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Dawn of War III trailer analysis

Today we’ve received confirmation, in the form of a Dawn of War III teaser trailer, that The Emperor does indeed reward the faithful. Eventually.

It’s been 7 years since Dawn of War II released, and almost 12 years since its predecessor set a bar in terms of Warhammer 40,000 video games that some might say has yet to be beaten. Fans are right to be excited, but Relic haven’t given us much in terms of cold hard specifics as of yet. Thankfully, we can make a number of educated guesses about what’s to come based on the little that’s been revealed. Let’s take a look at that trailer in more detail.

Unsurprisingly, the Blood Ravens chapter of the Space Marines takes centre stage from the outset. Synonymous with the IP, Space Marines were always going to feature heavily because, simply put, they are Warhammer 40,000. The Blood Ravens were created specifically for the purpose of being the original Dawn of War’s narrative locus, presumably because Games Workshop didn’t want to give Relic a free rein to muddy the lore of one if its more famous tabletop chapters.

As the footage begins, we see an unnamed helmetless Space Marine kneeling before a statue of what appears to be The Emperor, their leader and that of the Imperium of Man. The haunting, ethereal soundscape and prayer-like voiceover hints that we’re viewing some kind of dream sequence or grand, elaborate metaphor for the Warhammer 40,000 universe rather than something to be taken literally in terms of setting. This is then confirmed as the Space Marines kneel before the Emperor’s statue, caught in a violent storm, before it crumbles towards them, resolving into a horde of falling Orks.

Orks are perhaps Warhammer 40,000’s most enduring antagonists, almost as necessary to any game based on it as the Space Marines themselves, so their inclusion in Dawn of War III shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. Next we see them picking through the aftermath of a battle, fighting among themselves as they finish off and mutilate survivors, underlining their brutality. It’s historically been difficult to take them seriously due to the bizarre mish-mash of British regional accents with which they speak. I would hope we might see the back of such silliness this time around, but I suspect not.

In the ensuing shot, we catch our first glimpse of the Eldar, a Howling Banshee to be specific, blending into its surroundings and observing events below with the cold arrogance for which these, what could probably best be described as ‘space elves’, are famous for. The Eldar have been included in both prior Dawn of War games, so again, their inclusion shouldn’t shock anybody. That said, they never feel quite as important to the setting as the Orks or Space Marines. We can probably extrapolate from this that they’ll play like the ‘glass cannons’ they always have on both the table and the screen.

Following on from that, we see Space Marines assaulting an Ork Deff Dredd (there’s that silly accent I was talking about) and being torn apart in the process, but the following sequence is perhaps the most telling of the entire trailer. The Deff Dredd is stabbed through by an enormous, slender Eldar Wraithknight, which is in turn engaged by a number of equally colossal Imperial Knights. Since Dawn of War II, the tabletop iteration of Warhammer 40,000 has been through a couple of rules revisions, and the accompanying miniatures have in turn been subject to substantial changes.

Games Workshop have quite dramatically increased the size and scale of the models they produce in their mainstream ranges, with previously unthinkably proportioned plastic models now practically mandatory. The Wraithlords and Imperial Knights are perhaps among the most recognizable of these new, larger offerings.

It’s clear that Dawn of War III is not only going to include these units specifically, but follow the tabletop’s lead in terms of increasing the size and scale of the action. The press release we quoted in our news story says as much, and this would very much be in line with fan feedback; most devotees preferred the larger scale and base building of the first Dawn of War to the tighter focus and emphasis on heroes of its successor.

The trailer concludes, appropriately, with the implied death of the helmetless Space Marine we saw at the beginning, and a pile of corpses and skulls. He seems pretty chuffed with himself for saying he’s just bought it.

A huge take-away here is that Dawn of War III apparently only includes three races, as we only see the Space Marines, Orks and Eldar, and there’s not even the slightest implication that others may feature. Yes, previous Dawn of War games have historically included 4 at launch, later expansions notwithstanding, and Relic could conceivably be withholding information on further factions with a view to revealing them later on, but footage available on the official Dawn of War YouTube channel explicitly refers to ‘three devastating forces’, and the box art we’ve seen, preliminary though it may be, shows only the three we know of thus far.

This might be less than what we’re used to, but many an RTS, including the mighty StarCraft, gets by just fine with three or fewer races to choose from. And again, there are undoubtedly going to be expansions featuring additional units and factions down the line, because such an approach is well established series staple, and very much in line with industry trends in terms of post-launch DLC support.

I’ve written about what we might expect from Dawn of War III before, but the newly released trailer gives us a lot more to work with than we had previously. Based on what we’ve now seen, fans can certainly expect a bigger battles, larger units based on newer models from the tabletop version of Warhammer 40,000 and quite possibly three initial races rather than the usual four. The press release also hints at base building and hero units; hopefully combining the best elements of Dawn of Wars I and II respectively. Sounds like a winning formula to me.

If you drew a venn diagram with one circle representing SEGA fandom, and the other Warhammer, I’d be right in the middle. So, as you can imagine, with Warhammer: Total War just on the horizon and now Dawn of War III pencilled in for sometime next year, I’m feeling pretty excited right now. Just a few years ago, SEGA and Warhammer would have seemed unlikely bedfellows, but this quite unexpected relationship is looking like it may have a grim and dark future ahead of it, in which there is only war.

I mean that, of course, in the most positive of ways.

Dan Smith

Dan is a videogames writer based in grim, rain-lashed Northern England. A true child of the '90s, his formative gaming experiences centered on the famous exploits of certain blue hedgehog, and what started all those years ago in the Green Hill Zone has since turned into a lifelong obsession. Check out his blog, Pixels for Polygons , here.

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