We may earn a commission when you buy through links in our articles. Learn more.

Warhammer Realms of Ruin and the legacy of Dawn of War

Warhammer Realms of Ruin developer Daniel Saunders talks RTS design, base-building, mod support, and the game's meme potential with Wargamer.

Warhammer Realms of Ruin and the legacy of Dawn of War - photo montage of a Stormcast Eternals warrior in golden armor holding lightning-wreathed weapons, and a Space Marine in red armor holding a boltgun

Although Warhammer Realms of Ruin is being made by a different developer to the Dawn of War series, there’s enough design DNA in common that the similarities are striking. Realms of Ruin campaign developer Daniel Saunders reflects on the similarities and differences in part two of his interview with Wargamer.

“The team took lots of inspiration from RTS games as a whole”, Saunders says, “We want to understand the successes and failures”. He points to some of his personal inspirations: “I grew up on Dawn of War one, I think Age of Empires 2 is in my top five games ever, I’m a big fan of the Supreme Commander Series”. Nevertheless, Saunders says “we want Realms of Ruin to have its own unique identity”.

YouTube Thumbnail

That’s particularly evident in the stripped back base-building in Realms of Ruin, which is nothing like the classic 90s and early 00s RTS model. Players have a single upgradable base, and the option to cap claimed resource nodes with a choice of different bastion structures. The build menu and faction upgrade menu are each just a hotkey away.

Saunders says this is very much intended: “if you’re spending time at home base building, you don’t get to see the fruits of your labor, the actual fights.” It comes back to the Warhammer license: “the Warhammer world, and the tabletop game, they’re all about combat. We wanted to let players live that fantasy”.

A bastion is built on top of a nexus in Warhammer Age of Sigmar Realms of Ruin, similar to Dawn of War

Disappointing for fans of old-school RTS games, perhaps – you’ll have to wait for Wargamer’s Realms of Ruin review to see if the front-line focused design works. During Wargamer’s time with preview builds, we spent minimal time in menus and plenty of time sending troops to their death.

Dawn of War has enjoyed a long afterlife thanks to an active modding community. Saunders “can’t comment on mod support” for Realms of Ruin at this point, but does point to the map editor and scene editor as tools the team hopes will “bring as much replayability as possible”.

YouTube Thumbnail

Saunders gave feedback to the team which created the map editor tools. “They took the toolset which we were using and made it player friendly – giving it a UI in particular, the version we were using was basically a debug mode that let us create levels”.

The player version of the map maker won’t have the full flexibility enjoyed by the development team, but Saunders says “it includes just about everything within reason”.

Immaculate game design and mod support might be hallmarks of the original Dawn of War, but it’s greatest legacy is in its powerful meme game. Many gamers discovered Warhammer 40k through Dawn of War memes before they ever encountered the tabletop minis, books, or even 40k videogames.

Warhammer Age of Sigmar Realms of Ruin - Stormcast Eternals capture objective point

“I lived and breathed Dawn of War memes”, Saunders admits, “I’m looking forwards to seeing what the community comes up with”. We ask him if he has any hot picks for likely meme fodder in Realms of Ruin. “There’s one bit of cutscene dialogue where a character says ‘Ghur waxes!’ with this particular intonation, that just makes the whole team laugh”.

Excited for Realms of Ruin to launch, or – like site editor Alex Evans – just pining for Dawn of War 4? Make sure you check out the first part of our interview with Saunders, in which he talks about developing the Realms of Ruin single-player campaign. With the Realms of Ruin release date on November 17, make sure you check out our Realms of Ruin review.