8 May 2016

Dawn of War 3 Theories and Notes

Hey guys, I'm sure all of you have heard the news by now but for those that haven't, go check out the Dawn of War Youtube channel for the greatly anticipated announcement of Dawn of War 3! Now, it's an amazing CGI trailer that reveals a few important tidbits about what will feature in the game itself but ultimately I'm taking more interest in what the trailer doesn't display up front - what is purposefully being hidden from us. I hope you enjoy this article!

If you don't want to sift through all of this, my theory - one that I'm now all but certain in - is that the Necrons will be a secret faction in the game. 

Dawn of War 3

First off, I want to cover what we do know about the game based on the trailer, screenshots and press release associated with the announcement - there is a whole heap of information scattered around the internet presently and I want to compile it here for your ease of viewing. Next, I will delve into what I believe the developers are covering up as a way to build suspense before an inevitable big reveal later down the line, as well as where I think the narrative of the series will settle by the end of the game.

Current Knowledge

1) The three confirmed factions so far are Space Marines, Eldar and Orks. This marks the third game in a row that these three factions have been in the core game (before expansions), though unlike prior entries they are seemingly not accompanied by a fourth faction; in Dawn of War 1 we had Chaos Space Marines, while Dawn of War 2 featured Tyranids. In essence this is very much a nod to the franchise' history as the three included factions are truly the most iconic for Dawn of War. If you don't believe me, just look at the CGI cinematics done for each main-line game; Dawn of War 1 featured Space Marines and Orks, Dawn of War 2 featured Space Marines and Eldar (and Tyranids), and Dawn of War 3 features the holy trio of Space Marines, Orks and Eldar.

2) The leaders of the three factions in the campaign will be Gabriel Angelos for the Space Marines, Gorgutz 'ead 'unter for the Orks and Farseer Macha for the Eldar. This confirms that the Blood Ravens and Biel-Tan Craftworld are in the game and that the two main protagonists of the original Dawn of War (Angelos and Macha - they famously worked together to defeat Sindri Myr) will lead the way in what is likely to be the climactic finale of the core Blood Ravens story-line. As the trailer and screenshots suggest, that temporary alliance obviously isn't in play anymore as the Blood Ravens and Biel-Tan Eldar fight each other once again.

3) The return of Gabriel Angelos confirms which of the endings for Retribution was canonical, namely a total victory claimed by the Blood Ravens to ensure their survival in the short term with a cybernetically repaired Angelos being introduced as the new Chapter Master. Whether the consequences of this victory - namely the fact that their former Chapter Master and much of his Honor Guard were traitors - play into Dawn of War 3's story remains to be seen.

4) The setting of the story will be a single planet in true Dawn of War 1 fashion, a world named Acheron - likely an intentional nod to the actual Imperial Knight variant given that standard Imperial Knights are in the game. The three species are vying for control or even destruction of an "ancient, catastrophic superweapon"; as I'll discuss later, there are numerous possibilities for this angle. Clearly there will be more to this story and doubtless a more personal clash between Angelos and Macha but this is all we know for now.

5) The CGI trailer for Dawn of War 3 is the only one made for the series that is patently abstract in nature as the others have all depicted gritty and realistic skirmishes. Whether this is purely for entertainment purposes or it has some deeper meaning with regards to the narrative is, again, unknown.

6) While Super Heavy Vehicles and Gargantuan Creatures are no stranger to the Dawn of War franchise - Baneblades and the Exalted Great Unclean One (remember, they used the Forge World model and not the Games Workshop one for the basis of the Great Unclean One in Dawn of War 2, a model that is classed as a Gargantuan Creature) this does indeed mark the debut of Super Heavy Walkers. Imperial Knights and the titanic Wraithknights are featured prominently in the trailer and are confirmed to be in the game - screenshots of the former in action have already been revealed - while Gorkanauts will be the Orks' answer to those war machines, despite it not actually being a Super Heavy Walker or Gargantuan Creature. Of particular note, the Imperial Knights appear to have multiple upgrade paths - the trailer depicts one with a rapid fire battle cannon and reaper chainsword, while the in-game model shown off utilized paired avenger gatling cannons - while Wraithknights will at the very least make use of the dreaded ghostglaive and scattershield combination.

