Reviews - Updated on March 31, 2022

New Company of Heroes releases are rarer than leap year comes and another Donna Tartt novel is published. The first part of the military strategy from the Relic studio was born back in 2006, the second – in 2013, and the “pre-alpha” of the third was rolled out just now. But long breaks are not associated with a radical revision of the gameplay. It’s just that Canadian developers have other worries: either they blush from the failures of Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War III, or turn pale from the warm, friendly looks of Russian gamers who appreciated the plot of the second “Company of Heroes”. What emotions will the third issue of the series add and should we expect revelations from it?

theater of war

The game takes place on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea during World War II. More precisely, in the period between Operation Husky in the summer of 1943, when Anglo-American troops landed on the island of Sicily and liberated it from the Nazis, and in the autumn of that year – with battles on the Apennine “boot” itself. The situation there was dramatic: having failed in Africa and having lost significant forces in the battles for Stalingrad, dictator Benito Mussolini lost the support of his own party and was removed from power. But Germany had other plans. The Germans invaded Italy, occupied it and formally returned the reins of government to Mussolini, establishing the puppet Republic of Salo. And between the south of the country, where the allies deployed their activities, and the north, controlled by the Wehrmacht, fortified defense lines arose. It was this barrier that the soldiers of the United States, Canada and the British Empire had to overcome in order to reach Rome.

The pre-alpha scenario of Company of Heroes 3 just shows the height of the Italian campaign. The Allies already own Sicily and have occupied the birthplace of baby rattles – the city of Taranto on the “heels” of the Apennine Peninsula. Now they have to liberate Naples, drive the Germans out of the surrounding provinces and move north to Monte Cassino, from where a direct road to Rome opens. This is what the game offers us to do. It is known that Africa will also appear in the final version, where General Erwin Rommel, nicknamed the Desert Fox, distinguished himself. But now only the trailer hints at these events – the battles for Tobruk and El Alamein will have to wait for strategy fans.

Company of Heroes 3: Alpha Preview

There is no Russian localization yet, so people who do not understand English well will miss most of the plot. But the meaning of the tasks is clear and so.

The developers have chosen not the most hackneyed period in the history of the war. This is not the Pacific Ocean with retaliation for Pearl Harbor, not the landing in Normandy with the rescue of Private Ryan, and not the Eastern Front with infernal commissars and detachments. The Italian campaign itself can be found in strategies – just remember Hearts of Iron IV. But shooting at the Fritz against the backdrop of puffing Vesuvius is really rare indeed. Such an original idea was thrown to Relic Entertainment employees by fans of their work. The studio used the Games2Gether platform to learn from the experience of colleagues from Amplitude and try to do something together with ordinary gamers. Given the not the best period in the work of Canadians, the step is quite justified, especially since Relic and Amplitude are now under the wing of Sega – it is easier for them to exchange technologies. And the founder of Amplitude, Romain de Waubert, is not ashamed to personally present the new product at G2G.

Strategy and tactics

Unlike the previous game in the series, Company of Heroes 3 consists of two balanced aspects, strategic and tactical. There is a global map where you can plan operations, complete command tasks, capture territories, receive reinforcements, bomb the enemy from the sea and air, and at the same time spend your experience on improving troops. Something similar was also offered by the Ardennes Assault add-on for CoH2, but there were simple contour maps with arrows in the spirit of Paradox, but here everything is brighter, more visual, more dynamic – somewhat reminiscent of Total War. Unit figures move through the terrain with houses, mountains, forests, roads, rivers and bridges, spending action points. Opponents are marked with exactly the same soldiers – they act at the behest of artificial intelligence when their turn comes. At the same time, objects are subject to change. For example, according to the plot, the Nazis destroy bridges leading to the north of the country, which is shown to us with all the effects required in such cases.

The main scenario begins with the capture of the Pomigliano airfield, from where the Germans make raids on Naples, and develops to the north, where it is necessary to prepare an assault on Montecassino and defeat the insidious General Taube. To reach the goal, you must choose one of the three armies – British, American or mixed. Each option has its own advantages. Let’s say the British get good Indian artillery and two ships at once, whereas if you choose the US, you will have one. And in addition to the main missions, the partisans offer you from time to time to take on secondary ones: either to eliminate an enemy officer, or to seize a hospital, or to help the partisans escape from the encirclement, or to free Avellino, the homeland of the Soprano family from the television series of the same name. Such assignments bring experience and allow companies to be strengthened before serious trials.

Company of Heroes 3: Alpha Preview

As a result of pumping, a company can acquire new units, as well as passive and active skills.

But what about the usual real-time combat in Company of Heroes? They have not gone away, but not every operation on the global map leads to them. Sometimes the assault on a settlement ends simply, as in “Civilization”: they brought a company, bombed it, occupied the city – that’s all. However, encounters at key points trigger tactical mode. A location opens up where you have to separately manage each squad and a model of equipment, use shelters and develop the base according to the classic rules of the genre – with the construction of buildings and the hiring of new units. Resources such as fuel and ammunition, which can be obtained by capturing control points in the location, help prepare the attack. There are also points awarded for successful actions and allowing you to strengthen the army. In other words, you can’t sit still – you need to constantly move forward, capture territory, use the strengths of the fighters to inflict more damage on the enemy, and get by with little blood yourself.

