Six years have passed since the last Dawn of War, and since then MOBAs have taken over. Most games in the genre have a colourful and blocky aesthetic, for example the genre’s reigning kings Dota 2 and League of Legends. Within the first few minutes of playing Dawn of War III’s Beta I noticed the change of art style. It’s more vibrant and chunkier than previous games, but it still has that gothic grim-dark flair that encapsulates the Warhammer 40k universe so well.
Within the first ten minutes of playing I noticed the MOBA influences. In the Power Core mode - the only mode available in the beta - you must destroy two shields, two turrets and finally the enemy's’ power core to win the game. Even the map layout felt inspired by the lanes featured in MOBAs, sans the automated creeps, with each lane leading to an important requisition node. That said, the real-time strategy elements in this RTS are still present. You need to capture resource nodes to gain requisition and power in order to build your army and expand your base. There are a nice variety of units of various shapes and sizes, from melee focused brawlers and tanks, to airborne skimmers and mechas. You also have three elite units, taking the role of heroes from previous games, each of which have their own unique abilities that provide offensive and defensive support.
Dawn of War II scaled things down from Dawn of War. There was no base building; the focus was on strategically managing a dozen or so units, positioning them behind cover in key choke points to annihilate the enemy. Each unit gained experience points and got stronger the more they levelled up, so it was important to keep them alive. Here, the scale has been increased, the base building has returned, and the levelling system removed. When the game is well underway there’ll be hundreds of units in many shapes and sizes duking it out on screen. It’s chaos of the best kind.
The game features three factions - Space Marines, Orks and Eldar - a more limited affair compared to the base four of previous games, which might be an effort to make each faction more distinct Though, I never had a problem with faction variety in previous games, even when the faction count was bumped up to 7.
It definitely feels like a Dawn of War game, which is something I was afraid wouldn’t be the case with a post-THQ Relic. And while it may look different to previous games in the series it still has that ultra-testosterone, grim-dark flair we all know and love. Blending MOBA and RTS is an interesting experiment, one that feels fun enough in the beta, but only time will tell if it pays off.