7) Though we have not seen any in-game shots of Orks yet, we can at least deduce a few returning units for both Space Marines and Eldar based on the screenshots; Tactical Squads, Assault Squads, Devastator Squads, Dreadnoughts and Assault Terminators remain for Space Marines while the Eldar pay their dues to Wraithguard, Dark Reapers (the black-armored warriors with ponytails, though they could just be oddly designed Guardian Defenders), Howling Banshees, Vypers and Fire Prisms. On the Ork side, the CGI trailer displays Gretchin/Grots, Orks of various sizes (you can expect Boyz and Warbosses with the high chance of Nobz) and either Killa Kanz or Deff Dreads.

8) The new units on display in the screenshots are the Imperial Knights and, amazingly, Dire Avengers. The first Aspect Shrine has long been absent from the Dawn of War franchise and is often one of the more requested additions to the Eldar faction, mostly because they are generally seen as the true core of an Eldar force and the elite alternative to Guardian Defenders.

9) The promotional material released for Dawn of War 3 on various websites does confirm some other returning faces and additions to the unit rosters, namely Guardian Defenders, Falcons and - finally - Jetbikes. You may recall that no Dawn of War game has featured Bike type units of any kind so knowing that Eldar Jetbikes will feature in the game is tantalizing to say the least, though given that this information has filtered from media outlets it is entirely possible that the Eldar Jetbikes have actually been confused with the Vypers shown in screenshots.

10) In one of the screenshots for the game, Gabriel Angelos is depicted wearing an unusual suit of Terminator Armor that has an uncannily striking resemblance to the Cataphractii pattern, possibly acting as a more protective but slower in-game alternative to standard Terminator armor. Of minor note is that he still wields his iconic Daemonhammer, God-Splitter.

11) The visuals of the game are striking in a rather odd way. The developers have clarified that close details have been eschewed in favor of scale and speed, something that is clearly the case if the screenshots are anything to go by. As opposed to the more gritty look of previous entries in the franchise, Dawn of War 3 opts for a more colorful look that some have mistaken for poor graphical fidelity - this is simply not the case. The in-game models are of a greater fidelity than those utilized in Dawn of War 2 and have more natural light reflection, but the more pronounced colors and bright visual palette give the illusion of crushed texture work and so the tiny details you would make out via scratches on a Space Marines' armor are ironed out. Make no mistake, the technology on display in Dawn of War 3 is more advanced than that found in Dawn of War 2; what the developers are referencing is that where Dawn of War 2 opted for a "less is more" approach with regards to fewer units populating the screen but each being highly detailed, Dawn of War 3 will - compared to other contemporary games in the real-time-strategy genre - sacrifice close detail for sheer scale. Of course, I may be entirely wrong about this but this is what my usually keen eyes are informing me of so far and I've little reason not to trust them. Besides, the environments themselves appear far more vibrant and diverse with lots of organically rendered lighting, while self-shadowing is very impressive at first glance. Meanwhile, the various visual effects constituting ranged weapon fire, Assault Marines' jump pack exhaust trailers and so on look utterly incredible and a level beyond what was present in Dawn of War 2. While we can't really comment on the animations as yet given that we have no moving footage, the animations do appear to be more dynamic if the running poses for Terminators and Dreadnoughts are anything to go by  The colors and art design are absolutely top notch and give less of a realistic vibe and more a cartoony one that is likely the source of the various criticisms towards the games' visuals so far, though I think it fits with the visual aesthetics of the more recent Warhammer 40,000 releases. In essence, this game will be a looker and is designed for massive scale battles where hundreds of models fill the screen at once in true Warhammer 40,000 fashion.

12) The maps used in the game will at the very least include those of the volcanic variety but also ones set on mighty battlecruisers in the eternal void of space. The latter will likely be similar to how the Space Hulk maps from Dawn of War 2 worked where there is no actual space involved but the maps are purely artificial rather than natural terrain and feature lots of close chokepoints and a few huge open areas.

