Test your wits and outsmart opponents in Relic's latest installment. Read our review to find out what makes Company of Heroes 3 a thrilling real-time strategy game!
Outmaneuvering your opponents is still a thrill in Relic's newest installment, despite some minor issues.
For many long-time fans, Company of Heroes is a real-time strategy series that’s more about competing against others than completing single-player campaigns. We've spent hundreds upon hundreds of hours playing with and against other gamers rather than facing the AI's preprogrammed scenarios. Company of Heroes 3 is definitely an exception to the rule, with its single-player campaigns featuring a slow strategic map and lackluster storytelling. Thankfully, this doesn't carry over into multiplayer; rather than being bogged down in narrative quandaries we are able to truly appreciate what matters most: gameplay balance and faction mechanics. CoH3 has nailed every aspect here thanks to a robust selection of factions, responsive unit controls, as well as excellent stability during online play - making it one of the premier real-time strategy games out there right now.
Launched only a few days ago, this is the most eclectic, balanced, and reliable multiplayer game in our Company of Heroes series yet! Sure there are certain equilibrium dilemmas - like that M18 Hellcat being too resilient or those flamethrowers having an unfair advantage - but show me any Real-Time Strategy title with no imbalance at launch and I will prove you wrong. (And to be more specific: it'll be you who's lying; I shall just point my finger!)
Hardware and battlefield operations play a key role in Company of Heroes games, especially CoH3. The amount of time taken to move around, prepare, and set up before they can become dangerous adds an exciting twist and flavor to the game. Not only will players find counters and counter-plays like other RTS titles, but their effectiveness is determined by your deployment strategy as well as tactical maneuvers - not simply a rock-paper-scissors triangle. An anti-tank gun is effective in ambush or defensive tactics; however, a lightweight scout car can still outmaneuver the men operating it by simply outpacing them with flanking maneuvers since they are confined to only swiveling their shield so quickly.
The defining element of this series is the captivating combination of infantry and vehicular warfare.
This series stands out due to its innovative combination of infantry and vehicle combat. Even when there are a few units present, the battlefields appear busy with movement as every member of an infantry squad works together and takes shelter for protection. Plus, the animations are highly detailed which makes watching men vault over walls more realistic than ever before. It's no wonder that this series has become incredibly popular. Vehicles are unique with their own speeds and designs, requiring drivers to contend with the likes of turret rotation speed for tanks or turn radius for wheeled vehicles. To utilize a unit successfully or overcome it, one must comprehend how it moves, turns, and accelerates. The quality of animations and models (except in some areas) helps significantly in this regard though unfortunately, sound design lags behind what is expected from this series’ standard.
Without a doubt, the most notable grievance with Company of Heroes 3's multiplayer mode is its muffled audio. Granted, each sound effect on its own sounds amazing: like the thunderous boom when a shell hits a tank. Unfortunately, these effects are easily overshadowed by multiple weapons firing at once in battle - creating an odd auditory experience where different sounds overlap one another. Have you ever experienced your tank's engine starting and stopping inappropriately? It can be an annoyance, but sometimes the most critical sound cues such as those that alert you to incoming enemies outside of view will completely vanish in a hail of machine gun fire. The potentially catastrophic consequence of being unable to retreat in time has been a major issue since its inception. While many players still reminisce about the classic fog-of-war feature which enabled them to hear enemy vehicles, its absence in CoH3 is unfortunately noticeable due to their minimal engine noises. Nevertheless, fights appear faster-paced than ever before and have improved with each iteration of this game series. The equilibrium between damage and time-to-kill for units is far better than it used to be, giving value to both instant reactions as well as the probability of a squad being eliminated before you can do anything about it. For example, infantry squads generally have more defense from explosions while retreating so they can escape bombarding with at least one or two members alive (saving their important experience/veteran level).
Through thoughtful balancing tweaks, the stages of battle become extended and more intricate. Infantry and light vehicle combat can last much longer before progressing to medium vehicles, crew weapons, and tanks becoming the deciding factor in a match's outcome. This is largely due to each faction's distinct design that allows players to focus on their preference from between tanking infantry support or weaponry. Unlike Company of Heroes 2 which was unable to provide certain playstyles thanks limited resources, it is now possible for every side with only few exceptions.
Not only is elevation over enemies a privilege, but it's also seen as an added bonus.
CoH3 offers an exciting range of weapons to help you during battles. The series long-established practice of garrisoning troops in buildings for defensive reasons is taken a step further - some infantry units now have the capability to attack and occupy such structures, driving out enemies who are using them as strongholds. Height also has extra significance here; where before color-coded cover used to mean something different, elevation over opponents can weaken or render their protection useless. In the past, a stone wall may have shielded your troops from machine gun fire; however, if that same MG is firing from high ground in an elevated position like a house on top of a hill, it renders such walls practically useless.
Tactical mobility has been greatly improved, as utility vehicles can now transport field guns while infantry has the opportunity to travel on certain tanks. This is not just a small element of realism; it's an advantageous choice that allows heavy mortars to do significantly more work offensively and anti-tank guns to maneuver into recently taken locations rapidly in order to protect against retaliations.
Despite all the impressive features, there are still a few minor problems with the game's mechanics. For instance, class distinctions and counter-systems can cause some confusing outcomes; open-topped vehicles react to flamethrowers in an unexpected manner and you will find jeeps and half-track gunners firing away happily even when surrounded by fire. Had you known the capabilities of WW2 equipment beforehand, you would have realized that your Wirbelwind Flak panzer is unable to damage medium armor despite its convincing gun sound. This matter could have been nipped in the bud if an improved interface and clear unit descriptions were available.
