We, LordRommel (Historian), evilSpike (2D Art), DarcReaver (Game Design) and DonXavi (Level Design), members of the Eastern Front Mod Development Team, were invited by Relic to join a nightly coming-together to chat about CoH3 and to get our hands on the game at the SEGA Relic booth during Gamescom.
Before we talk about impressions, we really want to express our gratitude to John Tabbernor, Community manager of Relic Entertainment, who invited us to the SEGA community event and who had the passion and time to chat with us, not only about the new alpha content Relic brought to Gamescom, but also Company of Heroes and modding-related matters in general.
Well then, now it is time to take a Tactical Pause and to talk about Band of B....Company of Heroes 3 (regards!).
Our trip to Gamescom started with the "Tactical Pause" event. Being able to meet and talk to lots of folks from SEGA, Relic, and their respective communities. It was a relaxing evening in an impressive location with a panoramic view on Cologne. Accompanied by cool drinks and a variety of tasty snacks, we had a lot of conversations and a lot of fun. I do have the feeling that there might appear some footage from the party sometime later. But don’t ask me why…
With all that said, it is now time to have a look into the CoH3 Gamescom presentation.
At their booth in hall 9, Relic had prepared an array of gaming stations to let the visitors get their hands on CoH3. Either in a 2vs2 AI skirmish match to take command of the British African Forces (BAF) against the Deutsche Afrika-Korps (DAK) - or to dive into an episode of the Allied Italian campaign. The matches were 20min long and they were focused on a skirmish match or scripted engagement.
Next up, the four of us having visited the Gamescom together will share our thoughts on the experiences made. Grab a drink and have fun!
I am grateful that I was able to attend the gamescom and the 'Tactical Pause' event this year. Being able to speak to developers and other people from the industry about various different topics and ideas was a refreshing experience, even though I have to admit my english speaking skills have become pretty rusty. Luckily, it became better throughout the evening (at least I hope so and it wasn't solely the beer blurring my self perception). Playing CoH 3 was, surprisingly, quite a lot of fun. I usually am - let's say - 'reserved' when it comes to playing a good game's sequel that has been advertised with 'enhanced and refreshing new gameplay features', because unfortunately more often than not those new things do not improve the game, and in the worst case do more harm than good.
Sometimes it's good to go 'back to the roots' and reflect of what made the game great in the first place, focus on these strengths and polish the game as much as possible with meaningful additions. I hope CoH 3 will focus on the strengths that made the Company of Heroes franchise great in the first place.
But regardless of how great of a success CoH 3 will be, we'll continue supporting the Eastern Front mod. We're still working behind the scenes and you can expect some information about our plans in the near future.
My first game was the skirmish match as well. The British Forces are well rounded and definitely more interesting than their CoH1 or CoH2 versions. My second round on the game was the scripted Italian campaign mission as US Airborne (like John suggested us, btw thx John for the tip ;-) ). As it was a campaign mission, not all units of the MP were available, but it was fun, impressive and sometimes not that easy
The faction itself felt more like the CoH1 Americans than the Coh2 ones, and this was something I liked on them.
I’m looking forward to the final version and Relic really caught me with CoH3.
My first game was the African skirmish game as the "British African Forces" (BAF) against the "Deutsches Afrika-Korps".
The game was played on a new 2v2 desert map in a 200 ticket VP mode. The map was cut in half by a road connecting the Axis and the Allied starting positions. The flanks were dominated by high ground positions and hills. The map had some large open areas for vehicle movement and for long range engagements.
With the experience from the previous alphas, I was curious to see the BAF in action. The BAF is the new British multiplayer faction for CoH3
. It is an "easy to learn - hard to master” - faction (John, Relic). The faction is close to the CoH1 Wehrmacht layout and design concept. The faction had a lot of toys to play with. Beside the flamethrower pioneers, you could build the infantry section that could use upgrades like a scoped rifle, Bren gun or the Boys AT rifle. You could also build a 3-inch infantry mortar, a Vickers MG team, a Daimler Dingo (non-fuel, manpower only), Humber Armoured Car, a Stuart light tank, a Bishop SPG, a Crusader tank, a Matilda Mk. II tank, a 17pdr AT gun with a 15cwt towing truck and an M3 Lee medium tank. The preselected battlegroup offered Gurkha elite call-in infantry, a heavy vehicle-towed infantry mortar and a 5.5-inch medium gun emplacement plus some off-map abilities and unit abilities. The faction line up and structure felt much like the CoH1 Wehrmacht. It was intuitive and well structured. At the British HQ, you could build a "Logistics Centre" where u could buy veterancy for your units (but the units on the field can still earn vet by combat experience).
