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Feb 20, 2023

Company of Heroes 3 Review

Lights Off
4 Awesome
Retails for: $59.99
We Recommend: $59.99
  • Developer: Relic Entertainment
  • Publisher: SEGA
  • Genre: Action, Strategy
  • Released: Feb 23, 2023
  • Platform: Windows
  • Reviewed: Windows

Relic Entertainment has re-imagined and dominated the real-time strategy genre for twenty-five years now. Company of Heroes 3 is another great example of this innovation, as Relic gives the third entry of their RTS series with a whole new direction and drive. With the introduction of a dynamic campaign map where every decision and strategic element is left up to you, and the establishment of tactical pausing, there’s a deep and rewarding game that awaits you. Company of Heroes 3 is full of bright colors and dark tones, and Relic really pushes the series forward in several meaningful ways that is wholly exciting.

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The prologue mission that introduces you to the game its mechanics is easy compared to what you’ll be doing in the campaign, but it’s been a long time since there’s been a Company of Heroes game, so I appreciate the way Relic eases players in. After that’s completed, you’ll be presented with the entire game, able to jump into any mode you prefer. The singleplayer mode contains two campaigns, the Italian Campaign and North African Operation to tackle in any order you see fit. There’s four difficulties to select from: standard, tough, veteran, and fearless – each offers a confident challenge, regardless of skill level. There’s also a skirmish mode to play with any faction, on any map. You can even revisit the tutorial if you forgot a concept or wanted to do better.

The act of playing Company of Heroes 3 is centered around territory control and capture points. You’ll have to maintain three primary resources: manpower, fuel, and munitions. You can reinforce capture points to make them harder for the enemy to retake, and some points can be converted into aid stations to be used as checkpoints for reinforcements or a fallback position for your squads to retreat to. There are primary and secondary objectives, with most of them happening organically, or changing to fit the needs of the mission. It always keeps you on your toes, and really sets the tone.

The campaign is deep and varied, but other series and genre-staples appear here such as Multiplayer for 1v1, 2v2, 3v3, and 4v4 battles across 14 maps. Those same maps are also shared for the co-op to fight with or against AI, starting with 2v2, 3v3, and finally 4v4 skirmishes. There’s four factions to utilize in the online: US Forces, Wehrmacht, Afrikakorps, and British Forces. There’s even loadouts that you can setup your favorites for quick and easy deployments. Company of Heroes 3 is not short on modes or maps, but it’s day-one support for mods has excellent potential for the game’s longevity.

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Italian Campaign

Turn-based strategy in my real-time strategy series? Yes, and it’s an awesome sandbox to play in. The game does everything it needs to teach you all that you need to know, which works for all types of players. In a first for the series, there’s now a sprawling dynamic campaign map that is only available for this Mediterranean campaign. In a lot of ways, this is like how Total War: Warhammer III worked, but doesn’t operate like a 4X game. Company of Heroes 2: Ardennes Assault experimented with this a little bit, but is completely fleshed out here. This is less about reliving moments from World War II history, and more about having more control of said moments in history, allowing you to put your fingerprint onto them. This mode consists of macro and micromanagement, as you’ll have to command units big and small to various locations in order to liberate Italy from the Germans. You get one movement action, and how far you go is dependent on the type of unit you’re controlling – infantry units don’t go as far, whereas tank units can cover twice the distance. Then after a move, you can take one action such as initiating an attack. If this action results in combat, you get a preview of how things might go, with the option to auto-resolve, start the battle, or retreat (at a cost of health damage). Though there are times where auto-resolve isn’t available, and you have to fight. This is where the game switches to the real-time strategy mode, and seamlessly blends two different games into one enjoyable mash-up.

Upon starting the campaign, you’ll be asked to choose your campaign company: US Special Forces, US Airborne, and UK Indian Artillery. There’s no wrong choice, but it like the dynamic campaign is left up to you to choose, and how you want to play. Essentially it’s close range, anti-armor, and long-range bombardments, respectively. Along the way towards liberation, you’ll be capturing towns, fuel depots, and hospitals – each of which has their benefits. Looking at the overview map, you’ll be able to purchase new units from the barracks or the shipyard, and get them into positions. You can push multiple fronts, so long as you don’t spread yourself too thin in the process. Often you’ll have conversations with your chain of command, be given advice, and then have to act upon two or more choices, such as whether to bombard a nearby village or not in order to clear the enemy out. Some of the decision you choose might not be the best ones, but they are yours to make. This dovetails into the loyalty system. As you make decisions based on the choices presented to you, you will accrue loyalty for different commanders, which offer a different series of rewards. If you alter your choices at the behest of these commanders, loyalty can be lost alongside those rewards. It’s a really fascinating system that depending on the tree, will force players not necessarily down a path they wanted, but has the rewards they desired.

