Company of Heroes 3 Preview: Just Keeps Giving

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With the biggest gap between the last Company of Heroes game, Company of Heroes 3 was the most exciting one to play yet. CGMagazine was able to check out the game in its early preview days around Gamescom 2022. However, CGMagazine was able to have a chat with the Executive Producer for the game at Relic Entertainment, Steve Mele—who delved deeper into the improvements and additions they have made since. They also explained why the game was delayed from a November 2022 release to February 2023.

One of the biggest additions Mele pointed to was Company of Heroes 3’s HUD, and UI was fully present and optimized for gameplay. As someone who dabbled in turned-based strategy games like X-Com and Total War, I was completely out of my elements in terms of the real-time management of building and managing units. The closest thing I played to RTS games was the Halo Wars games. Regardless, this was one of the most fun new experiences ever because the HUD was easy to understand, and the tutorial was thorough.

Another significant addition was the countless possibilities that physical-based rendering (PBR) allowed to evolve the combat situations in-game. Mele explained, “PBR is kind of like when you look at buildings you can peel away layers of the plaster, revealing the bricks beneath and then also the physics to destroy buildings.” I was able to see these physics in full use when I drove tanks through buildings in both the Italian and North African campaigns—along with structures in the multiplayer mode.

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I really enjoyed the upgraded U.S. engineers with their versatile flamethrowers. It gave them a big advantage for lighting enemy infantry on fire and pushing them back. Additionally, the flamethrowers could be used to clear bushes or trees, eliminating cover the enemy could use or is using.

I felt the AI difficulty in multiplayer battles was brutal for Company of Heroes 3. While Relic recommended setting them to Standard, they were very aggressive, super efficient, and fast at scaling up units and resources. But I attributed this to me not being used to the pace of RTS games. Practice makes perfect was not just a trivial sentiment!

One of the best things I heard from the preview presentation was that the Company of Heroes 3 Essence Editor and modding tool set would be available from day one. With Essence Engine 5, Relic said it would enable creators and players to let their imaginations run wild. They stated that full Steam workshop support is also expected to be available from launch.

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The big question or concern fans of Company of Heroes recently had been why Relic decided to delay the third installment’s release from November 2022 to February 2023. They noted how this would be their biggest Company of Heroes game to date and heard through player and internal feedback that the game was “not quite where it needed to be for a launch in November 2022.”

They explained that a lot of their pre-launch focus was heavy on four factors: improvements to the RTS and Campaign Map UI, balance tuning, general bug fixing, and art and lighting improvements. However, they ensured that nothing major would change—like new features, factions or other significant gameplay additions. After playing this build for many hours, I only found some arguments for the balance tuning, but everything else seemed like it was solidly established.

Even with the delay, I felt like the game was something I would consider finished for the most part. Sure, the AI and other balance changes could use some fine-tuning. They also still stated how the North African operation cutscenes and scenarios needed to be finalized. One aspect I hope to see completed by launch was a full menu, which could include all the game modes, a cosmetic store (maybe) and a settings tab to customize controls and other common game options.

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With everything I saw at what could be the last preview for Company of Heroes 3, I was very impressed with almost every aspect of the game having a lot of replayability factors. The multiplayer experience was not laggy in PvP, but this experience was without millions of players flooding servers. I guess time will tell as Company of Heroes 3’s new planned worldwide launch date is Thursday, February 23, 2023.

“With everything I saw at what could be the last preview for Company of Heroes 3, I was very impressed with almost every aspect of the game…”

If you are still on the fence as a Company of Heroes fan who loved the original franchise games so far, Mele ensured that their foundational approach to Company of Heroes 3 was always what it has been: “So, step one is making sure the spirit of Company of Heroes is there, giving players what they want and what they expect from that in our franchise, the strict strategy, all of that is the foundation of everything. But then, on top of that, is the [option of] playing it your way and giving players a chance to do all the options that we’ve provided.”

There were some statistics of how immense the options in Company of Heroes 3 are in comparison to Company of Heroes 2. First of all, Company of Heroes 3 will be introducing the modding toolset, a replayable campaign map and a full tactical pause. Company of Heroes 3 has two campaigns compared to Company of Heroes s’s one campaign, and Company of Heroes 3 has 14 multiplayer maps to CoH 2’s 13 multiplayer maps.

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The average campaign playtime in CoH 2 was about 15 hours, whereas CoH 3 has over 40 hours of whopping campaign time; CoH 2 had 22 maps combined with Single Player and Multiplayer, CoH 3 will have 52 total maps; and CoH 2 had 14 unique campaign missions versus CoH 3 going to have upwards of 49, with eight exclusive skirmishes.

CoH 2 had two initial factions to play (Soviet Union and Wehrmact), whereas CoH 3 will have twice the amount at launch with four (British Forces, Wehrmacht, US Forces and Afrika Korps). The largest and most insane disparity was in the total playable units: CoH 2 had 42 playable units versus CoH 3’s 120 playable units players can experiment with at launch. This truly will be the biggest Company of Heroes to date for Relic.

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