Once you move from the campaign to the multiplayer and AI skirmishes, things greatly improve, as there’s less of the scripted tutorials and more lascannons glittering as they take down vehicles.
As you might have guessed from the review so far, I favour the Space Marines, who are slow and expensive but have big guns and a fascist streak a mile wide. They can also drop reinforcements out of the sky directly onto the battlefield in drop-pods, including their dangerous Elites. They’re slow to get started, but once you’ve built up some momentum and can drop a ten story tall mech into the middle of the battlefield, it’s hard to think about anyone else.
The Orks play differently, durable beasts with a preference for getting up close. The Orks have their own crowning moment of glory, the magnificent WAAAAAAAGH!!, which makes Orks incredibly powerful, but highlights the WAAAAAAGH!! towers on the map for all to see. Take out the towers and the onslaught is over, but most players will instead play more defensively at this stage, waiting for the carnage to end.
The Eldar, however, are all about hit and run tactics, with their mobility giving them the speed to get in and out of rapid ambushes. They’re the team I’ve played the least, finding their trickster approach to battle the least engaging. However, they’re also the team that beat me down in multiplayer the most, with my mindset not conducive to defending myself from their assaults.
Multiplayer matches are MOBA-esque in design but crucially don’’t feel like a MOBA in play. You're asked to rout your enemies by taking down their key structures: a shield generator, a defensive turret, and finally their power core. Take out the core, and the match is over, and your enemies are in ruins. Games tend to stretch out to about 30-40 minutes, and every match I've played so far, whether against AI or real players, tends to feel close with victory in my grasp until I’ve made good on that potential and won, or I’ve blown it and lost.
Battles are frantic and exciting, and hopefully the screenshots do justice to quite how much is happening visually at any time. The combat feels a little clunky, but I quite enjoy the fact that committing to an assault feels very final. If you’re not an Eldar, disengaging from a life or death battle is often difficult, and it has more finality than the retreat button seen in Relic’s sister franchise, Company of Heroes.
Unfortunately, Dawn of War 3 met my expectations but never exceeded them. It’s formulaic, and although the depth is there, it’s just as easy to churn out a bunch of troops and go on a rampage. This is a charming rendition of the "classic" RTS, but it’s hard to come up with a reason to opt for this when there are several better examples of the genre, including from within the same franchise. One for the Warhammer 40k fans or avid genre enthusiasts, then.