the proof of the strategic. Italy is the protagonist

The SEGA Company of Heroes franchise, the work of the talented Relics, is preparing to regain its rightful place in the crowded RTS scene. With a surprise announcement, the third chapter of the successful strategic series was shown during a long livestream in which some of the features that will be present in the final version were revealed. If you thought the exit was around the corner you will be disappointed. The launch window, according to what was pointed out by the developers themselves during the presentation, is currently scheduled for a generic “late 2022”.

Still over a year of waiting, then. Nonetheless, the guys from Relic Entertainment didn’t leave us totally dry-mouthed: a trailer in computer graphics, a juicy taste of gameplay and the debut of the COH-development program (an unprecedented co-development approach that immediately involves the involvement of the community) were enough for us to save Company of Heroes 3 already in the favorites. Indeed, among the most anticipated RTS of next year.

It’s coming … Rome

In the beginning it was Normandy, a cold land lashed by the wind and currents of an inclement Atlantic. Then, the icy lands of the Eastern Front, with the children of the Holy Mother Russia first committed to repel the invader and, then, in a breathless advance to Berlin, to raise the flag of the Soviets on the roof of the Reichstag before the Western Allies . What was missing from the equation? Of course the southern front. The Mediterranean.

A huge theater of war never really explored by the franchise. Why did the team decide to consider this possibility? There are actually two reasons. On the one hand, it was the community itself and the selected game testers who warned Relic of the discontent for a possible return to the settings already seen. On the other hand, it was the developers who turned their attention towards an unprecedented cardinal point, for reasons of expediency. There geographic conformation of the Peninsula and North Africa allow a better balance between factions, in multiplayer, compared for example to the Pacific theater of war. Italy and North Africa, therefore.

The explosive reveal trailer, with a deliberately cinematic and all-encompassing cut, catapults us into a setting that is familiar to us: a typical village of the Amalfi coast. On the windows the royal tricolor has been replaced by the swastika, a sign that the Nazi occupation has begun and the Italian chain of command has imploded, leaving Italy in an ungovernable chaos.

A fighter partisan distracts a German soldier, favoring the infiltration of a US special unit, promptly joined by a British infantry corps. The video explodes into an orgy of explosions, close quarters and devastation. The coastal country is put to fire and sword by the allied offensive. The scene changes, immediately after the appearance of the logo. On the map, framed in the foreground, there is an unequivocal inscription, markedly circled: Tobruk. This can only mean one thing: the siege of the city of Tripolitania and the rise of the Desert Fox, Rommel.

A revealing trailer, our proof

As we said, some of the main features that will characterize the third chapter of the successful franchise have been deliberately included in the reveal trailer. Our test – and the words of the developers – have done nothing but confirm its presence. First of all, the factions.

For the first time, as commander in chief of allied operations in Italy, it will be possible to take command of two factions: the British and the Americans, combining in an unprecedented way the strengths of both armies (and obviously their most representative departments). Fully respecting the chaotic context that shook our country after the armistice, the development team has instead foreseen the presence of two opposite “affiliations” for the boot. On the one hand, the partisans, who will assist the Allies in the liberation process. On the other, particular departments of the now insubstantial royal army, remained loyal to the regime. Therefore it will be possible to find the Italians both among the Allies and among the Axis forces, while nothing is yet known about a possible “stand-alone” presence (perhaps in skirmishes).

Regarding the single player campaign, of which we were able to try a tiny part, it seems that the not too veiled intention of the team is to show your muscles right away, taking what good (indeed, excellent) was done in the first two chapters to enhance it dramatically (by the way, here you will find the review of Company of Heroes 2). The campaign will not be linear. This means that, as commander in chief of operations, the player will be able to fully manage his own strategy.

When we say “wholly”, we are referring not only to the simple power of life and death of one’s men on the battlefield, but also large-scale operations. The main and secondary missions will not be predefined but, in fact, dynamic and will appear depending on the evolution of the campaign and the player’s choices. It will go from the conquest of a small town to the silent murder of a high German officer and so on.

In short, it will always be the player who decides how to continue the war and on which specific objectives to focus his attention. In this sense, Relic Entertainment has decided to move away from its comfort zone and borrow the typical mechanics of strategic 4X turn based sandboxes and, above all, of the Total War neighbors. On the main map, which allows us to observe the entire war theater, it is in fact possible to plan one’s moves, exactly as if it were a game of chess.

The player, as we said, will have the right to choose the objectives, understand if and where to send the divisions to press the enemy and make him retreat, on which strategic points to turn his attention and what type of support to give to his troops. For example, in the mission of the Pomigliano airport outlet, we were able to pave the way for our units by requesting support from the cruiser at anchor which unleashed a firestorm on the German positions. Once the goal has been decided, it is possible to get into the heart of the action with the classic setting that we have learned about from previous Company of Heroes. For the occasion, however, it was revised, corrected … and dramatically enhanced.

Quick, recruit!

The unprecedented war theater allowed the developers to explore all new features and refine those that, instead, already characterized the playful experience of the previous episodes. On the main map we can take control and move two types of macro units: the Companies and Detachments. The first are those that can be exploited in battle while the Detachments can be used mainly as a support to the Companies.

To give you an example, always in the mission of the taking of Pomigliano, our Company engaged in the field was able to benefit from a bonus to the treatments because in the tactical map we were able to certify a medical detachment. In short, every single move in Company of Heroes 3 represents a small piece of a puzzle mammoth that the players will be asked to compose. On the battlefield, everything seems unchanged: long-time players will immediately feel at home, with the base camp to build, secondary objectives, supplies to acquire and so on.

The range of options is actually even wider than in the past, which left us a bit stunned at first, despite our experience. The keyboard novice generals, however, need not fear, because one of the most welcome novelties is the introduction of the Full Tactical Pause. An option very similar to stealth games like Shadow Tactics, so to speak. The break allows you to read the action calmly and give orders to all units, without fear of losing pieces along the way. This, however, is not the only novelty that we have been able to appreciate. Among the most significant ones seen so far there is the “breaching”, an unprecedented mechanic that allows the team to approach a building and flush out the enemies inside with some well-placed grenade, exactly as seen. in the trailer. Not only that: among other things, the cover system and the balance of the armor of the armored vehicles seem to have improved, which will react more consistently with the direction of the blow. Furthermore, the unprecedented scenario allowed the developers to indulge themselves, proposing an almost unlimited environmental destructibility and, above all, working on the verticality of the maps, making the knowledge of “True Sight” fundamental, that is the line of sight of the units.

In this sense, the strategic range will expand even more, since it will allow the player to have greater knowledge of the territory and guarantee the tactical advantage by conquering strategic points such as elevated areas. The intentions of the development team for the future are already quite clear. After the initial pre-alpha period ending in mid-August, the COH-development program will continue with new test sessions in which new features will be gradually introduced.

We talk about the North African campaign (which we will only be able to see next year), multiplayer and new factions and units, which they will need a lot of balancing work before they can actually be inserted into the finished product. To learn more about other aspects of the previous games, we leave you to the review of Company of Heroes 2 The Western Front Armies and to the review of Company of Heroes 2 Ardennes Assault.