Dawn of War 3 is well on its way to being polished off. At gamescom 2016 GameGrin had the chance to have a sit and a chinwag with Game Director Phillip Boulle about upcoming features, fan reaction and multiplayer content.
Dawn of War 3 seems like a mix of the previous titles - very much a 1+2=3 combination. To what extent do you think the new game stands on its own in the series?
I would say it’s entirely its own thing but we definitely have a heritage. We wanted to take a look at what we loved in the previous games and which aspects of them we could bring forward. There was a very long prototyping phase but one of the things we settled on early was that we wanted the big armies that Dawn of War 1 [featured] but build even bigger armies than that - it’s why we included the superwalkers, to up the scale. From Dawn of War 2 we wanted to bring the heroes and figure out how they could interact with these armies in an interesting way. It was one of the big design challenges but one of the most fun to overcome.
Does each race in the game have these hero units?
There’s a series of named characters and there’s some more hero units that are more like special squads like [Space Marine] terminators. The Eldar have their Farseer from Dawn of War 1 and she’s back, the Orks have Gorgutz, who also appeared in previous titles and there will also be a series of supporting characters, like Balthazaar, the master of the Blood Ravens fleet who acts as captain [sic] Angelos (and the player’s) guiding voice.
The gameplay at the show emphasises use of the Space Marines’ superweapons and their orbital bombardment - do the other races have similar superweapons?
Absolutely, they will have their own super abilities that shake the screen. They will be unique to each race, too of course. When somebody chooses to fire off one of these weapons we want it to be a game-changing moment and the centre of attention for all players on the field. For like 20-30 seconds we want people glued to their screens watching these abilities unfold. Even if you decide “I’m going to ignore it and try to do something on the other side of the map” it’s a conscious decision that will affect your strategy. We want to have moments that players will talk about afterwards.
One of the criticisms, or reservations, that have come from the fanbase is that the game is more colourful than previous titles - that it doesn’t capture the “grimdark” style of Warhammer 40k. What’s your response to that?
We chose this direction for a reason and our principal throughout has been clarity and player agency. As soon as we moved the camera [further out] we knew we would have to take a slightly different approach because the units need to pop out from the background art. When the camera is up close, like in Dawn of War 2, then you can have details like mud stains on armour and so on. It adds to the aesthetic. When you have a God’s eye view that stuff can turn into noise pretty quickly. I’m an old school 40k player and hobbyist and I will say that painting bright colours on Space Marine armour to make them stand out is not something that is alien to the hobby. It’s true that the levels we’ve shown have a bright palette compared to other areas in 40k, but it serves to highlight the gameplay and in the context of the larger campaign, where you will start in more traditional environments - the later levels serve a narrative purpose.
There’s more of an emphasis on the three races in this title, as opposed to just the Space Marines, with the player swapping perspectives throughout. Why is that?
The protagonists of each definitely have a story there, but the larger story is something that you see going through all their perspectives. In some ways it s a Game of Thrones approach, switching a point-of-view character with each chapter. When we started this was one of the lines in the sand. We always started with the Blood Ravens and then brought in equal campaign content for all playable races. I wanted to start with all three. I didn’t want this to be “Space Marines and their friends” or “Space Marines guest starring the Eldar and the Orks” we wanted all three faction to have playable value.
Dawn of War has been a driving force behind the background of the Blood Ravens - now a well-established part of 40k canon. Are we going to see a deeper exploration of their background?
We will see some more - the story is mostly about a new situation they have to deal with and where they are now. The game is picking them up some time after Dawn of War 2 as Gabriel Angelos has been chapter master for a while. The game will show the direction that the chapter is going in. There will always be secrets about the Blood Ravens - we don't want to reveal everything - but old school Dawn of War fans will have some pleasant surprises.
Dawn of War 1 and 2 expanded on the roster of races fairly quickly after initial release - will we be seeing something similar from Dawn of War 3?
Right now we’re focused on the three races that give us that really strong “gameplay triangle”. Narratively they fit together really well. We’ve always reached out to other races in expansions and I would love to do every race under the sun and give them justice. I very much hope that a few years from now we’ll be sitting down and talking about “the next exciting race we’re doing for Dawn of War”.
On multiplayer - are there going to be dedicated servers? Will there be support for ranks, prestige etc.?
We’re building off the back-end architecture that we developed for Company of Heroes so that whole system will be in place. We aim to launch with a robust multiplayer, the mode is an integral part of Dawn of War from the get go and it’s a reason people are still playing. We look at the story as something for players who have never played before or who haven't played in a while to sharpen their skills on and then the multiplayer is where they can test those skills. We’ll have a good support for those who want to be competitive with their Dawn of War multiplayer experience, too.
Thanks very much for speaking to us!