At the risk of just repeating some marketing blurb, “Battlefield Humanization” is apparently one of Relik’s three major “franchise” columns for the Company of Heroes, the other two being “Emergent Storytelling” and “Cinematic Warfare” Although it sounds more exciting, it is the first of its kind today.
Because the setting of Company of Heroes 3 is fragile. There are two expeditions, one in Italy and the Mediterranean, and the other, where this preview is focused, in North Africa. The North African “theater” of World War II is a site dominated by armored warfare, and it is also the site of Erwin Rommel, commander of the Nazi Deutsche Africa Corps (DAK), who earned his reputation as “Desert Fox”.
The fragility here comes from that prestige. Rommel’s Africa Corps was described as “widely requested by our community”, while Rommel himself was created by the Germans and then the Allies as a clever but aloof strategist who tried to wage a “hateless war” and almost fell victim. The Nazi regime – referred to as the “Rommel myth”, as many war crimes persisted in the region throughout the period of his rule.
“We have to take special care of our narrative while playing as a German in North Africa,” a studio representative said in an opening presentation. “We definitely don’t want to tell a romantic story, where we lean into old traps like‘ Hateless War ’or‘ Clean Wehrmacht ’in North Africa or Rommel‘ Gentleman General ’.
“Instead we want to tell an authentic and groundbreaking story about North Africa. So in addition to our own internal research and our own efforts to get the subject right, we are working with some external consultants who are involved. Helping us with our story and Company of Heroes 3. ”
How it is played in the final match will be important, and it has to do with Relik’s idea of ”humanizing” the battlefield, with things like barking down the battlefield – lines of dialogue your units will shout during the action – which has benefited the company. “It’s difficult,” senior mission designer David Milne told me, “and it’s a conversation that we’ve certainly had internally and when it comes, for example, barking and ground units.”
Against the background of this unit, where they came from, what they do, how they got there – they mentioned a wide range of “write-ups” that the descriptive design team is doing to try and guide the communication they have. These are not just random things, they are designed to add to the persona that was written for them. “And back to the whole story of the struggle.
Milne said, “We’re not just focusing on the battles, but the outcome of the battles and what’s going on outside of these battles – it’s not just about the mission you’re playing, it’s about the broader consequences. It’s on the people in the area. Maintaining is a challenging thing, but we’re trying to get out of there – it wasn’t just a lone battle, you know … the North African campaign was sometimes seen as a war of these gentlemen, almost like pieces of chess in the open desert, and we don’t do it there. There are people who have lived and they have been affected and we are trying to tell that story too. ”
From playing just one additional mission to this preview as DAK, it’s too early to tell how successful that attempt was. Which, of course, made the video an overnight sensation. Some of the big changes to the Company of Heroes 3 are the addition of towing vehicles that allow you to attach and rotate larger guns on the battlefield and recover old, destroyed tanks or repair vehicles active on the battlefield more quickly. This first operation in western Libya set you up to attack the British defenders first, then disperse them, bring a huge anti-tank gun to the scene and use it to cut off some of the big waves the British troops were trying to repel.
Like the first preview, things seem very close to the first Company of Heroes, especially with the return of traditional resource points, but where this mission came out is pacing. Naturally, being a tank-heavy battle, things were faster, quicker tactics in flanking positions and more focused on the smart use of terrain rocks and choke points. The infantry on the streets of Italy is like a war – in the end you are struggling for location preference anyway – only the scale is a little bigger and the speed of movement is higher.
Things like tank riding, trench traversal and repairs are fun, but it’s hard to properly identify the real impact of the gameplay at this early stage. However, they have had an impact on mission design. Milne cites trench crossings as something that promotes new approaches. “In the overall layout of the mission in terms of mission flow, we can use something like a moat as a route for vehicles and units – now we’ve added trench crossings, right? So we can’t use those things in the same way – we need to think of new routes It started. ”
It also causes some behind-the-scenes fun in terms of just getting things done. “Tanks actually go through trenches,” said lead gameplay designer Matt Phillips, “it just opens a big can of worms.
“Coming back to Pathing, you’ve got the infantry and how they interact with the trenches, you’ve got the vaulting, which is automatic when the previous game was actually manual – it’s something where we can work with our players. In the future; we’ll probably have it We have automatic and manual options. And then you can also add tanks that cross the trench. That’s right, if a tank is crossing the trench, what to do if there is a unit in the trench? Should they slide out of the way? Should it be approximate? Should it be approximate? Should it be left? Should it be right? What would happen if an artillery collided with a passing tank and hit the top? Do they live on that moat? Can you go into that moat now? These are all little complicated, trivial things.
There was something similarly fun about pulling the gravy. “Any RTS in history,” he said, “when you have to take two units – because route and response is a big part of the RTS experience – when you take two units and you have to combine them and merge them into one, and then Separate them, like, when you talk to a programmer, they’re like, ‘Please no, I’m begging you, no!’
“We want to humanize it because, you know, it was a real conflict. It was a real war.”
On the player side of things, these changes are also likely to change the balance of the online game, where a single unit can often determine the entire meta. Unlike previous Company of Heroes games, however, this time the multiplayer will start with a full four groups – US, British, Wehrmacht and DAK Force – albeit with a tweak to each. The US will be more aggressive, the British will be the least complex and a bit more versatile, with “many” new units, aimed at newcomers but still with a defensive streak, Wehrmacht has a significant repetition, the “hit and run” strategy will be an important part of DAK.
Yet, the current lingering issue of the Company of Heroes remains its reference – a game designed to provide a very realistic, close-up look at World War II, at a time when large-scale ground warfare has also returned to Europe. For the first time in decades. Personally, I was curious to know what it was like to develop such a game, embedded in that image every day, just like real world events.
“I worked on the Company of Heroes from start to finish,” Philip said after a break, “and then I worked on all the DLC and everything for it, and of course it happened on the Eastern Front, and then I’m on this project from start to finish. I can say that Working on World War II games has changed my outlook on life – and everything in it is only on a human level. It changes my outlook. Talk about rubbing salt in my wounds – d’oh! That’s not what I’m saying.
“Exactly,” Milne added. “As part of the research we’re doing for our mission and our story. We read big ‘macro history’ stories, but we also read journals, look at people’s photos, do things like this – we’ve been talking before, about humanizing it. We want to humanize because, you know, it was a real struggle, it was a real war, even in living memory – of course the consequences are in living memory.
“So we want – we want the players to have as much fun as they want to play this game – we want to make sure we respect its history and heritage and make sure people understand that it is – it has had an effect. It wasn’t just gameplay, you know. ”