13) The campaign will not feature a single playable race but will instead either allow or force the player to alternate between the factions between missions; my best guess is that this will be a linear narrative-driven campaign in the same vein as Dawn of War 1 where you have no control over which faction you play in any given mission, allowing the three-pronged story to advance simultaneously on all fronts. Of course, expect the Blood Ravens to be the primary protagonists of the campaign as they are ultimately Relics' invention and the focus of most Dawn of War games.

14) The game features clear distinctions between the various units; there are "line" squads which form the bulk of the force and are your defensive-oriented core whom output consistent damage (my guesses are Tactical Marines, Dire Avengers and Ork Boyz), elites which are geared more towards rapid strikes and hit hard in bursts (as before, Assault Marines, Howling Banshees and Stormboyz would be some of my picks), super units that are the power-houses of the faction (Imperial Knights, Wraithknights and Gorkanauts are confirmed), heroes that lead your army and are quite capable in their own rights (Gabriel Angelos, Farseer Macha and Gorgutz 'ead 'unter are also confirmed) and super abilities that can change the course of a battle in an instant (the only one shown off so far is the Space Marines' Orbital Bombardment). These are all described in much the same way as units in the tabletop game have battlefield roles - HQs, Troops, Elites, Lords of War and so on - and so you can expect lots of varying unit compositions and paper-rock-scissor match-ups.

15) The aforementioned elite units must be "collected" throughout the singleplayer campaign, a statement that has many fearing that microtransactions will feature in the game and be tied to unlocking new units. I personally believe that this is a misrepresentation of the information; I see it more along the lines of how Dark Crusade and Soulstorm would reward conquests of individual territories with special Honor Guard units. This is more likely than microtransactions to be the system in place for "collecting" elite units - complete a mission or do it in a specific way and you unlock 'x' unit and so on. On that note, the elite units that you collect in the campaign will level up throughout the story much alike to Dawn of War 2.

16) While there are many elite units (in this instance, 'elite' refers to all of the hard hitters in a faction, including their characters and super units) present for each faction, only three such units can be chosen to partake in a given battle in the single player and, potentially, the multiplayer as well. Limiting the different elite units you can use in any given mission will allow you to try various combos and form different play-styles; I can imagine a mix of Dreadnoughts, Assault Terminators and Assault Squads being geared more towards rapid and brutal melee engagements while Devastator Squads, maybe Tactical Terminators and Imperial Knights would be more of a slow but devastating ranged juggernaught type of force. This is also reminiscent of how Dawn of War 2 restricted the amount of squads you could deploy in each mission; using the base game as an example, you normally had four units to use in a mission but had access to six different options, forcing you to work out what units would be best suited to any particular mission. Coupled with leveling up and varying upgrade paths for individual units, the Dawn of War 3 campaign sounds like it is taking a whole bunch of cues from Dawn of War 2, though it appears to be using the linear story structure of Dawn of War 1.

16) The same units can be upgraded for entirely different roles; Tactical Marines see their in-game function change dramatically through the addition of either plasma guns or flamers. This seems to be taking the upgrade paths of the Dawn of War 2 campaign and pushing them further into the basic units.

17) Individual units retain their usable and passive abilities just as in previous Dawn of War entries, though it appears that these are more in keeping with Dawn of War 2 in the sense that multiple different abilities can be found on any particular unit and require precise coordination to utilize effectively.

18) The third main-line entry in the franchise continues the trend of reinventing its cover system for a new generation; the first had differing levels of cover that would slow down units more as the protection against ranged attacks increased, while the second used the Company of Heroes system of individual model placement and destructible terrain allowing for more involved tactical gameplay. Dawn of War 3 eschews these by instead offering up capture-able zones that allow the garrisoned unit to resist ranged damage but presumably reduce their capability to defend against melee attackers, placing a greater emphasis on that paper-rock-scissors type gameplay that the Age of Empires franchise made famous by simplifying the unit roles in particular battlefield situations.

