Key art containing a trio of soldiers

Company of Heroes 3 Review

Company of Heroes 3 Review

need to know

what is it? A WW2 RTS with two campaigns, one of which is turn-based.

Expect to pay: £50/$60

release date: February 23

Developer: Heritage entertainment

Publisher: Sega

commented on: RTX 3080 Ti, Intel i7-8086K, 16GB RAM

multiplayer game? Yes

Association: Official Website(opens in a new tab)

WWII is always there, from school history lessons to movie epics – even when we’re looking for some escapist video games, it’s there, letting us replay the D-Day landings or the Battle of Stalingrad, with blaring guns The sound is deafening and the tank explodes. For Company of Heroes 3, however, Relic takes us farther south, to the vineyards of Italy and the deserts of North Africa. A lot has changed since the first few games, and the studio’s ambition and desire to experiment has only grown. It’s new, but it’s not the novelty that impresses me the most.

Company of Heroes 3 is a beastly game with two campaigns and four factions. Its proportions are befitting of this devastating large-scale conflict. On the face of it, the main course is a dynamic Italian campaign – heralding an all-out war akin to World War II.

(Image source: Sega)

From Sicily to Rome, you’ll head north, fighting the Nazis in randomized skirmishes and incredible custom missions. It’s a massive turn-based campaign that offers a series of spectacular, tactically interesting RTS battles that should be the most exciting thing Relic has ever done. Sadly, that’s not the case, as one key element is missing: it’s not telekinetic.

As a real-time strategy game, Company of Heroes 3 is one of the best, but unfortunately, Relic’s experimental campaign was a bit of a flop. During my nearly 40-hour march to Rome, I met almost no resistance. The only time my opponent tried to take back a town I captured, it was a scripted event. Other than that, the Nazis seemed resigned to me keeping everything I claimed. Regardless of the difficulty setting, aggression is a foreign concept to them.

If one of your companies encounters an enemy company, they’ll probably try to attack you after you’ve finished your turn, so they’re at least willing to defend their territory, but they’ll never get past that. This has rendered the campaign largely pointless and reduced to perfunctory ramblings. You’ll be told to defend the town and build turrets to help with this, but doing so is a waste of company and resources because the enemy never goes south.

Victory outweighed

(Image source: Sega)

The Italian election campaign, then, is fundamentally broken. It’s especially frustrating when it’s clear how great it could have been. Even in this seemingly unfinished state, good ideas can surface if you can get past the very crude UI and inept opponents.

The Italian election campaign, then, is fundamentally broken.

Each corporation you enlist is a powerful toolkit, containing not only a unique selection of units that you’ll deploy in RTS Scrap, but also a range of abilities that aid the campaign map. For example, Indian artillery batteries can bombard enemy positions, soften towns, dismantle battery emplacements, blow up bridges and weaken enemy companies. So there’s a lot of targets to destroy, but also a lot of opportunities to build.

Conquest offers a lot more to spend resources on than can pointlessly cover Italian forts. Capture an airfield and you can start sending out scout planes to clear the fog of war, or bombers to prepare targets for a ground attack. Meanwhile, capturing ports increases your population cap and gives you more ships that can attack enemy targets from the sea. Together, these give you a plethora of options for responding to every attack.

(Image source: Sega)

Company of Heroes 3 also has an elegant way of making its two-tiered design approachable and logical – each one a reflection of the other. Therefore, those ships and aircraft that can rain down on the campaign map also appear as abilities in RTS battles. The rules and tricks and pretty much everything you can do in a tier don’t need to be thrown away when you go into another tier, maintaining that sense of cohesion that even the king of the hybrid genre, Total War, doesn’t Complete.


Aside from a few missions where the frame rate temporarily dropped dramatically, Company of Heroes 3 proved to be very smooth. Too much alt-tabbing does occasionally chug the campaign a bit, but my aging CPU probably won’t help in that regard.

Notably less elegant is the campaign progression system, which is a bit messy. Corporations gain experience from combat, whether it’s proper RTS combat, auto-resolved scrapping, or just blowing up cover on a map, and from that experience you gain a ton of skill points that in turn have to be spent on three different Realm system: abilities, upgrades and units. There’s just too much to prioritize easily, especially when you’re juggling many different companies at once, and they don’t all fit together well — not even visually. Each has a completely different UI, as does the order in which they are unlocked. It feels like I’m dabbling in something that’s still in concept stage.

friends with benefits

(Image source: Sega)

Secondary Commander just adds to the confusion by introducing one more progression system–another interesting idea that didn’t quite land. Again, we have a list of unlockable rewards, but this time they are unlocked for Loyalty, not XP. British General Norton, American General Barkram, and Italian Partisan Leader Valenti each have their own goals and personalities, and by occasionally agreeing to their conversations, performing missions for them, or simply doing what they like, you can fill them in. Fill up their loyalty bars and unlock their bonuses. But it all feels a bit redundant.