The DAK fielded some new stuff too! Early in the game, the DAK pushed with SdKfz. 250 halftracks, SdKfz. 250/9 halftracks with a 2cm KwK armed turret (the turret of the SdKfz. 222), SdKfz. 7 with 2cm Flakvierling and the SdKfz. 254, an austrian wheel-track artillery observation vehicle. In my game, I met a single SdKfz. 231 8-Rad heavy AC but unfortunately, my AI sidekick was faster and killed the heavy AC before I could take a closer look.
The game was pretty good. It had a good balance of speed, movement, action and sound design. Mortar salvos of the 3inch mortar were whistling over the map. You could feel the danger that was caused by the mortar! The 2cm gun armed SdKfz. 250 chased for my poor infantrymen. Infantry clashed in small skirmished all over map. The new voice lines were decent and hitting the spot. The new graphic filters allowed for better unit visibility.
For the gameplay, I had the feeling that units needed more time to capture territory compared to CoH2. Battles weren’t that fast compared to CoH2. Infantry lost one to two squad members in an open shootout but in cover, they could take a fight. Unit abilities like hand grenades were nasty and caused some damage. And when you hadn’t looked after your infantrymen, they could be caught off guard by German infantry units armed with MP40s. Vehicles felt better overall as well. Flanking really paid off, as you could hit or be hit from the side or behind, highlighting the effectiveness of a thought-out manoeuvre using the momentum of surprise.
My most loved unit of the BAF was the M3 Lee tank; With its 75mm gun, it felt like a British "super-StuG". The 37mm was working too, but while playing, I encountered some coding problems with both guns aiming at one target, keeping it in sight. With the aiming issue being fixed, the M3 Lee might become a nasty opponent in game. It will be interesting to see the multi-gun concept in a PvP match. With a 17-pounder gun that is protecting the Lee's flank, it could be a tough enemy for the German Panzer III and StuG III tanks of the DAK.
All in all, the skirmish game was pretty good. There were some small bugs like the M3 aiming problems/glitch, some sound mixture problems (sound hierarchy), one or two model bugs (don’t look at the DAK base defence) and some other situational bugs. For an alpha, it is a very solid base with all elements in place that will be needed for the game release. Brits are inspired by the CoH1 Wehrmacht faction but with some new toys and abilities to play around with. One thing that concerns me is the fact that the BAF has 3 tanks. One tank could be out of place in the current setup but that would need more games to see the faction meta, timing and gameplay. Perhaps Relic will push the M3 Lee more into the direction of an assault gun, with the secondary 37mm gun support or they will tweak one tank into a dedicated soft target counter because that spot is currently missing for the BAF from my perspective.
The next weeks will be decisive. If Relic is able to find and eliminate the bugs and they’ll implement all missing UI and 2D assets, CoH3 will be in a good shape at release. I think the current Alpha build will be relabelled into a Beta build once Relic has implemented all mission 2D and audio stuff. CoH3 will be in better shape at release compared to the rough start of CoH2. John told us, that the game is tested by the SEGA and Relic QA team all the time and the coding team is working hard, fixing all the reported bugs.
For the second round enqueueing at Relic’s booth, I tried the adjusted strategic campaign. CoH3 will get an Allied strategic campaign. The new campaign mode is to be compared with the one the Total War Franchise provides. You can plan your campaign progress on a strategic level, recruiting new land, air, and naval units in a meta menu, being able to attack different provinces and areas to receive strategical advantages and to push back the German to finally get hold of Italy.
At Gamescom, the strategic campaign started at the Salerno Bay in late 1943. There were several companies on the map (thanks at John for the hint with the US airborne company here). Two major objectives were to be dealt with within the meta menu. An airfield mission and an urban mission. I selected my tank company and ordered them to attack a German fortified position in front of the targeted airfield. The position collapsed under the tank company's fire. Subsequently, I ordered my tank company into the airfield area.
With my tank company attacking the airfield, the actual in-game battle started. My mission target was a small airfield at the other side of a river with just a sole bridge providing a connection. The first obstacle was a small courtyard with some stone houses and a lot of walls, fences, and cover objects. Here, the German forces had prepared a defensive position with their infantry and armoured cars. I sent in my GI squad and a flamethrower equipped pioneer squad plus a supporting M8 Grayhound. With the German units stationed in the houses, this would be a suitable scenario to test the new breach mechanic - but unfortunately, I decided to send in my flamethrower squad. Fortunately, though, the flamethrower was a good choice. The battle ended with a full retreat of the German forces in the area.
