Although games based on the Warhammer tabletop franchise have been of a varied level of quality to say the least, over recent years strategy games based on the series have had much more success. The original fantasy game recently had the fantastic Total War: Warhammer, while the far-future wargame Warhammer 40,000 has found plenty of love in the form of Relic Entertainment's Dawn of War series. Now, those patiently waiting for another game in the Dawn of War franchise finally have another entry in the form of Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War 3.
It's been a long eight years since Dawn of War 2, and fans of the series will no doubt have been a little anxious that the third game in the franchise may not live up to the expectations set of it. Thankfully, Relic Entertainment has continued its well-earned reputation for creating quality strategy games, with Dawn of War 3 fulfilling its promise with gusto.
A lot of the success found in Dawn of War 3 comes down to the level of detail that the title provides, and it's clear that the game has been very carefully constructed from top to bottom. For starters, although the game has a strong focus on multiplayer gameplay, it has a very well put together campaign that almost acts as a complex - and challenging - taster session of exactly what the game can provide.
The game's single player campaign takes the player through each of the playable factions in the game, from the Blood Raven Space Marines to the Eldar and the Orks. Allowing gamers a taste of each of these races is nice, and the variety certainly adds something to the overall experience. Indeed, by splitting the campaign up between the different factions, it makes the overall story a little greater than the sum of its parts.
That's not to say that the campaign is lacking, however, as the single player story is a solid tale full of good twists and turns. Following each of the races as they delve deep into the mystery of the Spear of Khaine, it's the kind of story that those who are familiar with the format of Warhammer 40,000 tales will no doubt be familiar with, but it's a fun dive into the nihilism of a far future where there is only war.
More than purely on a narrative front, though, the gameplay of the single player is also nicely tuned. The balance between the factions is much appreciated, particularly given that the different races play in very different ways. The Space Marines are a well-rounded experience built around extremely strong individual units, while the Orks play into those after a more traditional RTS strategy of building up large armies to overpower any comers. Meanwhile, the Eldar offer up a more tactical, hit-and-run approach for players.
What helps Dawn of War 3's balanced gameplay is the way in which the title makes best use of some of the most successful parts of both Dawn of War and Dawn of War 2. The second game in the series made some controversial changes by moving to a focus on Elite, individual units, and Dawn of War 3 is a kind of hybrid of the two previous games. The more expansive real-time strategy of the original game is here, complete with base building, but so also are the hugely powerful individual units, which can be used effectively to crush the opposition.
The real meat of Dawn of War 3 is the multiplayer, however, and here the game does not disappoint. The title offers up a decent level of variety, with 1v1, 2v2, or 3v3 matches available, although more variety in terms of game mode would be very much appreciated, particularly for those used to more choices in their online multiplayer.
Nonetheless, it's here that strategy fans can really start testing themselves, and the multiplayer offers up an excellent challenge for players. Interestingly, some of the usual RTS cheap shots aren't necessarily going to work here. For instance, those used to getting up a huge army quickly and mobbing enemies with overpowering numbers isn't quite going to work this time around.
It's fair to say that the multiplayer experience is also an intense one. There's a real MOBA feel to it, with the use of Elite units really turning the tide of battle, and quickly trying to take out an opponent's Power Core means matches can swing from side to side easily. It's frantic, but in a good way - and players will still need to have their wits about them every step of the way.
That said, Dawn of War 3 is not entirely perfect. At first glance, the Elite units themselves could perhaps be seen as a little too powerful when it comes to multiplayer, although that's perhaps to be expected when trying to pull together hybrid ideas and still make a competitive multiplayer. Meanwhile, a switch to more of a MOBA style is bound to be a controversial one for some fans.
From a graphical standpoint, however, the game is also a triumph. Those impressed with Dawn of War 3's initial trailer or those stunning screenshots were expecting the title to be something of a powerhouse when it came to visual quality, and the title is easily the best-looking game in the Dawn of War series. Not only do the individual character models look great, but the environments are suitably grim for the setting.
Overall, then, Dawn of War 3 is a great next chapter in the Dawn of War franchise. The title pulls together the best parts of the last two games into an extremely worthwhile strategy experience, with a well-balanced single player and suitably frantic multiplayer. The title could do with a few tweaks here and there to perfect the experience, but this is one for strategy fans to look to for their next future war fix.
Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War 3 is out now for PC. Game Rant was given a PC code for the purposes of this review.