If fighting Orks, Space Marines and Eldar was easy, then the universe of the 41st millennium wouldn’t be embroiled in a never-ending, brutal war, and all those poor Nobz, Terminators and Wraithknights would be on the dole. But it doesn’t need to be a slog, either. Allow me to give you a leg up in Dawn of War 3’s [official site] savage multiplayer battles with this guide to its myriad complexities. By the end, you’ll be smashing your enemies’ frail bodies and crushing their dreams.
The main goal of Dawn of War 3’s chaotic multiplayer bouts is the destruction of your foe’s power core, a large metal target nestled between turrets deep inside enemy territory. Of course, you’ve got one too, a massive vulnerability that ensures you’re never going to quite feel safe. You can’t make a beeline straight for the core, however, because as messy as battles get, there are still rules.
Power cores only become vulnerable once you take out at least one of the ultra-powerful turrets, which can only be destroyed once you’ve blown up their paired shield generator. And each of these objectives has an extra ability that makes your task just a wee bit trickier.
Shield generators can house garrisons that are protected from ranged attacks, so you’ll need to send in melee units, preferably ones that can scatter enemies, like Assault Marines; turrets can stun units in a large radius as well as firing off devastating, long-ranged attacks; and the power core can become invulnerable for 20 seconds, potentially giving your opponent the precious time they need to launch a counter attack.
Getting to the not-so-squishy centre can be a big undertaking, requiring a diverse selection of units. Snipers to stay out of the turret’s range; hand-to-hand troops to run interference, stopping enemies from reaching the objective to defend it; heavy hitters to take out enemy armour and buildings; and units or abilities that can do AoE damage, like Whirlwind Tanks or super weapons, to take out big blobs of foes.
Scattered throughout the maps are another kind of objective: resource points. There are three resource types that you’ll need to craft your murderous armies: requisition, power and Elite points. These resources have an automatic base level of generation, but it's slow, so you’ll need to venture out and capture resource points to increase the speed at which they accumulate. Once a unit captures one, you can construct different types of upgradrable generators depending on what nodes they have.
Initially, requisition is the most important resource, used for recruiting basic troops like light infantry. Advanced units, as well as army and building upgrades, require power. It’s a bit of a balancing act. If you want to churn out early-game infantry quickly, rapidly capturing points across the map, you’ll want to focus on requisition for a while; if you want to tech up quickly and field vehicles or use abilities like the Eldar’s Webway, then power is the way to go. Generally, however, you should keep a balance between the two, unless you’re in a team that communicates well or where you’ve picked a particular role.
Elite points pose less of a conundrum. You want them, and you want to start generating as many as possible as quickly as you can. This is the resource you’ll be spending to summon your game-changing Elite units like the monstrous Wraithknight and Imperial Knight, or the heroic Gabriel Angelos. It’s the most fleeting resource, and even on the large 3v3 maps you’ll only find two – one on each side of the map – so they’re hotly contested and worth defending with both listening posts (essentially guard towers) and troops.
Aside from listening posts, which must be placed on resource points, buildings in Dawn of War 3 can be constructed anywhere on the map, and this flexibility is integral to claiming victory in multiplayer. It can be tempting to start building up a base right where you start, near the power core, and that’s certainly an area that needs to be defended and watched, but there’s nothing stopping you from rolling up to your opponent’s front door and erecting a base right on their doorstep.
Indeed, that risky tactic can sometimes pay significant dividends. I’ve seen and been part of teams that coordinate so that two players lock down the Elite resource point near the enemy base using a stream of units, a listening post and Waaagh! towers (a special Ork-only guard tower that buffs the green tide) to maintain control. It’s dangerous, but it can provide a significant edge in the arms race as well as keeping the other team busy. And if you can defend it for long enough, it creates a fantastic staging area for the eventual assault on a shield generator.
That sort of tactic can fail pretty quickly though, especially if you’re facing a team that bothers to communicate. If they work together, depending on their faction composition, it won’t take too much to evict you. But while they’re trying to do that, you’re still stealing their lovely Elite points.
