WAAAGH Gaming – One Grog's Love for Dawn of War III

By Bill Gray 04 May 2017 0

Because my editor insisted, I guess I have to fess up and be embarrassed. OK, I admit it, I’ve been playing SEGAs Warhammer 40K – Dawn of War III (DOW3) all weekend, and I have screen shots to prove it. Yes, me, Mr Tabletop, the anal retentive writer who looks at detail, historical accuracy and realism as if they were Commandments 11 – 13. And remember my gaming rig, the one that NASA often calls on to move the International Space Station? I had to spring $ 140 US for a new NVIDIA video card just so I could run the bloody thing. But it was worth it. OK, maybe it wasn’t quite as satisfying as researching Tsarist regimental flags for the Russo-Japanese War, but it was close and I had a blast.

So, if you’re over the shock, read on and I’ll explain why.

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DOW3 is a real time strategy (RTS) computer game that takes place in the Warhammer 40K universe. As such there really isn’t that much revolutionary or unique when comparing the software to current competitors or what has come before. Gameplay is at the tactical level, regardless of the RTS moniker, where players manage and maneuver combat squads or vehicles towards objectives, all the while constructing new forces or researching new abilities for the troops in the field. It’s pretty straightforward so if you have ever played something like the old Starcraft or the old Command & Conquer, a couple of tutorial lessons later you’ll be ready to go. As might be expected, gameplay was smooth and without mishap, regardless of whether you signed up as Space Marine, Eldar or Orc. Cost is $ 59.95 US, but I did snag a 20% discount because I preordered (yes, I am so ashamed).

Yet, I couldn’t help but notice just a little bit of extra chrome polished up differently than the DOW offerings I’ve played in the past. Perhaps the most significant was that this game seems really geared towards the multiplayer environment, with the 17 mission single player campaign almost a tutorial in itself to get you prepared for multiplayer. The 17 missions are unique in that they are one third Space Marine, one third Eldar and one third Orc. Thus when you finish mission one as a Space Marine, the next mission you are an Orc Warboss. It’s different, not sure it’s my cup of tea, but if this is multiplayer prep it certainly is an effective way to go about it, so props for that. Also, resources are not harvested, but instead points are collected by capturing certain locations or items from the enemy. And with these resource points one can obviously build more vehicles or squads, but Elites as well. Elite units, vehicles and personalities (say, a Space Marine Chapter Commander) seem to have a much bigger impact than previous games, so building them and maintaining them is priority one. I would also say this game has a greater need for knowledge of the 40K universe than those of the past.

Graphics? Simply stunning, both the animation and baseline visuals are absolutely incredible in every sense of the word. This is the type of game where you could lose a mission simply because you’re entranced by the eye candy on the screen. Trust me, my new NVIDIA was well worth it.

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Could this be a short section? No, seriously, DOW3 in my opinion does meet generic standards to qualify as a wargame. It does present military conflict in the form of a game where the military’s Principles of War (MOSS MOUSE – mission, objective, security, surprise, maneuver, offensive, unity of command, simplicity, economy of force) must be properly used to obtain success, and where correct and timely resource management is a key combat multiplier. Get this right, and you will be able to capture that Spear of Khaine artifact that the three factions are killing each other for on the planet Cyprus. However, the bloody environment in which this happens and the methodology used to make it happen can only be described (in my personal opinion, of course) as “hokey.”

In the 40K universe one of the principal antagonists are the Orcs, slimy green brutes evolved from a genetic fusion of animal and fungus (I am not making this up) who live in a tribal culture dedicated to war. They lack a central nervous system, and yet, somehow, someway they are able to produce space craft and other war machines by collecting and assembling scrap. Looking like something that couldn’t pass an American automobile inspection, an ingrained psychic gestalt field called “Waaagh!” allows all this hardware to function normally. With weapons named Speshul Shoota (shotgun) and Snotling slaves that look like Harry Potter’s Dobby the House Elf, this is comic relief, albeit very dangerous one.