19) The scale of the game is said to be more in-line with Dawn of War 1 and will seemingly surpass even that high standard for raw earth-shattering warfare across large battlefields. The inclusion of Imperial Knights and Wraithknights is a testament to this, though the more micro-management oriented gameplay of Dawn of War 2 is still present in some fashion what with the micro-intensive abilities and focus on getting particular squads to face each other and hard counters forcing rapid tactical decisions and redeployment.

20) Base building returns in some capacity with unit production facilities and power generators specifically mentioned in what can be seen as the largest indicator of a return to the first Dawn of Wars' gameplay systems. I fully expect tech advancement to mimic Dawn of War 1 with both the headquarters and other specific buildings furthering your cause in that regard, while base defences will likely be featured.

21) The resource generation system also follows Dawn of War 1 instead of Dawn of War 2 where power generators are constructed at your base rather than captured out in the battlefield, though requisition points still follow the same path as both games. This means that the gameplay is likely to focus as much on smaller skirmishes vying for control of strategic points and thus resources to construct new units just as much as the game-ending larger conflicts.

22) In a clear nod to the Orbital Relay from Dawn of War 1, up to three Space Marine units can Deep Strike into the fray via Drop Pod at your leisure - whether this is actually tied to a building or one of the racial abilities of the faction is unknown - to deliver rapid, crushing blows to enemy forces or instantly reinforce your armies. On that note, super abilities that were previously tied to the differing commanders in Dawn of War 2 and the unique faction traits of the Dark Eldar and Sisters of Battle in Soulstorm are likely to function via resource generation as before.

23) The Battlecruiser employed by the Blood Ravens in Dawn of War 3 is named the Dauntless, a fitting name given the tide of death facing the Chapter in what will likely prove to be its darkest hours.

My Theory

Before I get into the meat of my theory, I want to raise some quick points about the trailer, press release and another recent release that you may have missed - this is information that can all be inferred from what we know so far but is largely unconfirmed.

1) The opening quote reads thus; "There is a terrible darkness descending upon the galaxy, and we shall not see it ended in our lifetimes." This quote is attributed to Inquisitor Bronislaw Czevak and is believed to falsely pertain to the Necrons, the ancient enemies of the Eldar and, truthfully, all life. It is actually in reference to the Tyranids but has evidently either been re-purposed or mistakenly attributed to the Necrons instead as internet searches and wikis would suggest - given the rest of my theory, we can assume that the new way of viewing the quote has been utilized in this case.

2) Our first glimpse of the Blood Ravens is of a group of them kneeling before a statue of the Emperor as they are blasted by seemingly gale-force winds; next, the statue breaks apart into a literal tidal wave of Orks. As this plays out alongside the quote "In times of doubt, I shall keep faith" this is clearly a metaphor for faith being the greatest shield for humanity against destruction, a weapon that the Space Marines wield most keenly. This also has deeper narrative meaning in the context of the Blood Ravens seeing as the events of previous games exposed an implied heretical gene-seed origin (widely believed to be the Thousand Sons) and a now-dead traitorous Chapter Master - though broken and beaten, they must keep their faith if they are to survive as a Chapter.

3) The setting that the trailer takes place in is very barren in appearance and features glaringly alien architecture at various points; it isn't much of a stretch to imagine that this could be a tomb world seeing as most such worlds in both the series' and adapted fiction tend to be of the bleak variety.

4) The prevailing motif throughout the entire trailer is death (most heavily associated with Necrons), with the Blood Ravens in particular being the most victimized. Seeing as Chaos Rising, Retribution and even Space Marine all partially set-up terrible consequences for the Blood Ravens stemming from their civil war, I fully expect Dawn of War 3 to be the most harrowing and climactic struggle in the history of the Chapter. They will either conquer their inner demons and win back the favor of the Inquisition (Chapters with even partial traitorous links can quickly become excommunicated) or be utterly destroyed in a heroic effort to save humanity.