This is one of the most entertaining and creative map designs I've experienced in a real-time strategy game.
Thankfully, the map design of Italy and North Africa is remarkable. With its open fields combined with narrow winding city streets for urban combat; this battleground offers some of the most exhilarating RTS experiences I have had in a while. No matter how interesting an army's soldiers are or how dynamic its battlefields may be if those areas lack creativity -- none of it matters at all! So thank goodness that here we don't need to worry about being bored stiff. Envision the Italian maps, dotted with rolling hills perfect for tank warfare. However, a large portion of this map is made up of cramped alleyways and small villages which will require intense urban combat to capture. You can never truly feel at ease in this situation because any moment enemies could flank you from behind or cut off your advanced forces’ income source by surprise. This type of strategic paranoia creates some of the best battles.
Additionally, there is a refreshing absence of the typical monotonous maps with singular chokepoints that prolonged matches in earlier games - for which we can be thankful. Instead, players have access to an exciting variety of maps that are suitable for short 30-40 minute matches. That being said, intense 4v4 battles may potentially last up to 60 minutes.
I am deeply impressed by the extensive lineup of units with a special emphasis on gear from earlier parts of the war, so you can play with less-seen tanks and equipment. Each faction – Wehrmacht for Axis, British, and Americans for Allies– has three distinct sub specializations referred to as battlegroups that let you buy exclusive abilities, upgrades, or particular units which fit your own style within each faction.
As allies, the Americans offer a much more flexible approach compared to the British who possess a simpler yet more rigid stance. With three options - air support, mechanized and infantry abilities - available in addition to building orders for units and structures; each match as Americans supply an array of possibilities that offers you the enthralling experience of being at the front line of western power's industrial heart.
Each game the Americans play presents a world of potential.
The British are a great faction for beginners to learn, as opposed to other factions that have more complicated mechanics. Their core units are all good at their job without fail and they can specialize in different areas such as artillery/infantry, air and sea power, or armored force. However, unlike the other factions which get special abilities when their units level up called 'veterancy', the British don't have much incentive to keep them alive over simple stat boosts.
By contrast, the Axis forces are made up of two distinct factions. The Afrikakorps (DAK) is by far the most fleet-footed and versatile force, capable of summoning half-tracks carrying foot soldiers and artillery pieces as base abilities. In exchange for their mobility, however, they must be cautious with their resources so that none are wasted; any new units acquired require them to construct costly buildings or upgrades. For DAK players, the secret to success lies in executing their own strategy rather than copying what opponents are doing. Any misjudgment could cost you dearly as your unit of choice might take a while before it appears on the battlefield if bought at an inconvenient time.
Finally, the Wehrmacht is a slow-moving yet adaptive and defensive army. The most fascinating feature lies in their ability to switch between an aggressive strategy of close-range Panzer grenadiers or a more reactive approach with tank-hunting Jager's based on whatever their foe is doing. This one noteworthy choice keeps each match both fresh and unpredictable for this powerful German faction.
As I observe it, one of the drawbacks of faction design is that some weapons systems appear in games that are based on historical events, yet never actually saw battle or were even completed. The Sherman Whizzbang tank and Churchill Black Prince for example – despite being featured in such a historically accurate game about WW2's North African and Italian theater – were neither utilized nor finalized respectively. This inconsistency bothers me to no end as these anachronisms seem out of place amid all the cool history featured in this game. These are only a few examples, but it seems like these additions were mostly to fulfill market needs for more powerful toys instead of creating genuine designs that aligned with the specific constraints of the momentous period when warfare was at its peak.
Off The Battlefield
Unlike single-player, the framework for anything that isn't a game is practically empty, and some user interfaces and issues are actually counteracting CoH3's ambition to become an RTS with competitive potential. These range from simple features like the absence of a replay system – necessary for players who want to understand why they won or lost. Not only this, but broad stat tracking is non-existent. Have I played many matches? Did I win or lose them all? What's my ELO or MMR rating? After the game reports exist, yet they are limited – merely showing infantry and vehicles, not the team weapons used to wield success. These stats get further muddled by "damage dealt" metrics that don't accurately reflect totals for units or players.
Furthermore, there are several in-game issues when playing with a team. It can be difficult to differentiate which teammate owns what unit, particularly if you’re competing against two opponents. You have the option of switching from Team Colors and Player Colors yet these colors aren't arranged by any specific type or harmonized with each other for easy recognition. Rather than using warm colors for allies and cold tones to represent adversaries like Relic did with Company of Heroes 2, your supporters can be pink or red while opponents are orange; meanwhile you're blue and an enemy is green.
One irritating issue is that tooltips for your battlegroup abilities don't show the cost of the unit or thing you're unlocking. How are we expected to know if it's worth purchasing at this very moment without being aware of its price?
Despite all of its flaws, this game is undeniably enjoyable when played with friends!
Company of Heroes 3 may be lacking in bells and whistles compared to other real-time strategy games in 2023, but its core experience is what truly matters. What I'm trying to say here is that CoH3 has a special quality where utilizing your units to outsmart the enemy requires more than just memorizing the metagame; it also requires thoughtfulness and cunning. I am sure that playing Company of Heroes 3 multiplayer will be a major part in my leisure time for many years to come due to its captivating army design, great maps, and classic real-time strategy mechanics.