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[PREVIEW] Company of Heroes 3 – My darkest hour

“All war is a symptom of man’s failure as a thinking animal”. Some Nobel Prize winner in the early ’60s named John Steinbeck taught us that. Powerful stuff and pretty inspirational. Well, I’ve got my own version of that since Gamescom 2022; “A lost battle in Company of Heroes 3 is a symptom of a gamer’s failure as a strategic individual”. In case you didn’t know yet, Company of Heroes 3 is really good at smiting the overconfident and the ignorant. I was both.

I’m going to be totally honest with you. I’m not the most seasoned veteran in the field of RTS games. I’ve played a couple in my days. Command & Conquer, Dune… you know. The old stuff. I wasn’t a true master at them but I managed to get through them. So how hard could Company of Heroes really be? Oh man, if only I would’ve known.

Because Company of Heroes 3 is not at all comparable. Relic Entertainment is not the kind of studio that goes for the ‘win by numbers’ tactic, which works like a charm in C&C. They are the type of studio that not only capitalizes the S in RTS, they also write it in bold, cursive, and underline it. So you think you mastered strategy in the RTS genre? Enlist in Company of Heroes 3 and find out if you’re truly the strategic mastermind.

I’ve had my go in two campaigns – North Africa and Italy – and I was granted a half hour to show my skills. Or in my case, the lack of. The simple objective of “claim this town” sounded all too easy, but trust me… it wasn’t. Being dropped in on Day 25 of the campaign was a premeditated action, said one of the devs. Since we only had a half hour of playtime, there was no time for pleasantries. War has no room for gentle introductions and neither did Company of Heroes 3, in this case. I got deployed in the heat of the fight, not knowing my ignorance would kill my squad within 5 minutes.

Some of my colleague reporters couldn’t resist but chuckle at my incompetence. “Wait… didn’t you upgrade your platoon? Are you really heading in with only a handful of infantry and one tank? Good luck, soldier!” I knew I cocked it up from the get-go when all I could answer was “uhmmm” and shit started to hit the proverbial fan. I thought it would turn out okay after taking the first of many flags, but that was about it. Five minutes later, my squad was gone.

And let me tell you something. This humiliation shows just how great Company of Heroes 3 can be. If you’re the kind of RTS player that just wants to build a base, pump out insignificant grunts and vehicles, just to knock on an enemy base’s door and take it by brute force, stick with C&C. Company of Heroes 3 goes way, way deeper than that. This magnificent example of an RTS game will put you to the test. This is not the ‘barge in and overrun’ experience. This is a ‘think where you put what division and make use of their specialty’ kind of game. Get to know their strengths and weaknesses. Because if you don’t and send them in as one, they’ll all leave in a wooden box. Trust me, I know.

So let me ask you again: Do you think you’re a real strategist? If you truly think you are, keep your eyes peeled for Company of Heroes 3. It’ll put you to the test and it takes no prisoners. To quote another great author (George Orwell); “War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength.” Well, dear George, ignorance is most definitely not strength in Company of Heroes 3. It’s suicide.

Company of Heroes launches on November 17, 2022. I’ll leave you to prepare, commander.