There was something special about this year’s PAX West event, where gamers and developers join forces in Seattle for a four-day celebration of video games.
For the first time since 2019, we’ve finally seen a return to form in a post-pandemic world. The showroom floor was packed with developers from around the globe showcasing the latest games that they’ve been working on.
It has been nine years since the last entry of Company of Heroes, a WW2-focused RTS game that is, in my opinion, the best RTS experience you can have alongside Age of Empires. The series is renowned for its visceral combat, destructible environments, and historically accurate matchups between Axis and Allied combat units.
If you’re a WW2 buff, or simply a fan of the genre, COH3 is something you’ll want to keep your eyes on as we approach its November release.
A substantial area of the showroom floor was available for attendees to check out the latest build of COH3. We hadn’t had a chance to play a build of the game since the pre-alpha multiplayer test on Steam almost a year ago, and a significant amount of polish was apparent when playing the new build at PAX West.
We had the opportunity to speak with Relic’s systems designer Andy Fedorchuck, and here’s how it went.
What has it been like to work on massive RTS franchises like AoE and Company Of Heroes?
Andy Fedorchuck: It’s really exciting to be a part of the renaissance almost where it feels like something is bubbling around where RTS’ had a bit of a downturn, but people have still been out there hustling and making great games like They Are Billions and Grey Goo and keeping the genre alive, but now something is in the air, people are excited about it again and they’re ready for an RTS and they’re ready for COH3.
We feel privileged and proud of the genre and where we’re pushing towards we’re happy to be part of this renaissance we’re hoping to set the stage with a high-quality product within a franchise that people know and love.
How has the destructively-immersive experience changed since the last Company of Heroes game?
AF: There are a lot of talented, passionate, powerful people who have put a lot of work into the destruction technology that we use in the game. I was in Germany for Gamescom and toured the Cologne cathedral, and when you see pictures of that from the war and how utterly ravaged that city as we want to get that feeling in the game where these environments are crushed and devastated and it feels like we’ve achieved that.
Where buildings fall apart and naturally crumble; individual bricks are falling and tiles are coming off, we do a lot of research, watch documentaries, and read books to get absorb as much of this as we can.
What documentaries, books, or tv shows inspired COH3?
AF: WW2 in Color; There isn’t as much of a focus on the Italian and North African campaigns in comparison to other parts of the war and we’re trying to expand the franchise by bringing in new regions and new armies that have never been in the series before.
We have a huge library of reference material. A couple of years ago I read the Devil’s Brigade about the world’s first special service force and those have been really interesting reads. We’ve taken the stories of the men and women that have fought in the war and try and turn them into game mechanics.
Is there any pressure for you to delay the release of the game due to the current events transpiring around the world?
AF: What we want is for the conflict to be resolved and for the citizens to no longer be under duress and we want a peaceful resolution. But at the same time, we’re making a historical game and we want people to understand history so that we know how we’re going forward and that’s the truth.
I think if we were to forget about this, we would be doing a disservice to the men and women who lost their lives fighting for democracy, freedom, and the oppression of tyranny. Mostly, I want the people of Ukraine to be happy, healthy, safe, and able to go about living their lives.
What things do we have to look forward to outside of the competitive scene and ‘Comp-Stoping’ The Ai?
AF: We can’t say too much about the AI right now, but what I will say is that the expert-level AI have pushed our top dev players to their limits.
Aside from that, we have our new dynamic campaign map and skirmish modes that non-competitive players will enjoy.
Scroll to Continue
What features of COH3 are you the proudest of that you and the team have worked on?
AF: The dynamic campaign map and tactical pause.
The dynamic campaign map is really cool, it brings the best of things from games like Total War and we’ve translated that into working with COH while still giving you that awesome RTS experience that people know and love.
With tactical pause, anytime you’re playing single-player content you can press the space bar, and the action freezes. You can then issue commands and queue up a bunch of different orders; move here, throw a grenade, call in abilities, and so on. It’s designed with new players in mind.
With RTS games there’s a lot going on, it’s micro-intensive and fast, and we’re looking for a way to onboard players in a way that they have time to breathe in a genre with a large possibility space. It’s something that we’ve got a lot of positive feedback on and it’s something that I’ve worked on personally for a long time.