Relic Entertainment’s Dawn of War series was a breath of fresh air when it first launched in 2004. A game set in the most hostile universe of all time, Dawn of War bucked the trend of going for broke with massive armies by instead focusing on smaller engagement with dedicated groups of soldiers across several races that could buff their performance in battle with several skills. Things got even deeper in the first sequel, with these small groups being led by a commander who could invest his experience in more specialised forms of death-dealing as players crept up on control points and enemy bases.
Which kind of sounds like a MOBA game, doesn’t it? Dawn of War II may have had several of those ideas from that genre influencing its gameplay, but they’re going to be a bit more overt in Dawn of War III when the game launches this April. “MOBAs are definitely something we’ve looked at,” Relic game designer Philippe Boulle said to Eurogamer.
When we went to make Dawn of War 3, specifically the multiplayer, we did spend some time looking at MOBAs and decided to pick and choose some lessons there. Obviously heroes with big, bold abilities is something MOBAs do quite well. What we liked about the objective in those games, and the lesson we took, is creating some specific places on the map that become concentrations especially for the late game – quick things you know you want to attack, you know you want to defend.
Now, that creates places where we can make the gameplay space interesting. That’s one thing. And it also gives some intermediary objectives. You’re not going to rush into the opponent’s base in the first minute because he has these big turrets that are going to stop you, but making a rush for a shield generator is a totally viable strategy.
1v1 and 2v2 maps with tight corridors and highly-specialised characters battling for control? Yeah, I can see the MOBA influences all right. One other thing that Relic is looking to do in Dawn of War III? “Destroy the core” of multiplayer gaming in this genre apparently. “That is the multiplayer game at launch,” Boulle explained.
Other modes are definitely something we want to explore post-launch, but at launch it’s this power core gameplay mode. The biggest danger for us in terms of making a really fun strategy game is dead man walking syndrome, where something happens early in a match, you know it’s going to lead to victory or defeat, but you have to go through another half hour of play.
We wanted you to be able to probe the opponent, to be able to take a generator, lose a generator and still come back from it.
These ideas will of course paint a very different game than what fans are used to. Some of you might like it, others might wish for the good ol’ days. But seeing a genre evolve to meet the tastes of a community who favour such twists in the formula, should make for an interesting long game approach.