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?
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.
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.