The next step was the river crossing. With a single bridge ahead, I knew that there would be something waiting for me at the other side. I ordered my units to attack. On the other side, I met some fierce resistance by German MG and mortar fire. It was here where I lost my already damaged Grayhound against a German infantry squad that made use of its ability to fire a Panzerfaust. With the remaining infantry, I could establish a bridgehead at the other side of the river. By expanding my base with another building, it was time to get my first M24 Chaffee tank to attack the airfield ahead.
And here the trouble started. From the mission briefing, I knew that there were 8,8cm Flak 36 guns somewhere on the airfield - but feeling a tad too lucky, my Chaffee drove straight to the airstrip - and was knocked out by the 8,8cm Flak. Well, that escalated quickly. The next minutes were dominated by a raging battle for the airfield. My infantry got some heavy hits by advancing German infantry and by the bombardment of an SdKfz. 251/9 with its 7,5cm KwK 37 L/24 gun. To get the full control, I had to capture both territory points of the airfield. With the first point being taken, the AI sent in their first Panzer IV - and that marked the end of my next Chaffee tank, because it was hit in the rear. With all units concentrated, I could capture the second point. With the second point in my hands, I had to prepare for a German counterattack. For some reason, I thought that the Germans would attack from the east side of the airfield, so I built an MG bunker facing eastwards. I added an M3 halftrack with a 75mm GMC upgrade to stop additional German armour. With the timer hitting the 0:00 mark, I realized my failure. Suddenly, German formations swarmed in from the west end of the airfield. Supported by armoured cars, assault guns and Panzer IV tanks with veterancy level, the Germans pushed hard. Long retreating paths and falsely placed stationary weapons forced me to abandon one of the two airfield points. To be honest, that was the point where I started sweating. With more German infantry on the airfield, I got desperate and sent in everything I had at hand. My battlegroup allowed me to call in M3 Stuarts - with a Stuart and a Chaffee tank plus some captured German Panzerschrecks I launched a counterattack on my foe. The battle raged and a couple of seconds before the offmap US reinforcement arrived, I could recapture the airfield. With the arrival of the US reinforcements, the mission ended, just before the Relic and SEGA stuff told us the time was over.
The mission was fun to play. To put things in a nutshell, it was a good mixture between offensive and defensive actions. It felt a bit like the good old Carentan mission from CoH1. The mission script was working and the German AI was a tough nut to crack. Unfortunately, by the end I had to realise my second big error; I hadn’t taken any usage or advantage of the "tactical pause" feature. The mission would have been less stressful utilizing this new feature (pressing spacebar to temporarily pause the game, queueing up commands for your units to execute once you unpause the game). On the other hand, without the new function, it was a tough battle that generated its joy by the games speed, presentation, and pressure. I think here, we have a good point for the advantages and disadvantages of the "tactical pause" feature. For me, it was fun to play without but I think it is a great feature for new players and players who want to reduce the game speed and stress. All in all, the mission was well scripted and entertaining. When all missions are of similar quality, the strategic campaign will provide for a unique and fun experience. I can’t wait to see more content, especially big battles like Monte Cassino and Anzio.
After this impressive insight of the game, we had the opportunity to share our thoughts on our experience with John. It was a pleasure to reflect the match, addressing unit balancing, meta data, and many other details. It was fun to talk to an expert and to "nerd" about CoH and the upcoming new game version.
Based on the 2 testing runs, I got the impression that CoH3 is on a good way. Sure, the game will need some polishing and minor adjustments. But once the development team will have added the missing UI and 2D content, - fixing audio overall (hierarchy and placeholders), making good use of the time remaining until release - if they keep up their good job - CoH3 will be in a good position for launch in November.
CoH3 will be an amazing experience for both CoH veterans and new players. The campaign has the potential to entertain both alike. For the multiplayer, I can’t give you any versatile information. The skirmish match was really fun, but it doesn’t allow for an all-embracing feedback for the potential of the PvP or PvE.
With all the experience gathered at Gamescom, I am really looking forward to the release of CoH3. Relic earned our trust and I feel confident to say that Company of Heroes 3 could turn into a successful RTS game laying the foundation for the next years.
Relic; Keep up your work! Thank you very much!