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North African Operation

This is where you’ll find your typical campaign with the traditional, linear, mission-based structure. Though Relic didn’t just leave it at that, this is a personal story, one “inspired by events” in the region of North Africa. While it doesn’t recreate events exactly as it happened, it does have a bit more gravitas, as you’ll get to know certain characters by name, and the struggles they endure throughout the eight missions. While it isn’t a dynamic, nearly endless liberation campaign, it has a lot of merits for its existence. You have the opportunity to turtle, and build up your armies before rushing headlong into combat. Early on, it also has you repairing broken down tanks and claiming them for your own, which feels scrappy and resourceful for these people, and it’s fun being in control of their journey.

You do have to consider some things like civilians and other freedom fighters, so completely sending tanks in is for the best, perhaps an infantry-based attack would have less casualties. I’m a bit disappointed you can’t replay missions you’ve just played as part of the North African Operation, but it does give incentive to replay the whole campaign just merely by trying out a different tactic or method.

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While it seems like a small change on the surface, the inclusion of the tactical pause here is a literal game changer. You can now coordinate multiple attacks, a series of long-ranged strikes, a smoke screen, and a flanking strike on a defended position all in one-fell swoop. It’s completely optional, but absolutely efficient at decimating the opposition.

When any given battle or skirmish is over, the end screens you get are much more than just “Victory!” or “You Win” text splashes. You now get combat performance details consisting of unit efficiency, who the MVP was, and XP earned. There’s also stats on your army, showing how many units you called in, how many kills there were, and more. This level of detail adds more flavor to the goings on, and gives you feedback of your performance you didn’t really get before.

The UI is a lot less clunky and way more functional this time around. Company of Heroes 3 ‘s HUD is a familiar one, but streamlined and a lot easier to understand. I enjoy the way that color accents are applied onto vehicles and units to quickly distinguish what side they’re on, if they’re controllable, and more. You never have to do any extraneous clicking in this game, and that’s an impressive quality of life feature for a real-time strategy game.

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The performance of this game is wonderful, as there’s never a framerate dip during intense battles or a high-amount of enemies and armor on-screen. In the campaign map, the game does hover just over 60fps for some reason. Thankfully when it’s time for the real-time combat, it was around 150fps on average. The Essence Engine 5 that Relic built is used to great effect here, not only looking good, but allowing for destruction of every single element of the map, from buildings to the ground, and vehicles. It’s really impressive, and auspicious to see these explosions take place, buildings crumble, and terrain be transformed. At launch, Company of Heroes 3 performs better than its predecessors did, and this care in having a smooth start is achieved.

My PC Specs:

– Microsoft Windows 11 Pro
– Intel Core i9 9900K @ 5Ghz (Turbo)
– Corsair H115i RGB PLATINUM 97 CFM Liquid CPU Cooler
– Corsair Vengeance RGB Pro 32 GB (2 x 16 GB) DDR4-3200 Memory
– Seagate FireCuda SSD (500GB)
– Seagate BarraCuda SSD (1TB + 2TB)
– OWC Aura P12 NVMe SSD (2TB)

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If you like the idea of grand armies and large battle maps, but found Total War: Warhammer III not to your liking, then the less intimidating Company of Heroes 3 might be up your alley instead. Relic has really branched out with this one, and while Company of Heroes 3 takes some creative liberties in the World War II stories it tells, they have an energy and heart in place of historical accuracy. Relic adding tactical pausing to Company of Heroes 3 isn’t blasphemous, it’s brilliant; Relic adding a dynamic campaign is not foolish, it is fantastic. There’s so much to love here, Company of Heroes 3 never stops giving for those who wanted more, and is a total victory for the real-time strategy genre.

A Steam code was provided in advance by the publisher for review purposes