My love for the unique Company of Heroes is aware of no bounds. Indeed I’ve gone as far as to name it the proper RTS, a mix of ways, cowl and terrain so meticulously-honed that for 17 years it has remained, undefeated, because the best instance of the style.
Even Company of Heroes’ personal sequel fell wanting the benchmark set by its predecessor, so after I discuss how good that sport was, I’m not fucking round. Indeed that disappointing sequel’s destiny gave me huge misgivings when a 3rd sport was introduced a few years again; if one successor pivoted barely from perfection and suffered because of this, certainly a 3rd would do the identical?
I’m right here to say that my misgivings have been for naught. This sport guidelines.
Company of Heroes succeeded as a result of it took concepts about cowl that Relic had realized from Dawn of War and—I’m sorry to maintain re-using the time period however I’ve to—perfected them. You didn’t simply have to fret about whether or not your infantry have been in cowl or not, however what sort of canopy. Your tanks have been extra susceptible from the perimeters and rear than the entrance, so that you needed to take care of them, not simply ship them blindly into the fray. And your armies have been all the time comparatively small, so each soldier was valuable, and also you needed to handle everybody’s placement meticulously.
It was principally an elaborate puzzle sport taking part in out on a diorama crawling with toy troopers. The complexity of the sport’s terrain, filled with hedgerows and villages and stone bridges, in addition to the alternatives they afforded for canopy and flanking made each single encounter with the enemy a problem you needed to resolve. Company of Heroes 2 went backwards with its boring storyline and fewer attention-grabbing maps, so it’s great seeing Company of Heroes 3 return to the collection’ roots, and as an alternative of attempting to iterate on perfection, iterate round it.
Company of Heroes 3 is aware of what labored so effectively in regards to the first sport and retains just about all of it. Those busy French villages have been changed with even busier Italian ones, cheery little British infantry changed with a contemporary set of cheery little British infantry. The core of the sport’s tactical expertise stays nearly untouched; cowl, going through, provide, capturing management factors, upgrading items, that is 2007’s sport replicated in 2023 to the purpose the place if you happen to’ve performed the unique you in all probability received’t even have to play this sport’s tutorial.
So why ought to Relic have bothered with a sequel in any respect? While its real-time techniques themselves are acquainted, all the pieces else round them has been up to date, for higher and worse. Company of Heroes was a linear marketing campaign that additionally had nice maps (and AI) for skirmishes and multiplayer. Company of Heroes 3 has each of these items, but in addition one thing else: the center of the sport is its dynamic singleplayer marketing campaign, set in the course of the Allied invasion of Italy in 1943.
Rather than simply marching you straight from mission to mission like the primary two video games (or this sport’s different marketing campaign, set in North Africa, extra on that later), the Italian marketing campaign has seemed over Creative Assembly’s shoulder and stolen Total War’s strategic gameplay, giving gamers a map of Italy and asking them to maneuver items round capturing cities and, after they stumble upon one another (or cities occupied by Germans), kicking off tactical battles.
Know that the implementation of this dynamic marketing campaign is woeful. Like, it’s barely purposeful. There’s an absence of crucial data, a great deal of bugs (a few of the with massive impacts in your marketing campaign, like my paratrooper firm that spawned underwater and couldn’t be moved), bizarre efficiency dips and the ever-present sensation that the entire thing feels prefer it’s about to fall over at any given second. It’s unhealthy! Honestly I’m shocked the sport is even releasing with such a seemingly necessary aspect on this poor state.
And but…I didn’t actually care that a lot? Which sounds absurd, that I can excuse one among this sport’s primary promoting factors as being essentially horrible, however the strategic layer is so superficially-implemented, and so poor that, in contrast to Total War, the way it works and the way you play it doesn’t have a significant influence in your tactical battles. And the tactical battles are—like I justified again with Company of Heroes 2 on the time—what I used to be right here for anyway. As damaged as it’s, the dynamic marketing campaign exists to serve the participant a succession of RTS engagements, it does that, and people RTS engagements are great.
