I don’t remember when that was, exactly, but I do know that when I first got to play Company of Heroes back in the day using my rickety old PC, I immediately got my behind handed to me by the enemy AI. What I do remember fondly about it is how much different it was compared to the usual RTS games of its time.
Fast forward to 2022, and I was fortunate enough to get a chance to play a hands-on preview of Company of Heroes 3, a game that was supposed to have been released already as of writing, but was instead moved to February 2023. Years later, the results of my trying the game out were still the same, but at least I got to appreciate the rest of the finer details that come along with it, adding a healthy dose of anticipation for its release in a few months.
Company of Heroes 3 Hands-on Preview
I’m not much on an RTS player myself, so having me try out a game like Company of Heroes 3 was probably not going to end well. It would be particularly interesting to see how the game can capture newbies like me into the fold.
During the playthrough, I got to try out two single-player campaign experiences – Italy and North Africa. One thing that’s immediately noticeable is the sense of how Relic Entertainment is putting a lot of effort not only in its detailed gameplay but also it its depiction of events and the accompanying narrative, both things that the series is known for and being continued here in Company of Heroes 3.
Make no mistake, however, Company of Heroes 3 is not a game that will hold your hand throughout its proceedings. Playing the game is very involved, and while there were a few tips given during the Gela mission in the Italian campaign, you’ll need to be about your wits to see yourself through.
You also get a sense of how realistic the game is, even as early as the Gela mission. One thing that the devs can play around with thanks to the technology we have today is with the movements and animations of your troops. Company of Heroes 3 looks great, and there is detail to be had even in the littlest of things such as taking cover, firing, and moving around the battlefield. I have a tendency to stop and stare while playing, which is certainly a bad habit for RTS games, but it gave me an appreciation of the details the developers went through for the game.
Speaking of stopping and staring, Company of Heroes 3 has a new feature called the Tactical Pause, which has become a favorite feature of mine. Activated by pressing spacebar, this gives the player much-needed time to think and plan out their next actions. While paused, you can issue a sequence of commands that will run on its own after unpausing, kind of like how a macro works, which is particularly helpful for players like me that are still learning the ropes.
In a game that has you controlling multiple squads and units, it is easy to get lost in all of the action, so Tactical Pause is a tool that really helps you get your bearings straight, whether it be for offensive or defensive purposes. While it can be said that it provides an unfair advantage, there’s always a choice of actually using it or not, and is really something that not only newbies can use for various purposes, but also for veteran RTS gamers as well.
One other key feature that I got to try out here is the Dynamic Campaign Map, zooming out from the on-ground action and placing you in charge of a high-level strategic affair that has you giving commands to your subordinates. While this is not your typical Company of Heroes mission, the theme still revolves around how well you commandeer your resources into success.
One thing of note is the existence of loyalty system, where one of the commanders at your disposal (Valenti, Buckram, Norton) will ask for a strategic option and depending on what you go for, will gain loyalty that will give access to more troops. It’s quite a refreshing feature, I must say, and while the finer details may be lost with someone like me, it’s great that Company of Heroes 3 offers such variety and playstyles that complement each other.
Because this is my first time to actually try out Company of Heroes 3, I have no previous experience to compare it to. Relic Entertainment mentioned that they made significant adjustments to the HUD and UI elements, so while I may not know first-hand what it was previously, the build I played seemed pretty solid and it is clear that the delay to 2023 is doing wonders for the reception of the game.
All in all, Company of Heroes 3 is looking to be like the most expansive and most ambitious title in the series for Relic Entertainment. This installment has been years in the making, and while fans may have to wait a bit longer, it looks like the wait will be all worth it.
Company of Heroes 3 is scheduled to release for the PC on February 23, 2023