At the risk of just repeating a marketing blurb, “Humanizing the battlefield” is apparently one of Relic’s three key “franchise pillars” for Company of Heroes. The other two are “emergent storytelling” and “cinematic warfare”, for those interested, and while those two probably sound a bit more exciting to the average gamer, it’s probably the former that has the most significance today.
Company of Heroes 3 Publisher: Sega Developer: Relic Entertainment Platform: Played on PC Availability: November 17, 2022
Indeed, the setting of Company of Heroes 3, scheduled for November, is tricky. There are two campaigns, one in Italy and the Mediterranean, and the other, which this preview focused on, in North Africa. The North African “theater” of World War II is dominated by armored warfare, and it is also the place where Erwin Rommel, the commander of the Nazis’ Deutsches Afrika Corps (DAK), earned his reputation as the “Fox of the desert”.
The delicacy here comes from this reputation. Rommel’s Afrika Korps was something Relic described as “strongly requested by our community”, while Rommel himself was built by the Germans, then the Allies, as a brilliant but detached tactician who sought to lead a “war without hatred” and almost a victim. of Nazi rule – what has since been called the “Rommel myth”, given that many war crimes still persisted in this region throughout the period of his command.
A new cinematic trailer for the North African campaign of Company of Heroes 3.
“We have to be particularly careful with our narrative, playing like the Germans in North Africa,” a studio representative said during the initial pitch. “We certainly don’t want to tell a romanticized story, where we delve into old tropes such as ‘war without hate’ or ‘clean Wehrmacht’ in North Africa, or Rommel the ‘gentleman general’.
“Instead, we want to tell an authentic story rooted in North Africa…so, in addition to our own internal research and our own efforts to fully understand this topic, we have worked with external consultants who have been involved helping us with our narrative and Company of Heroes 3.”
How this plays out in the end game will be important, and it ties back to Relic’s notion of “humanizing” the battlefield, down to things like battle barks – lines of dialogue that your units will shout during the action – which have earned Company de Heroes its reputation for attention to detail in the past. “It’s tricky,” lead mission designer David Milne told me, “and it’s a conversation we’ve certainly had a lot internally and in regards to, for example, rowboats and units on field.”
He mentioned the considerable amount of “redacting” that the narrative design team does, “about the background of this unit, where they come from, what they do, how they got there – to try to guide the dialogue they have. They’re not just random things, they’re designed to somehow tie into the character that was written for them.” And again, that comes down to telling the whole story of the conflict.
“We focus not only on the battles themselves,” Milne said, “but on the effect of the battles and what happens outside of those battles as well – it’s not just about the mission that you’re playing it’s about the larger effects than her And so you’re right it’s a hard thing to balance but that’s where we’re trying to come from – it wasn’t just isolated battles , you know… the North African countryside was sometimes seen as this gentleman’s war, almost like chess pieces on an open desert, and we don’t do that. There are people who lived there , and they were touched by that, and we’re trying to tell that story as well.”
After playing just one more mission for this preview as DAK, it’s too early to tell how successful this effort was. What is evident, at least, is the moment-to-moment difference of in-game tank warfare. to move big guns on the battlefield, and repair vehicles that can recover old destroyed tanks or repair active tanks much faster on the battlefield. This first mission in western Libya saw you attacking the British defenders first, then flanking them, setting up a giant anti-tank gun and using it to cut through some large waves of British forces then they were trying to retreat.
Kind of like with the first glimpse, things seem a little closer to the first Company of Heroes, especially with the return of traditional resource points, but where this mission has branched out is pacing. Naturally, being a tank-laden battlefield, things were faster, more focused on quick maneuvering into flanking positions and clever use of cliffs and choke points in the terrain. In a way it’s pretty much the same as infantry warfare on the streets of Italy – ultimately you’re fighting for position priority back and forth – just with a ladder a little larger and a faster rate of movement.
Things like tank driving, trench traversing, and repairs are fun, but again, at this early stage, the actual gameplay impact is hard to discern properly. However, they had an impact on the design of the mission. Milne cites trench crossing as something that encouraged a new approach. “In the general layout of a mission in terms of mission flow, we could use something like trenches as a way to funnel vehicles and units – now we’ve added trench crossing, right not? So we can’t use these things in the same way – we had to think of new ways to focus the player on certain points on the map.”
It also led to a bit of behind-the-scenes fun just to make things work. “Making tanks go through trenches,” said lead gameplay designer Matt Phillip, “just opens up a big Pandora’s box.
“Because going back to the pathing, you have the infantry and the way they interact with the trenches, you have the jump, which in its current form is automatic whereas previous games were actually manual – that’s something something where we could work with our players in the future we could actually have it, so we have an automatic option and a manual option and then you also add tanks going through trenches. okay, well, if a tank goes through a trench, and if there’s a unit in the trench? Should they move out? How should they move out? Should that be predictable? should he go left?should he go right?what if the crossing tank just gets hit by the artillery and explodes do they stay on that trench can you now move in this trench? Can we force it to one side? All these little complicated and serious at all levels.
There was similar fun with towing. “Any RTS in history,” he said, “when you have to take two units – because pathing and responsiveness is an important part of an RTS experience – when you take two units and that you have to merge them and merge them into one and then separate them, it’s like, every time you talk to a programmer about this, they’re like, ‘please, no, I’m telling you’ please don’t!'”
“We want to humanize it because, you know, it was a real conflict. It was a real war.”
On the player side, these adjustments will also likely alter the balance of online play, where a single unit can often determine an entire meta. Unlike previous Company of Heroes games, however, this time multiplayer will start with four full factions – American, British, Wehrmacht and DAK forces – but with adjustments for each. The US will be more aggressive, the British the less complex and a little more versatile this time around, with “lots” of new units, aimed at newcomers but still with a defensive slant, the Wehrmacht has had a significant retooling, while hit and run tactics will be a key part of the DAK.
Yet the lingering point with Company of Heroes for now is its context – it’s a game designed to offer a very realistic, up-close look at World War II, at a time when large-scale ground warfare is also returned to Europe for the first time in decades. Personally, I wanted to know what it was like to develop a game like this, to be embedded in that imagery every day, alongside real-world events.
“I worked on Company of Heroes from start to finish,” Phillip said after a break, “and then I worked on all the DLC and everything for that, and of course it happened on the front of the East, then I’ve now been on this project from start to finish I can absolutely say that working on WWII games has changed my outlook on life – and everything about it , just on a human level. It kind of changes my view of terms of my day-to-day interactions and even how we’ve built this game. That’s a tricky thing to get into… once in a while we talk about it, this is not something that I just close my eyes to, or I put in a little box and say okay, I’m just going to leave it there. No – it’s part of the process.
“Absolutely,” Milne added. “As part of the research we do for our missions and for our history. We read the big ‘macro history’ stuff, but we also read newspapers, look at people’s pictures, do that kind of stuff – we were talking before , about humanizing it. We want to humanize it because, you know, it was a real conflict. It was a real war, even within living memory – certainly its effects are still within living memory. man.
“That’s why we want – as much as we want players to have fun, you know, playing this game – we want to make sure that we kind of honor its history and its legacy, and make sure that people understand that it’s — it had effects. It wasn’t just, you know, gameplay.”
Article source https://www.eurogamer.net/company-of-heroes-3-will-eschew-the-notion-of-a-war-without-hate