The dynamic marketing campaign provides you two forms of real-time battles. The first are generated for you on the fly, each side spawned right into a random map with a random set of aims. Like the sport’s conventional skirmish mode, however in the course of a marketing campaign. These can typically be a little straightforward, however they’re nonetheless a blast—I performed skirmishes within the unique sport for years after I’d rinsed its campaigns—and so each likelihood I received to play one among these aspect missions I did, which I undoubtedly can’t say about Total War.
The different sort are the scripted missions, the meat of the marketing campaign, those centered on necessary historic occasions. Think the Anzio landings, or Monte Cassino (the place, if you happen to’re quick sufficient, you may change historical past and seize it earlier than it will get bombed into mud). It’s right here, on massive maps with various terrain and shifting aims, that Company of Heroes 3 actually shines.
A MATCH MADE IN HEAVEN
I can dismiss the marketing campaign map’s issues as a result of each second I wasn’t battling with its wonkiness, and was as an alternative at ground-level commanding my troops on the sector, I used to be in heaven. I couldn’t wait to begin one other RTS battle, then battle one other one, and one other. Company of Heroes 3’s tactical showdowns is perhaps even higher than the unique’s, as whereas the primary sport flourished within the Normandy countryside, the choice to maneuver the motion to the Mediterranean has proved a masterstroke. In Italy the collection has discovered a good higher match between setting and gameplay.
Company of Heroes 2 all the time felt bizarre as a result of it was attempting to be an intimate technique sport on the broadest, busiest battlefield in human historical past. Shifting the highlight to Italy has confirmed an inspiring selection. That entrance wasn’t settled with cataclysmic tank battles and massive advances. It was a dogfight, a methodical slog up the peninsula, with mountainous terrain and dense city centres the proper platform for a German defence that needed to be unseated utilizing the total weight of the Allies’ mixed arms operations.
That’s precisely how Relic has all the time wished you to play Company of Heroes. Not by speeding, however taking your time and utilizing each weapon at your disposal on the actual second it’s wanted. Inching your manner in the direction of Rome (the marketing campaign’s ultimate goal) includes preventing a collection of main battles that play out as a succession of fascinating little challenges. You transfer some infantry to cowl, you then flank with different infantry, and ah, now use a tank, then some artillery assist, and all the pieces working collectively manages to clear half a road. You’re taking part in chess, solely the items have chipper little accents.
There are missions on this sport that ask you to maneuver from city to village on the identical map, every settlement constructed upon wildly various ranges of terrain, with stone partitions and staircases and outdated church buildings and crooked little streets. The defenders are dug in so effectively, and the instruments at my disposal have been so huge, that I actually don’t suppose I’ve loved an RTS problem extra in my life. The style’s drained “rock paper scissors” engagement guidelines exit the window right here when it’s important to overcome an MG nest, sniper, anti-tank gun and infantry bunker all on the similar time, and all in the identical city sq..
Is it modern in a tactical sense? After all, it’s been 17 years because the first sport. And the reply is, probably not. It didn’t must be! The items and ways at your disposal are similar to these from the unique sport, so it’s not like Relic went and reinvented the wheel when it got here to the collection’ core gameplay. And why would they? Like I’ve stated repeatedly, it was already good. Now we simply get that perfection served up extra usually in a extra scenic location, in additional assorted and attention-grabbing methods.
The sport’s different singleplayer marketing campaign, set in North Africa, is an odd factor. The sport didn’t want it for longevity’s sake, because the Italian marketing campaign is large and could be replayed. It’s narrated by means of the attitude of Libyan Jews however has you taking part in because the Germans, quipping jaunty little one-liners as you blast your manner by means of the desert. And its missions are stingier, and nowhere close to as memorable because the Italian marketing campaign’s centrepiece battles. I’m probably not positive why it exists! It does function Australians although, which is good.
I can’t consider I had doubts about this sport. Sure, the dynamic marketing campaign is a damaged mess, however the truth I can so simply overlook one of many sport’s central pillars reveals simply how sturdy the others—largely its RTS engagements—are. On the battlefield itself that is nonetheless Company of Heroes, pretty much as good because it ever was and in some methods, even higher.
It could have taken 17 years and one disappointing sequel alongside the way in which, however Relic are to be counseled right here for by some means managing to take tactical perfection and redefining it not only for outdated veterans, however for a complete new technology of armchair generals as effectively.