Out of all the factions, it’s the Eldar who can really take advantage of buildings. After teching up, you can use any building as a makeshift Webway Gate, allowing your units to leap across map in a single step, building to building. This makes them the masters of sneak attacks and hit-and-run assaults. Even Eldar buildings can be teleported to new locations. If you’re fighting them, always be on the lookout for their builder units, the Bonesinger, and keep an eye on the areas near the entry points that lead to your shield generators or power core just in case a building suddenly appears.
Exploiting the battlefield
Dotted around the war-torn arenas of Dawn of War 3 are a multitude of interactive elements that can be exploited to give your foes an unwelcome surprise or your vulnerable units a bit of breathing room.
Long grass and smoke-spewing vents make units inside them largely invisible. They can be found all over the multiplayer maps, and are especially handy when you’re trying to guard a resource point. Or maybe you’d prefer to be a bit cruel and use the resource point as bait. Don’t capture it. Instead, hide a few units and wait for your enemy to start capping. When you’re done letting them waste their time, strike, and then walk over their corpses to take the point for yourself.
To avoid being on the receiving end on tactics like this, use units with the Detector ability, and if you’re pretty sure there are some hidden enemies, maybe it’s time to do some AoE damage. Grab a Whirlwind or equivalent and blanket the area in death. Elites like Ranger Ronahn can be handy in these situations too. His map-spanning sniper attack not only cuts through rows of enemies, it cuts through the fog of war, giving you an idea of what’s waiting for you and then killing it.
Relic have replaced the cover system used in Dawn of War 2, itself based on the Company of Heroes cover system, with defensive positions that can be captured. Units inside a captured shield bubble are protected from ranged attacks. You’ll want to use melee units to clear out these positions, especially those who can cover a lot of ground rapidly to avoid taking damage during the charge.
High walls and structures can also provide cover, though they can’t be fired over and are just as likely to be hiding enemies on the other side, invisible to your eyes. Send out scouts to draw any foes lurking on the other side over to yours, and remember to order your troops to hold their fire so you don’t ruin the ambush until the clueless enemy unit is right where you want it to be.
New paths can also be opened up on some maps. Doors can be opened and bridges extended to give you a faster route to new resource points or the opposing objectives. To open them up, however, you’ll need to destroy their heavily armoured control panels, potentially giving the other team time to march around and take your warriors out before they finish the job.
Each battle is dividided into four escalation phases, adding more wrinkles to the already pretty involved brawls. These phases last ten minutes, and when a new one begins, you’ll see a big notification pop up on the screen, accompanied by a distinct audio cue. Here’s what each phase does:
Phase one: When a unit dies, 25 percent of its cost is refunded
Phase two: When a unit dies, 15 percent of its cost is refunded; resource generation is increased by 50 percent; objective structure health is increased by 50 percent; and listening post health is increased by 25 percent.
Phase three: When a unit dies, 5 percent of its cost is refunded; resource generation is increased by 100 percent; objective structure health is increased by 100 percent; and listening post health is increased by 50 percent.
Phase four: Resource generation is increased by 150 percent; objective structure health is increased by 150 percent; and listening post health is increased by 75 percent.
The unit refunds don’t feel particularly noticeable, and by the time that refund amount gets reduced you should already have several upgraded resource generators, which will also receive a buff. So what escalation really means is you can start churning out troops, vehicles and upgrades at a faster rate, but the objectives become increasingly tough to destroy.
This makes it sound like it might be easier to take out objectives in the early-game, but the chances of you being able to field the large, diverse army needed to tackle a turret in the first 10 minutes of a match are low. Absolutely take some swipes at the shield generator, however. If your opponent is still busy trying to capture resource points and hasn’t garrisoned troops, make them pay for it, and set yourself up for an assault on the turret once you’ve built a decent mix of units in phase two.