Win enough battles that Valenti doesn’t care how many Italian towns you completely destroy.

The bonuses you receive are helpful at times, if not terribly fancy, like reducing skill cooldowns, but when it comes to developing the relationships that unlock them, there’s a serious lack of friction. While it might initially seem like the tension between the trio will force you to make tough decisions, it actually seems like you’ll have to work really hard not to have all three of them become your best friends. I’ve been getting a lot of notifications about how I’ve lost my loyalty to Valenti because I was pretty aggressive in “liberating” Italy, but there’s no consequence because simply playing the game ensures you’re constantly impressing them. Win enough battles that Valenti doesn’t care how many Italian towns you completely destroy.

So the Battle of Italy wasn’t the grand slam I was hoping for, but I found myself less disappointed than I expected. I was expecting something grand, something reminiscent of Total War, and it didn’t quite deliver that – but what it did do was spit out incredible battle after incredible battle battle. So many orgasms, thrills and omg, explosions? Impeccable. The original map becomes a hellish nightmare filled with craters, crumbling buildings, smoldering tank hulls, and soldiers running around on fire—it’s shocking but exciting.

(Image source: Sega)

Here, in the RTS layer, we see real dynamism. It even brings a touch of life to the campaign map, bombing the shit out of a location before you get into battle will change it, digging holes in the ground and destroying buildings – which can have a huge impact on ensuing battles . But, once you’re inside the map, you’ll become a true terraformer, rebuilding and deconstructing Italian towns and villages. The terrain reflects the decisions you make as you strategically take out anywhere the Nazis might be hiding, just as they did to you. Even the sturdiest cover is fleeting. When the “Mission Complete” notification pops up, you’re celebrating in the apocalypse.

Company of Heroes 1 and 2’s Hedge Hell and frigid Russia maps are still RTS high points, but Italy has spawned some of my favorite battle locations. The narrow roads surrounded by tall buildings hide snipers and machine gun teams; the winding country roads hide anti-tank guns at every corner; Memories of these encounters are also enough to make my heart pound like a cannonball.

Every main mission is pure magic – even the overly ambitious final assault on the Winter Line. This climactic confrontation lets you control different corporations in different stages and then lets you switch between them at will, and it’s honestly just a bloodbath, like a co-op battle where you’re all players. But I still love it – the ambition, the spectacle, the chaos.

good company

(Image source: Sega)

There are countless random skirmishes between big missions, and given the length of the campaign, I fear they might start to feel a bit stale. Not so, not only because of the multitude of conflict maps and objectives, but also because each type of corporation has a different playstyle and different toys to keep it exciting even at 40 hours. The Indian Artillery Battery, however, is always my favorite for calling in handy off-map shelling, bringing powerful mortar teams into battle, and letting me play with badass Gurkha units. These lads can throw a barrage of grenades at enemies, which is always a good time. If you like explosions — and if you’re playing Company of Heroes, you do — you’ll have a good time with this company.

Each type of company has a different play style and different toys to play with, keeping it exciting even at 40 hours.

Note that every company has a fantastic hook, from the tank-heavy American Armor to the sneaky American Airborne. While they all have their own unique skills, they’re also both incredibly versatile and able to tackle any challenge, just in slightly different ways. The tactical pause system makes it easier to keep track of each company and the units within it, giving you room to set up and coordinate more elaborate attacks, or create a series of orders.You can throw some smoke grenades all the time you need, get your gunners in place, call an airstrike and send some brave lads into a solid building to breach it, then unpause the action and watch it all act like deadly ballet

(Image source: Sega)

The more active North African campaign is the more traditional Company of Heroes–a linear series of eight missions in which you command the German Afrika Korps (DAK) and take marching orders from Rommell. Narratively, it’s an odd story that tries to balance the discomfort of playing a historical villain by interspersing stories and perspectives of Jewish Berbers versus the Nazis or living in the occupied territories. Attempts to tell lesser-known stories, to give the oppressed a voice, even in their language, are welcome but feel clumsy to stitch together and end up telling us stories about people that only exist in most static cutscenes.

While the campaign’s storytelling lacks impact, the missions themselves are a delightfully varied mix, ranging from huge, multi-stage epic confrontations with offensive and defensive parts to smaller, larger ones where you set traps for convoys or hunt down tanks. More focused scenes, everything Commander.

The North African map has also changed considerably compared to the Italian map. The frequent presence of open spaces makes them seem less tactical at first, but they’re a great fit for DAK, a tank-centric faction. The desert really makes these behemoths tear apart, and in turn…

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Bart Thompson
Bart is's List Writer . He is from Houston, Texas, and is currently pursuing a bachelor's degree in creative writing, majoring in non-fiction writing. He likes to play The Elder Scrolls Online and learn everything about The Elder Scrolls series.