5) The climax of the trailer displays thousands of Space Marine, Ork and Eldar corpses falling into a huge valley on an otherwise secluded mountaintop. Seeing as the trailer is clearly abstract in nature, this particular scene could be viewed as a metaphor for the War in Heaven as endless lives descend from a bright light parting the clouds.

6) There is some mild narration to the trailer that seems rather disjointed at first, but it rapidly becomes clear what each part pertains to; "In darkness, I shall be light. In times of doubt, I shall keep faith. In throes of rage, I shall hone my craft. In vengeance, I shall have no mercy. In the midst of battle, I shall have no fear. In the face of death, I shall have no remorse." Each is tied to a particular visual cue in the trailer, usually revolving around the Space Marines. Whether the actual voice of the narrator bears any significance is unknown.

7) Following on the from the previous note, the story of the game that sets up why the various factions are involved in the conflict centers around an "ancient superweapon". The War in Heaven was the most brutal conflict in the setting of Warhammer 40,000 and earned the name from the devastation wreaked by technological monstrosities and psychic maelstroms. An "ancient superweapon" could well be the property of either the Eldar (explaining the unusual alien structure) or the Necrons, the only other possible explanation being that it is a relic from the Dark Ages of Mankind.

8) The background image used for the game in promotional material features piles of skulls with one belonging specifically to each faction at the forefront of the carnage.

9) As mentioned earlier, both Warlord Gorgutz (Winter Assault, Dark Crusade, Soulstorm) and Farseer Macha (Dawn of War 1) return to lead the respective Ork and Eldar factions. Both are key characters to the story of the Blood Ravens as Gorgutz would be heavily involved both in a major victory and a crushing defeat for the Blood Ravens in two successive canonical campaigns, while Macha was the Farseer that aided Gabriel Angelos in destroying the Maledictum from the first game. Seeing as Angelos himself leads the Space Marines and the climax of the Maledictum storyline came in both Chaos Rising and Retribution with Azariah Kyras being possessed by that fell Daemon, the return of Macha has greater significance that we can only guess at for now - it very well could be that Chaos is involved in Dawn of War 3 in some manner or another.

10) The full narrative of both main-line Dawn of War games as well as their respective expansions has been mostly concluded save for one dogged mystery; the secret origins of the Blood Ravens' gene-seed that Davian Thule guarded to his death. Given the seemingly apocalyptic nature of the trailer and my inklings to what the destruction means for the Blood Ravens, I would be very surprised if this is not covered in the game.

11) Crucially, Dawn of War 2: Retribution was released three years ago and is an expansion to the core Dawn of War 2 game that was released a whopping seven years ago. Judging by the fact that we have great looking in-game screenshots of Dawn of War 3 and that it is coming out next year, it should have been in development since either 2015 or (much more likely) 2014. This begs the question; why would Relic go to the effort to release a Necron Overlord DLC pack for Retribution while they were already working on Dawn of War 3, a game that is still in development and their first major title since Company of Heroes 2?

12) Finally and I would argue this is the most important note, the PC Gamer Magazine spread about Dawn of War 3 has been leaked online and one final part of the article reveals some important information regarding the superweapon; "When they do find that weapon they're going to be unpleasantly surprised by a terrible threat that I can't really talk about" courtesy of one of the developers. It even goes on to talk about how fans can speculate as to whether it is Necrons, Chaos or Tyranids - if you consider that the Tyranids were kept under wraps for much of Dawn of War 2's marketing campaign then it seems rather obvious that a fourth faction will indeed be in the game, but one question remains - which faction?

What this all leads me to believe is that the three currently known factions will not be the only players in the story of Dawn of War 3, though they may be the only playable ones. The motif of death, the opening quote referencing a particular species, the barren world dotted with alien architecture, the crux of the story being an "ancient superweapon" on an obviously once alien-occupied world, the all-but-confirmed fourth race courtesy of the PC Gamer Magazine quote, the possibly implied visual metaphor for the War in Heaven and the spontaneous DLC for Retribution all point to one faction - the Necrons. However, they aren't the only candidate for a fourth race; Chaos is intrinsically tied to the fate of the Blood Ravens and is purported to be their genetic origin, so if Dawn of War 3 does indeed finally settle the matter of their Unknown Primarch then Chaos (specifically the Thousand Sons as they are so clearly the Blood Ravens' progenitors) should be involved, and the return of Macha would work in tandem with that.

