Some of you may know me; I was one of DoW3's fiercest defenders (albeit critical and harsh at times), defending Relic in the trenches of the forums, even assuring the community that surely a Chaos/Necron DLC expansion is just around the corner - there's no way Relic would release this sparse content and call it quits?
But Low, that's what we got.
DoW3 Could've been a great game in it;s own right, imo. But the biggest disaster is the concerning lack project management on the goals-end. In Systems Engineering, we say "Did we develop the correct product?" rather than "Did we develop the product correctly?" It seems to me Relic is guilty of the ladder - sure DoW3 was a quality game in and of itself, technically refreshing to play compared to DoW2/CoH2; however, it missed the mark when it came to an appropaite Dawn of War game, or even sequel.
Right off the start ill portents loomed with DoW3's E3 gameplay reveal trailer w/ the Gabriel Angelos mission. Relic was so busy making the game they came up with good that they didn't realize the foundation of that the game was built off of and gave us something like a straw house on a steel floor. An enormous amount of people did not like the "cartoony" or "SC2-like" graphics. And while an amazingly gorgeous game - in it's own right - it, missed the mark. DoW1 & 2, hell - all of 40k - is all about that "Photo-realism" art style. To make it as realistic at possible so that all the bombastic gritty and grimness can immerse you in the dark fantasy. And make no mistake, like any fantasy, there are certain unwritten rules the community at large have large agreed on - and one is a fondness for what "looks" 40k. This trend is why people love The Lord Inquisitor movie (only a prologue out) that will probably never get made any time soon. It's why people love the sound of autocannons and Space Marines yelling and creaming at the top of their lungs some log-winded inspirational morale booster quote, garbled through vox comms and corny as it may be. Thus, DoW3's shift toward a more conventional graphics style started to alienate fans - imagine if Battlefield started to become more like Call of Duty.
Additionally, the bits and doo-dads on the battlefield were trimmed down in DoW3 (e.g. no cover) in favor of power core mode. Why Relic decided to shift into this direction for DoW3 I can only speculate - but it clearly had huge, fundamental gameplay impacts that separated it from the previous DoW's further. Details like economy escalation phases, Elite points, Commander/Elites themselves, and power-income system were all changed significantly. Instead of choosing an identity in either 1 or 2, Relic chose to try to "marry to two" iirc, but beyond did not merge their chosen traits well at all. Sure, loads of line-infantry had abilities to use, and all Elites had killer abilities that could slaughter your forces in a blink if you weren't too careful - trying to imitate DoW2's emphasis on all units having important abilities to activate at appropriate times (one of it's core gameplay traits). On the other hand, the escalation phases, listening posts, and overall large economy meant you were constantly building or reinforcing stuff, giving it a DoW1 macro-style feel. However, these two combined meant that you had large numbers if infantry marching about, all with individual squad abilities (that were often too strong or too weak), while at the same time facing off vs Elites who have even stronger and faster abilities, so you're trying to macro and build and move and get your stuff off while at the same time fighting and dodging the enemies' similar stuff flying your way. You can see how this hectic gameplay can quickly get out of control for the average player - meaning it was often very likely that both players would lose large portions of their line infantry, making it hard to keep them alive if you wanted to use them effectively. A perfect storm of an imbalanced fiasco combined with the aforementioned pr nightmare of marking to what DoW3 "should've been," started to seal DoW3's fate.
And while Relic made some real improvements to the game before it's abandonment, it's clear that the game should never have been like this in this first place. Sure, everyone may have a different idea about what the "perfect DoW3 should've been," but I don't think it's wrong to fault the concept that there is some ideal game out there to rally the community as its champion. This idea can be thought of as "the perfect Dawn of War game - one that was not bound my time or resources." Imagine a cinematic-level graphics with amazing fight animations and blood-curdling cries around for DoW. Ya - a pipe dream, but you get the point. Ultimately, it's up to the developers, the producer, to meet the needs and desires of their audience, or consumer. This idea is what I meant by "Did we develop the correct system?" It's not that you can make the system run and that's what good. The goal is to find out WHY the system is being made, consider all stakeholders' interests, at all levels (like the community's interests), and satisfying the requirements of those stakeholders.
I think in the Rush to make DoW3, a game SEGA/Relic knew would sell on the name alone, a deadline was set, Relic, being the not-as-well-funded-as-we'd-like RTS developers they are, had a budget and set of to make DoW3 in ~3 years. IIRC, DoW3 was intitaly brainstormed before THQ went under, then revived after SEGA. Bought in 2013, we know Relic focused on CoH2 quite a bit (I would know, I was there playing CoH2 on release) for a long time. As a long time contributor and purveyor of Relic game news, It would seem that maybe Relic started to initiate DoW3 project in 2015. I would be surprised if Relic, who were working quite a bit on CoH2 expansions and DLC, had the resources to devote anything more to DoW3 beyond brainstorming before that point, but who knows. Regardless, seeing how DoW3 came out in 2017, that gives 2-3 years total time. Let's say they fully planned out the DoW3 project and the game in !6 months and then started actual development, leaving 1.5-2.5 years of actual development time. In any case, it seems like a woefully small time alloted to the squeal of the most beloved 40k video game franchise - nevermind the fact that they priced a full $60.00 with a game that released with the smallest amount of content in the history of DoW2.
A perfect storm of un-evaluated expectations, business deadlines, pr nightmare, and the roughest release in DoW history killed the game, in hindsight. For example, if DoW3 released with, say, 5 races - we may yet be seeing a Dawn of War future alive. To note, I don't think DoW3's gameplay was the unsalvageable garbage the haters say, but it needed work like any new game.
All in all, this game reeks of "here's a deadline, go make some money" by who-ever greenlighted DoW3. And in Relic's haste to make a game, they forgot to have the needed creative vision, the essence of what makes Dawn of War, and 40k, great. While this idea can be hard to encapsulate into a checkbox, it is nonetheless necessary for a successful sequel. If DoW3 was released but in another IP, I think it would've been received far differently than being judged as a Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War game. I sincerely hope Relic - or any 40k developer - concentrates hard on what their audience wants; as has been seen in CoH/DoW, we are OK with technically unpolished games so long as they capture that spark we all felt when experiencing our first pitched-battles.