet Bikes, Falcon Grav Tanks, Fire Prisms, Howling Banshees, Dire Avengers and Wraithguard. 

Oh, and Angelos is still carrying a hammer, so there's that as well.

New Reveals

The big hype piece upon release was the revelation that new Super Heavy class units would be showing up in the fight. The spotlight for this has been placed squarely upon the Imperial Knights here, and rightfully so given their sheer awe inspiring presence. While the cinematic trailer did reveal the presence of both Wraithknights and standard chainsword-the-size-of-a-semi Knights, the gameplay trailer featured a Knight Crusader. This likely opens the way for more variants as time goes by, and suggests that we'll have a sizable range of options here.

Interestingly, the Knight itself in the trailer was deployed from orbit, dropping down and slamming into the earth superhero style. As deployments go, this is a firm departure from what we've come to expect, as such massive units have previously been tied down to certain deployment areas. This opens up a very new dynamic, as it means that players can drop these things directly into an ongoing fight rather than rushing them to the front-lines. A minor alteration perhaps, but any player who has needed that extra hard hitting unit in the middle of a decisive battle will tell you how important this truly is. 

Another notable change is how heroes themselves will be implemented. The trailer depicted them as having a much higher alpha damage than in past outings, and at least in Angelos' case with abilities capable of soloing entire squads in seconds. They're also capable of soaking up much more firepower, and while they'll definitely need an army at their back it seems as if they're more at the forefront of the fighting than in the original Dawn of War. The very system which spawns them is also a rather big departure from the norm, as you don't get them from the start. Instead the player will be required to build up something called Elite Points, a large chunk of which will be spent bringing big name hero units into the battle. While certain missions will start with enough points to spawn a unit from the very start, others will take quite some time to build up and bring them into the fray.

Finally, certain elements seem to be much more closely emulating aspects of the modern game. Chief among them is the mentality that big units always win wars, and that the smaller ones are merely something which prevents them getting bogged down in fighting. This isn't all that much of a surprise given their chief selling point admittedly, but this is only a part of their new approach - Much faster warfare. Watch the trailer, really watch it and make note of the troop movements, and you might notice they're speeding along at several times their previous pacing. While no Dawn of War game has been slow, there was always more of a gradual pacing akin to a Command and Conquer game. Here they're on par with most Starcraft units, and can close the gap in seconds. Of course, this could be down to trailer editing, but this little detail did seem consistent throughout the battle and showed little in the way of being sped up. 

This is still early days of course, but this has already given us a much better indication of how the upcoming release will play out. With some luck we'll get exactly what they're promising, a blend of the best elements from all past games. Here's just hoping that they remember how to balance those influences and know when to abandon good ideas when they become detrimental to a game's core mechanics.Still, what we have has been nothing short of unanimously positive the entire way through, so that's always something to be celebrated. 


  1. I can't wait for them to announce the diplomatic stage, where you sit down and talk it out with an Ork Ambassador with the option to end things peacefully, since Ork Ambassador's are now an established group of Ork Oddboys (thanks David Annandale).

    It shouldn't be so hard to sit down and talk to them, after all in M32 they were invited in to speak to the High Lords on Terra, and after negotiations didn't work out they left as peacefully as they entered (and by that I mean they actually did enter and leave peacefully) since such creatures of dignity and majesty don't like fighting at all (they actually are described as dignified and being majestic, I'm not making that up).

    No I'm not bitter, anyway getting back to the game I am liking what I'm seeing, unlike a lot of other people though I'm honestly kind of hoping it won't be like the previous games as I'd like to see new concepts on top of old ones, which was one of the reasons I liked Dawn of War 2 a lot. This does look like it has those though, and from just a guess it looks like these sudden drops will make it much easier to fight across multiple fronts, however I'm also wondering if this will be Imperium exclusive, though I guess I'll have to wait for another trailer to show how the Eldar and Orks are supposed to counter Knights appearing right on top of them.

    1. You know, I had to actually stop and look that up, but I am amazed that actually got past any editors. honestly, it sounds like a parody from 1d4chan rather than some actual expansion to the lore. Honestly, i'm almost glad I didn't bother to keep reading that series after the first couple of books upon hearing that.