On page two, we look at the meat of Dawn of War: the factions, and their particular strengths and weaknesses.
Dawn of War 3’s iconic armoured warriors from the Imperium of Man are solid all-rounders and thus a good pick for your first few matches. They can handle themselves well in melee, especially the jump-pack wearing Assault Marines, and there’s a decent selection of ranged troops, including some stealthy recon units and upgradable heavy infantry who can deploy devastating flamers and plasma cannons.
When facing off against Space Marines, always expect reinforcements. Drop pods can be summoned, containing pre-selected units, and through upgrades more than one pod can be prepared. While a pod can only contain one unit, it also knocks back any units it land on. And then there are the Deathstorm drop pods – drop pods that don’t have troops inside them, instead opening their doors to reveal that they’re are bristling with assault cannons.
You have to be pretty flexible to deal with Space Marines, but their penchant for knockbacks and stuns means that long-ranged units can do well against them. Assault Marines can close gaps quickly, however, and Tactical Marines are great at locking down enemy troops in melee while their ranged counterparts, like a sniper or a heavy weapon squad, lays down covering fire. So you should always have an exit strategy and watch out for Marines racing towards you.
Their super ability is the brutal Orbital Bombardment, a devastating death ray that feeds on its victims, becoming more powerful the more units it kills. It disables them, too, pulling enemies up into the air while it whittles down their health. Some of its impact can be negated, however. Its targeting beacon can be captured, stopping it from moving and giving units time to get the hell out of the way.
The Eldar are squishy hit-and-run experts, deadly at range and nimble enough to get out of tricky spots. The Fleet of Foot passive ability provided by their HQ and Webway Gates means that they can run into a fight, take out enemies before they’re even spotted, and then get the hell out of there. If they do take fire, they have a handy regenerating shield.
It’s in melee engagements where the Eldar run into some problems. There are a couple of melee units that can hold their own, but the bulk of the Eldar army is extremely fragile once their shields are gone, and their guns cease to be effective because Orks or Space Marines are getting up close and personal. That’s why their Webway mechanic is such a boon: they can teleport between buildings, sneak up to an enemy’s position while stealthed, and then pull back, relocating to their base or another safe area when things get too hot.
Dealing with the Eldar is a matter of closing the gap. With their speed and range advantage, that can be challenging for opponents. Blinding grenades can stun them briefly, allowing Space Marines to charge in and keep them busy; Assault Marines can leap to their position and knock them back, making them extremely vulnerable; and Ork trucks can toss their payload of green warriors right at fleeing Eldar, which is both hilarious to watch and extremely effective.
The Eldar have some crowd control of their own, of course, not least of which is their Eldritch Storm super ability. It slows and damages in a large area and can possess an Eldar unit, creating a storm that calls down some nasty bolts of lightning. This conduit can be taken out though, purging the magical energy from their body.
The Orks are, unexpectedly, the most complex of all Dawn of War 3’s factions. They might look like a bunch of axe-wielding maniacs in makeshift armour, but they’re actually ingenious tinkerers that make the most out of the battlefield through looting and scrapping. Vehicle wrecks, demolished structures and warzone detritus can be repurposed by almost every Ork unit, including meks and vehicles, conferring a wide variety of upgrades from improved armour and weapons to extra rockets. Scrap can also be generated over time by Waaagh! towers, and they themselves can be constructed out of scrap salvaged by Gretchins, the builder unit, along with vehicles.
It’s a lot to take in, but it boils down to a faction of units that are constantly finding ways to get stronger, making constant aggression is key. Always be roaming, destroying and salvaging. This does come with some risk. It’s tempting to look at Orks, with their large numbers, as disposable. But even the basic infantry, which at first just seem like fuel for the meat grinder, can become precious. By feeding them scrap and bolstering them with the psychic energy generated by the Waaagh! towers, even the simplest of green goons can become a powerful force.