It’s been 13 years now since I have started designing levels for Company of Heroes, 14 years since I have begun playing and 16 years since its initial release. 11 years ago, I joined the Eastern Front Mod Development Team, driven by the pure joy of exploring the possibilities that level design brings, not only when it comes to modding.
However soon, it wasn’t solely about creating new content anymore, it was also about getting to know people from all over the world, working together and making true friends - many of whom I may still call that today.
And as weird as it may sound - metaphorically speaking, CoH itself is like one of these old friends as well. Changing looks, moving to other places/theatres, but still being there through all the years, staying true to its old self.
To be honest, I wouldn’t have gone to Cologne this year if it hadn’t been about an invitation from Relic Entertainment Community Manager John Tabbernor: The so-called Tactical Pause, was an event hosted by SEGA’s Strategy Studios to provide some space and time to exchange experiences and thoughts on games (and mods) for Amplitude, Creative Assembly, Relic, and SEGA strategic games. Being supplied with snacks and drinks throughout an evening during the Gamescom week above the roofs of cologne, this was a pure pleasure and highlighted Relic’s and SEGA’s appreciation for the overall community.
The next day led the four of us to Gamescom itself. Trying our best as early birds, we enqueued at the SEGA exhibition stand to get our hands on one of the two playable features Relic provided for the weekend.
The first being a skirmish scenario, taking control of the British African forces in a 500 victory points game against a Deutsches Afrika Korps AI opponent. It was set on a quadratic 2 vs 2 desert map, coming with a country road connecting the base sections, framed by old ruins from Roman times and sparse vegetation that added dots of green to the dusty scenery.
I particularly enjoyed the way the gameplay felt. Taking strategical points and producing units takes longer than in the games predecessors, making it more important to choose your array of units wisely, look after them and keep them alive. This experience was surprisingly well underlined by the number of buildable vehicles that fulfilled their individual purposes nicely. The general impression the British faction made is to be compared with the Wehrmacht from CoH1.
Of course, we couldn’t have left without having play tested the second sample of the game, which was a single player campaign mission. The latter was embedded in a sort of meta-menu where you can deploy your companies, order airstrikes or naval bombardments, and, of course, select your next tactical object to attack. For the Gamescom, Relic chose to let us conquer an Airfield as the US forces, held by some Wehrmacht units that not only defended the perimeter of the airfield, but also regularly strafed the player from the air. Yet again, the slower but tactically more appealing style of the game made itself felt. The mission was far from static though, when I started taking my time piling up troops to get the upper hand conquering sectors, I was continuously ambushed by scouting Axis units. Although witnessing minor bugs and glitches (which, as John said, where already known to the team and fixed in the internal version) and sadly not having gotten as far to witness the counterattack after successfully conquering the airfield, the mission was a lot of fun to play. The American faction felt equal to CoH1’s Allied forces, causing a pleasant feeling of nostalgia.
To put things in a nutshell, I’d say that CoH3 manages to combine both the advantages of its two predecessors. On the one hand the clean, clear, and simple UI of CoH1 accompanied by its rather slow teching and playstyle - on the other, the crisp, sharp graphics and textures of CoH2 coming with its dynamic effects like TrueSight or dynamic weather.
13 years of more or less active contribution in the different stages the Company of Heroes franchise went through speak for themselves I guess - it’s, in a way, again a metaphor for how this RTS series manages to maintain a high level of quality and entertainment for a loyal community that will hopefully persist for another 16 years or even more.
I do want to thank SEGA, Relic, but first and foremost John Tabbernor for having us in Cologne. It was a pleasure - and an experience, that we surely will retain fond memories of.
PS.: Having eagerly awaited a level design tool for Company of Heroes 2 and luckily having gotten it some time after the release, I now hope that the community will be provided with it again for CoH3. That’d top off the already promising impression the new chapter of the Company of Heroes franchise.
PREORDER COMPANY OF HEROES 3 OR JOIN THE COMMUNITY!
When you are interested in the new Company of Heroes 3 game, go and check out the Company of Heroes Website or have a look at the CoH3 steam Website.
Alternatively, you can join the Company of Heroes 3 Discord Server where you can have chat with the Relic Devs. It’s a perfect place to talk and discuss all the new CoH3 stuff!
So take your chance and join the growing CoH3 army!
Company of Heroes 3 will be released on 17th November 2022.
Once again - Thanks to Relic and John for the day at Gamescom!
Lord Rommel, Eastern Front Developer