In addition, the RTS mode offers a couple of innovations. First, it is a tactical pause triggered by pressing the space bar. During a break, you can plan actions, issue orders, order reinforcements at the base – in a word, do something that you don’t really want to be distracted by during an active battle. Of course, the pause makes sense only when going through the story campaign – it will not be in the multiplayer of the final version.

The second innovation is the assault and defense of buildings. Company of Heroes 3 is replete with city battles, so here the soldiers got the opportunity not only to burn out the hiding enemies with flamethrowers, but to capture the building without destroying the walls. On the other hand, opponents who need to occupy the building you have chosen can do the same with your brave foot soldiers. However, many things still work: for example, armored vehicles still rule the ball – even on the streets, where vehicles are supposedly especially vulnerable.

Despite the “pre-alpha” stage, the game generates interesting situations. In the very first mission to capture the Pomigliano airfield, I was able to partially repeat the plot of the film “Fury”: at the cost of several tanks, I destroyed mortar and artillery crews of the Germans, and then, on the last armored vehicle, desperately maneuvering behind fences, began to shoot enemy infantry. I had to hold out until reinforcements arrived from the base, but it turned out that I held out almost until the end of the mission. When help arrived at the barely alive tank, all that remained was to occupy the control tower, knock out a couple of “tigers” and receive a reward for success – the main enemy forces had already been eliminated. It will be great if at the time of the release of the third “Company of Heroes” there will be more such moments.

Company of Heroes 3: Alpha Preview

The story in the spirit of “Rage” was repeated in the task about partisans in an ambush. Left without infantry support, the Crusader medium tank shot down all the Germans in the alleys of a quiet Italian town.

It is also interesting to see how events on the map and in RTS battles are connected. You can weaken the enemies ahead of time by firing at their positions from the destroyer or dropping an aerial bomb on them. From the global to the local level, you are transferred exactly with the company that you hired and brought to the enemy, whether it be a tank unit, artillery or motorized infantry, and get unique advantages associated with this type of troops. A significant role is played by support located close to the main forces, for example, a medical battalion. That is, each new battle is somewhat different from the previous one. And who has little variety in the story campaign, he is free to try skirmish matches – individual fights outside the plot. So far, they cannot be configured, but, apparently, in the release version there will be a choice of the side of the conflict, the map and victory conditions, such as capturing control points or destroying the enemy base.

Is the revolution cancelled?

Given the status of “pre-alpha”, the game is still far from perfect. The destructibility of the environment, on which the developers rested, is framed somehow: a tank, for example, now knocks down an obstacle, then passes through it, like a ghost through a gravestone. At the same time, armored vehicles still do not know how to crush enemies – if you give the order to a car to run into soldiers, it will begin to fidget in place, as if there are not people ahead, but a wall. Seriously, Relic, back in Dune II I used to squash enemies with a harvester.

Other imperfections are also noticeable. Either the icon is not drawn, then a pink cube is displayed instead of a unit, then a fighter looks in one direction and shoots in another. The auto-route selection is not particularly pleasing either: it seems that it ignores elevation changes – and as a result, the squad lays an extra hook along some ditch, and even in the line of fire. To conserve manpower, you have to closely engage in microcontrol. At the same time, it is impossible not to note the new animations, like a slide when running for cover – they look great.

Company of Heroes 3: Alpha Preview

Welcome to the prealfa, new fish.

Most of the technical flaws, of course, will be fixed by the full release in 2022, so there is no point in dwelling on them in more detail. The problem is different: the game in its current form is nothing to surprise. Almost all the innovations of Company of Heroes 3 have already met somewhere. Transitions from the global map to local battles are reminiscent of the Total War series, if diplomacy, politics and urban development were thrown out of it. The use of ships and aircraft is not much different from what we saw in the fifth and sixth “Civilization”. And many interesting solutions migrated straight from the second “Company of Heroes” – such as the ability to pick up abandoned weapons on the battlefield. But, frankly speaking, this does not lead to a revolution and does not justify the seven-year lull before the “prealpha” show.

Nevertheless, the staff of the Canadian studio did an excellent job of improving the aesthetic part of the strategy – it looks and sounds better than its predecessor. If there was all dullness and dirt, in some places diluted with patches of snow, then here the world is much more colorful. The southern sun illuminates olive groves, vineyards and houses of pleasant colors, in between cannonades one can hear the curses of English infantrymen and trills of birds – in such an environment it is pleasant to fight. And destruction, when it works properly, makes the right impression. So there is a chance that players will like Company of Heroes 3. The only question is what exactly will win the hearts of fans of the genre – beauty or still thoughtful and original gameplay.

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