The Space Marines and the Imperium of Man they defend aren’t much better. Every location has architecture so Gothic and Dark that Vlad the Impaler would cringe. The society they protect is so abusive and dictatorial as to make the Third Reich seem tame, and to do this they travel on huge starships that look like a cross between Dracula’s castle and a 120 gun Royal Navy ship of the line wrapped around star engines. Using their entombed Emperor’s psyker ability, they navigate the Warp (hyperspace) without the any use of artificial intelligence, because that is forbidden as is most science. Yet these ships can still drop to the planet Space Marines and huge battlemechs called Imperial Knights that lob Black Holes at the enemy to suck them in. Alas poor Space Marines are stuck with Storm Bolter (Mark IV Thunderfury Pattern) projectile machine guns, revved up chainsaws and what seems to be a juiced, diesel powered M-113 US Army personnel carrier. Their mechanized battle armor is brightly colored by chapter in hues of red, fluorescent green and yellow, because someone forgot how to spell camouflage. And seriously, having played on several planets of the Imperium, how do these people feed themselves as I have yet to see a grocery or Starbucks anywhere. Remember, this is a good 37,000 years in the future.

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Tactics overall are the Viking 101 charge and shoot variety with things like fatigue easily remedied by picking up medi-packs lying around, not to mention ammunition, sorta like if Saadam Hussein left 120 mm tank rounds on the Kuwaiti battlefield for Coalition forces to replenish themselves. Command and control seems automatic and so on, and so on, and so on.

Yes I know this is science fiction, but there is such a thing as realistic versions of that genre and fantasy as well. Consider the current SyFy Channel series The Expanse or Babylon 5 where Star Fury space fighters actually conformed to Newtonian physics. Then there is Lord of the Rings, set in a dark and dangerous medieval world where the supernatural exists, but only in such a limited and restricted form as to make one think the story could have actually happened. DOW3, as indicative of the Warhammer 40K universe where it is set, is nothing but pure, mindless entertainment.

So why are otherwise strict historical gamers like myself drawn to something like this?

Because it is nothing but pure, mindless entertainment.

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Fun Factor

All historical gamers are like this to some extent, but I think due the research requirement tabletoppers are especially anal about detail, historical realism and accuracy, both as regards the battlefield environment and the tactics employed. Because historical wargaming is often, informally looked at as a learning experience as well as friendly competition, there seems to be an intrinsic need to get the history right. Yes, I know 40K forums where people have often come to digital blows over the ballistic characteristics of the fictional, doesn’t exist Storm Bolter, but that is nothing compared to the discussion over whether Russian Hussars were issued lances in 1812, and whether it was the first or all ranks that carried them. Here we are seeing folks going to Russian archives to pull up the actual dated order from the Tsar that made this happen, as well as correspondence between General Prince Bagration and Minister of War Prince Barclay de Tolly discussing the effectiveness of the training thereof. Then your head starts to hurt and you realize that you simply need a break.

For me, I have been researching the Russo-Turkish War of 1877-78 as of late and discovered that at Plevna, the Ottomans double armed their infantry with the long range Peabody-Martini and the John Wayne type Winchester with its 17 round magazine. Evidently the Turks engaged the Russians at long range with the Peabody then lit them up at 250 yards with the Winchester. It must have seen like Musir Osman Pasha had a Gatling gun everywhere, and since this is going into my next commercial rules expansion module, I was bound to research all the particulars to make sure my rules got it right. Well, Turkish doesn’t do well with Google Translate, so guess what; I became the proverbial “deer in the headlights” as well. I too needed a break.

A game like DOW3 is exactly the right potion for such a malady, not only for myself but I suspect others like me as well. What made it even better was my strong fascination with the 40K backstory, something unique given its protagonists – the good guys – would have made the Nazi’s feel like a gaggle of amateurs. That’s really different and while making me wonder about the mental state of the author, has developed in me a certain fondness for the product. Add to that a game that is combat oriented, retains enough realism to achieve wargame status, has graphics to die for and is simply fun to play . . . well, I do have the entire computer software series on my shelf so that says something. This is light reading for wargamers and well worth every penny.

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So there is my confession. Despite a realism factor that would ordinarily push me over the edge, the game is excellent when you take it for what it is. Hopefully others will come out of the 40K closet, because you don’t have to hide anymore. Waaagh!

Are you also a secret 40K fan? Do you want to talk to other like-minded people in a safe, secure environment? Then get in touch in the comments below.



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