Now, you are probably wondering why I am disputing the advertised three factions claim already without any real knowledge to the contrary. In short, I strongly believe that the "three factions only" statement is either a lie or twisting the truth because of several factors, the biggest being that each Dawn of War to date has had four factions in the base game - why buck the trend? Additionally, Tyranids (the 4th faction in Dawn of War 2) were kept under wraps and not properly introduced until well into the entries' marketing train, while games set in the Warhammer 40,000 universe are notorious for keeping a powerful enemy force out of the prying eyes of the media until the game is released - Necrons in Winter Assault and Chaos in The Last Stand spring to mind. Heck, Sega - the publisher of both Relic and Creative Assembly - kept the playable status of the Huns in the latter studios' recent Total War: Attila on the down-low, going so far as to knowingly falsely state that Attila and his hordes could not be controlled by the player. Plus, the various hints dropped in the trailer and press release that could feasibly point towards either Necrons or Chaos (but mostly the former) coupled with the seemingly random Necron Overlord DLC for Retribution provide ample suspicion of Sega and Relics' true motives. Now, this isn't to say that whatever the probable fourth faction is will be playable at all - I wouldn't be too disappointed if a major threat appears as a non-playable "boss" race that ties the warring species' fates together - but certainly you would expect this to be the case given that even the barest of appearances in a Dawn of War game usually constitutes full-fledged playable faction status, the only exceptions being the Tau and Necrons in Retribution. As I had to edit in when completing this article, new information popped up that also all-but-confirms a fourth race that will serve as the main antagonists - coupled with the various hints dropped regarding Necrons with the opening quote of the trailer being the main culprit (again with the belief that most would look it up and notice it is now seemingly mistakenly associated with Necrons), it seems a pretty safe bet that the deathless legions will indeed march again upon the Dawn of War franchise.

The possibilities offered by Necrons as one of the four "founding" races of Dawn of War 3 are incredible when you consider that, the Overlord DLC for Retribution aside, we have not seen the new style of Necrons in a video game since they were drastically re-imagined a few short years ago. Watching Deathmarks, Immortals, Triarch Stalkers, Canoptek Wraiths and other such abominable machines do war with the three confirmed factions of the game in an awesome brand new graphics engine will surely be a pleasure to watch in motion. Additionally, speculation about what their super unit could be is already on my mind; the Tesseract Vault and Obelisk spring to mind, but what about some new type of monstrosity or even an up-scaled Tomb Sentinel from the Necron Forge World range? Abilities such as calling upon the "ancient superweapon" or a massed reanimation bonus would fit very well into this type of game and really sell the Necrons as a terrifying force on the battlefield as was evidently the case in Dark Crusade roughly a decade prior. The beauty of this is that my theory could very well be wrong and we will have some other interesting Xenos faction take part in the game - who wouldn't want to see the return of a fully-fledged Chaos Daemon force or the Dark Eldar? Right or wrong, I'm really eager to see what Relic pull out of the bag for Dawn of War 3 as I fully expect this to be their grandest entry in the franchise to date.

Thank you all for reading this article, I hope you enjoyed it! I have a deep appreciation for Relics' Dawn of War franchise as it works in tandem with the tabletop war-game, inspiring new and old hobbyists to collect new forces to match the incredible bouts of warfare found in the video games. I'm a sucker for theory-crafting and while there probably are holes in what I'm presenting, I don't think it can be denied that I have a solid case for the secret inclusion of Necrons into the game. If you agree or disagree, feel free to leave a comment below and add your thoughts to the situation. The most important thing to take out of all of this is that Dawn of War 3 is back, it is going to be the largest scale and most impressive entry in the series and it features a marriage of what made both Dawn of War 1 and Dawn of War 2 such excellent additions to the Warhammer 40,000 setting. Thanks again!

1 comment:

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