In 2006, when Relic Entertainment A company of heroes came out, the glory days of the real-time strategy genre were already almost over. The popularity of 90s and early 2000s staples like Warcraft, StarcraftOr Command and conquer had begun to give way to blockbuster first-person shooters, RPGs, and action games.
Within the larger framework of “strategy”, games like Warcraft 3 ushered in evolutions in the genre like powerful, named characters mixed with fodder troops. A company of heroes focused on smaller groups of micro-managed units. These changes led to the creation of a spin-off genre that now stands as the most popular form of strategy gaming: the “multiplayer online battle arena” of Dota 2 Or League of Legends.
And yet, nearly 13 years after its first episode and a decade after its sequel, Company of heroes 3 just released with a real-time strategy design style and WWII setting that wouldn’t have felt out of place during the heyday of the subgenre.
Set during the Allied invasion of Italy and the North African Desert War, A company of heroes 3 is pretty much exactly what audiences familiar with the series or Relic’s real-time strategy games expect. The player is presented as a kind of invisible and omnipotent general, managing the movement of armies on a miniaturized map of the peninsula and its cities and military installations occupied by the Axis during the Italian campaign. They also control the production and deployment of soldiers and armor in the Granular Battles for control of the two individual Italian cities and each region of the Egyptian and Libyan tiers.
In its World War II setting – which completely saturated mainstream games until the late 2000s – and its fairly traditional take on real-time strategy, Company of heroes 3 could be a tough proposition for a modern consumer release. Can a new real-time strategy game satisfy established fans of the subgenre and appeal to newcomers?
Relic Entertainment executive producer Steve Mele told WIRED that making a new A company of heroes game for the 2020s needed a fan preview of the series as a starting point. A “recurring theme” that stemmed from these comments “was the desire for a variety of locations and depth of content” that did not “sacrifice core strategic gameplay [Company of Heroes] is known for.” To achieve this, Relic has worked to retain key elements from the series’ past while introducing new ones.
“Our strategy was to keep some designs the same, improve some, and then, of course, add exciting new mechanics based on community feedback,” Mele explains. The team used playtesting involving fans to find this balance, which led to features such as a “tactical pause” option that freezes the battlefield in single-player mode. While a seemingly minor change, this feature is the kind of design choice that can make the game more accessible to newcomers without requiring the kind of drastic overhaul to the genre that could alienate those already familiar with it. with real-time strategy games.
Similarly, looking to WWII theaters other than those widely used in existing games – the Allied invasion of Western Europe after Operation Overlordsay, or the battles of Eastern Front– changes expectations about the kind of focus a real-time strategy set in war might take.