      Still, the game itself certainly does look like a solid choice as you say, and we have seen real signs of a few bigger choices among the armies as well. Someone - though i've yet to see substantial evidence of this, thought they had spotted an Eldar Cobra at E3 and the cinematic trailer did unveil Eldar Knights. If we're lucky, the Orks might end up with some variant of a Stompa rather than another Squiggoth.

    2. I figured the Eldar and Orks would get some of their own superheavies, the question I still have though is about their deployment. If they're allowed the same type of rapid deployment the knights get, then there's not enough setting them apart, if they are required to walk the whole way there, then the Eldar would need to have some sort of superheavy-counter that could either be easily deployed, or pull double duty with something else.
      Who knows, maybe they'll let Wraithguard with their D-scythes shred knights as easily in this game as they do on the tabletop.

      As for the books, you dodged a bullet honestly. The book after the one with the Ork Diplomat features an Eldar peace envoy who break into the Imperial Palace. Despite saying they're just there to talk, they kill everyone who comes near them including over a dozen Custodes, until they're stopped by hundreds of Custodes in front of the Eternity Gate.
      After they're caught, it turns out they actually are a peace envoy who just wanted to talk to the Emperor, but didn't feel like asking permission.

      After that, the next book has the Iron Warriors team up with the Black Templars, because the Iron Warriors didn't like the way the Orks were treating their conquered humans. No that is not a joke, the IRON WARRIORS (the legion that ends up creating the Daemonculaba) teamed up with their greatest enemies just to kill the Orks because apparently the Orks went against their moral compass. For context, this series happens after the Iron Cage world, and all the Orks were doing was keeping their captives drugged so they couldn't rebel, because if they didn't the humans might try to rise up against them, and why would the Orks want a fight from somebody?

      It's such a wasted series, and it doesn't take a lot of thought as to how this could be fixed. For example, instead of giving them Necron level technology (or arguably better) why aren't the Orks gathering up and using all of the leftover stuff from the Horus Heresy? They could easily make extremely hard to kill Deff Dreads or killa kans out of Castellax or Thanatar robots as a quick example, not to mention what Meks could do with all of the very advanced technology (like Graviton Guns and Phosphex Weapons) still lying around after such a conflict. There'd be hundreds of space hulks floating around, or maybe even just derelicts that the Orks could build into space hulks, all of which could be very valid reasons for the Imperium and the galaxy at large to have a shockingly difficult time of repelling the Beast's massive invasion without the Beast pulling several Death Stars (because that's what they are) out of his ass.

      I'm actually not opposed to "Ork Diplomats" if they were done well, for example the Blood Axes actually do have Orks who specialize in making deals with the Imperium, however those Orks are not Oddboyz, they are not "dignified" or "majestic" and they do not try to make deals like this to avoid fights, rather their deals are always made to fund even bigger fights.

      On the plus side I know what's going to happen because the plot summaries on Black Library outright spoil the remaining books.

      Finally, and this is really the last nail in the coffin for me, you know where the Beast himself is during this series? Hiding. Yep, the biggest, toughest Ork in the galaxy who's determined to conquer all (not krump all, just conquer and rule over) and he sits on a faraway planet and actively hides there while his Nobz do all the work of piloting his Death Stars around, and the Imperials are unable to figure out where he even is.

    3. Sweet heaven above. Damn, I mean damn, I thought you were making some gigantic practical joke at first! Really, the reason I didn't reply before now was thanks to catching up with the series, but this is ridiculous! Honestly, there needs to be a massive twist ending or some excellent concluding book which fills in all the gaps and works out everything, otherwise this is going to leave no end of gigantic plot holes! The eldar thing alone would have been dumb enough, but as you say keeping an ork Warboss who hides from his foes, a Mechanicum which seems to have gone completely amok and sudden abrupt superweapons everywhere? This is damn near insane. Good ideas in of themselves certainly, but my word did they need a hell of a lot of reworking to flesh them out.

      Combined with the short length of each Beast Arises book and the sheer rate at which they're churning them out, I wonder if they're using this to desperately make up for a lack of sales in other areas. That or experiment with another format, given how each is less a story unto itself than a fragment of a bigger tale with no three act structure. It's almost like they're trying to get away with a comicbook format in some regards really, focusing more upon an issue by issue release to keep people hooked.

      Ranting side though, part of me honestly wonders if it's worth trying to do a fan re-write at some point to cover the overall plot arc and fix some of the bigger failings.