Not sure if original poster is truly regretting the development of the game or mourning aging in general. No offense my friend
COH in general was and is never a high APM game. Just compare that to starcraft. From mere playability, the series is currently at its best in my opinion.
Well, I think it's both...I don't keep up with the forums much. Is there agreement that lethality is higher, wipes happen more, and retreat wipes are much worse than three years ago? I might be wrong about the patch that really did me in, feel like it was 2016 though. If I remember correctly a lot of people complained about cons and volks being able to trade for 3-4 minutes at a time if in cover, so they started jiggling back then. If two squads are trading in green cover, it's still like at release and you can literally go to the bathroom and come back and have lost only a model.
The retreat wipes are what really bother me the most honestly, it's just stupid, stupid brutal gameplay, falls into that "quality of life" category for me, since infantry are going to use roads on retreat per the pathfinding but that makes them much more likely to get killed on retreat. I just don't think they struck the right balance here...It's just too easy to get those wipes, it seems like any model under 75% health can be killed pretty easily by 2 or more chasing squads (note talking model not unit). I don't know what tests would show, but it just doesn't feel right to me at all. Again this is part of what has pushed the game into rewarding caution too much (and the dominance of indirect fire), because the REALLY good players know they can't always choose their retreat path, so they play even more cautiously and take even fewer chances to avoid the dreaded retreat wipe...If there's any chance of getting flanked you just can't engage for more than an instant because you will get wiped on retreat because even fairly high health doesn't protect your squad, so just don't engage, right?
I haven't even gotten started on snares and how lame tanks are now, but I'll say my design challenge for Relic for COH3 would be to re-design the game without snares, and see how to balance it. Then you could add some snares back in in unique ways. The only reason I even get tanks is because you need something to chase down the opponent's snared and wounded tank, otherwise you're much better off getting some good anti-infantry units (shocks, Obers, etc or indirect fire.) because their DPS is more reliable than tanks (because they rate of fire is high, the RNG matters less and you get the expected result, but RNG on tanks mean you may miss 3 shots in a row and have no other chance to get any damage in). Plus they are less likely to get wiped from an ambush or the at-gun/snare/chase combo. Tigers and T34-85s are kind of the exception, but T34-85s are too expensive to do anything daring with either until you have 3 or 4 of them.