Fighting the Orks, then, means denying them these boons. Take out their trucks so they can’t reinforce; destroy their towers so they can’t grow fat on that dark, enraged energy; and don’t give them time to root around for scrap. If it looks like they’re going for some, engage them, force them to fight before they can reach all that delicious rubbish. And if they run, unless you think they’re leading you into a trap, chase them. Don’t pull back to get some breathing room, because that half-dead unit might return moments later with new weapons, heavy armour, and at full strength.
Don’t run when they summon their ridiculous super ability, either. Roks, as you might infer from the name, brings down asteroids waiting in orbit, peppering the battlefield with rocky projectiles, culminating in the biggest rok of all being torn out of the heavens, smashing down and knocking back units, stunning and doing direct damage. Instead, go right for the centre of the devastation because that’s where the source of the traktor beam is. If you pick it up first, you can carry it away from the rest of your army. Even better, snatch it with a high-speed or flying vehicle and take it to the other end of the map.
Doctrines and Elites
While each faction’s roster generally defines what tactics suit them best, extra flexibility and specialisations are available by creating different combinations of doctrines and Elites – essentially, your loadout for that match.
Doctrines come in two flavours. Army doctrines are active for the whole match and generally give units new abilities. Improved Scream, for instance, gives the Eldar Howling Banshees the power to silence and blind foes when charging, while Close Quarter Combat lets Tactical Marines charge into confrontations, netting them increased melee damage and a critical strike. Each faction has their own set of doctrines that can be expanded by spending skulls earned from battle.
Elite doctrines are, not surprisingly, attached to Elite heroes and are split into presence and command doctrines. The former are applied when the specific Elite is on the battlefield, like Gorgutz’s Healin’ Waaagh! ability, which makes Waaagh! towers heal units. The latter is applied as long as the Elite is in your loadout and includes handy powers like Gabriel Angelos’ Slam Barrier which adds an extra effect to the Dreadnaught’s Slam ability, granting them a temporary barrier which absorbs and reflects enemy fire. Command doctrines can be unlocked when an Elite hits level 3, and at level 8 they can be unlocked as an army doctrine, available for use regardless of your Elite picks.
Different combinations of Elites and doctrines can give you a performance boost when dealing with particular factions and buff units that you find yourself using a lot. If you’re playing as the Space Marines and want to make your Tactical Marines more effective, particularly against the Eldar, you should consider the aforementioned Close Quarter Combat army doctrine, along with the Assault Terminator’s command doctrine, Frag Grenade. Using both, Tactical Marines will be able to make to make mincemeat out of the Eldar’s pesky ranged units, forcing them into melee fights that the scrawny space elves will inevitably lose, or knocking them down with grenades if they try to leg it.
The tone of a faction can dramatically change depending on your loadout. Take the Orks, normally an ultra-aggressive faction that, while complex, aren’t the most subtle of armies. If you deploy Weirdboy Zapnoggin’ – a glam rock frontman name if ever I’ve heard one – you can start playing a sneakier game. Ol’ Zapnoggin’ has a nifty teleportation ability that doubles as a convenient way to instantly transport troops to enemy positions. Any units near his original position can be teleported to his new location, surprising enemies and kicking off a rather bloody party.
Similarly, Orks can use their stealthy doctrine to hide underneath scraps that they might otherwise loot. Since the battlefield eventually becomes absolutely full of wrecks, there are plenty of places to hide, and thus plenty of potential ambush sites. Just send out a sacrificial lamb to draw some oblivious soldiers into your kill zone, and when they’re all inside, unleash some hidden heavy infantry.
Hopefully you’ll now be ready to confidently stride out onto the battlefield and start collecting skulls and taking names. But the most important thing to remember, aside from the platitude “Just have fun”, is to keep experimenting. With so many different combinations of line units, upgrades, Elites and doctrines for you to deal with, you’re never going to be prepared for everything. So remain flexible and try new things. Every Space Marine player starts out just wanting to field the indomitable Imperial Knight, so why not try something a bit different?