Company of Heroes 3 pre-alpha preview – Mountain Cuisine
A company of heroes has come a long way. The original entry of the improved series on the 40,000: dawn of formula in every way except one: some questionable DLC. Company of Heroes 2 promised the untold story of the Eastern Front, then regurgitated all the Nazi myths instead. The sequel also came with many DLCs which resulted in Assault on the Ardennes (loved by everyone except me). The ride was… bumpy. Then how Company of Heroes 3 rate ? We preview the pre-alpha.
This game is set in the Mediterranean theater, which is a quick way to say “North Africa and Italy”. But the pre-alpha only includes part of the dynamic Allied campaign that focuses on the push from Naples to Monte Cassino.
Walking on Italian soil
While the Battle of Monte Cassino and the Winter Line attacks in general involved 240,000 Allied troops, these are Company of Heroes 3 and not Division of heroes. As such, you will only be bypassing the companies on the command map. They are the masters of the show, accumulate experience, unlock units, have their own special abilities, and can initiate Real Time Strategy (RTS) battles. They are supported by detachments with no experience levels or unlocking.
The game features the M4A1 Sherman II molded hull tank for the British and I totally agree.
However, detachments can fight on the strategy map, use their own abilities, and add a bit of support when in range. For example, medical detachments can heal other units (and provide ambulance calls in RTS), while engineers can remove obstacles (an important task as demonstrated by the pre-alpha campaign). Company capabilities are more variable and more powerful, such as artillery companies that can engage enemies from a distance, or special forces companies disrupting enemy supply behind lines. Truly, there is a surprising amount of depth and mechanics at work on the strategy map.
Now, if a company attacks a special city occupied by enemy forces, you can even imagine a tailor-made scenario. It ranges from regular base-building battles with special maps and cool objectives (like stealing a German AA cannon to stop periodic strafing), to the crowd favorite “no base, just a handful of troops; I hope you are well. But if you run into an opposing company in the field, you might just be fighting in a skirmish battle (with fun objectives). This latest game tries to strike a balance between the real campaign we had in Company of Heroes 1 and the enhanced dynamic campaign of Assault on the Ardennes.
The anti-tank hedgehogs on the left aren’t just there for decoration… and there is also a minefield positioned between them.
The Company of Heroes 3 The pre-alpha campaign includes two types of British companies (armor and Indian artillery), as well as two American (paratroopers and special forces). Battles can play out very differently depending on the strengths you bring. Taking an airport and defending it against an armored counterattack (the first special battle you’ll encounter) is much easier if you’re British and supported by Archer tank destroyers. Fun fact: Archers only entered the public consciousness after being so ridiculous in Thunder. Taking advantage of Churchill heavy tanks is another huge advantage for British companies as opposed to American paratroopers who can at best garner support from Chaffees (who had not even been introduced at this point).
Battles also depend on unit experience. Companies unlock units, abilities, and skills by gaining experience on the campaign map. Skill and ability unlocks (which are there for RTS battles) also have mutually exclusive upgrades. Not all of them were available in pre-alpha, but there was enough of them to demonstrate why you don’t want to lose your armor company.
By the way, if a company whose health is not perfect on the strategy map engages in an RTS battle, you can expect to see infantry units with less than the total number of troops.
Finally, a decent blanket system
As far as actual battles go, well … that’s A company of heroes! There’s mic, there’s pinning, tanks apparently now have side armor value, US units have two upgrades to choose from when leveling up, and so on. Nothing devastating has happened, and there are some fun new things like units storming a garrison building to evict the inhabitants. The storming mechanic looks like a way to just kill enemy units and destroy the enemy stronghold while keeping the building intact (or I just didn’t see the evicted people leave), but it’s A problem of equilibrium.
With the infantry being more fragile than I would like, this could also be just one Company of Heroes 3 something that will change with user feedback, but we’ll see.
Quite certain that driving over fuel barrels now even damages the tanks.
Other than that, the only thing that makes people hot and bothered is the full tactical pause, which is a fancy way of saying that you can give orders to units while the game is paused. This only works in single player mode, so in that sense the only difference between that and the time controls in the or Total franchises is the end. There are special marks to show the commands during the break, and even a timeline recording them. All this to make it easier for you to formulate a plan. It’s nice in the sense that it reduces the microphones in solo because A company of heroes always had too many mic.
For me personally, this just shows that a continuous turn-based resolution system is the way to go. This is already the main way to play the Combat mission series, and there’s a good reason why Battle Galactica: dead end is mentioned in every review I write. It would be nice to see this type of “almost” realtime in an AAA multiplayer RTS, as it would make battles more about being the better commander rather than the faster clicker.
In all, Company of Heroes 3 pre-alpha looks and plays great for a pre-alpha version. Many artistic elements were missing, British units pose in T before firing rifle grenades and Coldstream Guards have the Soviet Guard icon of Company of Heroes 2, but… it’s a pre-alpha. These are things to be expected of him. But are they making me expect great things from the eventual full game? Yes.
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