Company of Heroes 3 launched earlier this year, which served as a deserved refresh for the series, and marked its arrival on console platforms for the first time ever.
In May, the title launched on Xbox consoles. However, this wasn’t just a straightforward port – developers Relic and Hardlight worked together to craft a streamlined experience specifically for console players. Every movement and every unit command has been thoughtfully placed in a brand-new menu, and the Xbox version of the game features tactical additions that make organizing your assaults a breeze with a controller.
On September 5, the Brass Leopard patch brings several more quality-of-life improvements to Company of Heroes 3, including audio improvements with intel warnings, and gameplay updates, including tweaks to the camera and event cues. The update also introduces Catania Crossing, a new 3v3 player map.
We had the opportunity to sit down with Ian Thomson, Principal Programmer at Relic, and Ashley Woolley-Khan, Senior Project Manager at Hardlight, to learn more about how the changes made to bring Company of Heroes to Xbox, supporting console players, and why now is the perfect time to hop into this long-running RTS series.
Thomson has a long history with the franchise; he was involved with the original team for the first Company of Heroes which launched way back in 2006. Even back then, conversations about bringing the game to consoles were taking place – this has been a long time coming for the series. He tells us that there’s always been that question of balance, how to make it work on a controller, and there was also the matter of working with a different set of resources for console development.
With Company of Heroes 3, Relic and Hardlight saw the perfect opportunity to band together; with Relic focusing on crafting the PC game, while Hardlight worked to build the optimal experience for consoles.
“We want to bring the entirety of Company of Heroes to new players,” Thomson says. “The squad-based combat, the destruction of environments – we are bringing those same mechanics and in-game experience, and now it comes down to how you want to participate in that experience.”
Making the Company of Heroes 3 user experience feel great on the controller meant an overhaul of the existing keyboard controls, alongside some smart new features to ensure players aren’t overwhelmed during intense rounds of combat.
One of these additions is the tactical pause, which allows players to hit the brakes on the game while navigating across the battlefield or planning their next move.
“We want players to be able to say ‘okay, my brain has overloaded’ and have the ability to slow down,” Thomson says. “It really gives that level of precision too, so you can lay out your plan and not be in a panic about what’s happening.”
Woolley-Khan highlights other important goals for the console version of the game, including the ability to switch quickly between units, and being able to navigate the map quickly and precisely. Players also have swift access to the Global Unit Command where they can manage infantry and vehicles, either individually or as multiple units.
“That’s a big part of the PC experience, so we wanted to ensure that we could bring those over to the console in a common sense fashion and make sure players have that ease of use and accessibility,” Wooley-Khan explains.
A majority of the commands in Company of Heroes 3‘s console edition are found in a new radial menu, designed so that specific actions are easy to find during fast-paced combat. It also means that you’ll only see commands relevant to the unit you have selected, freeing up valuable UI real estate. That way, you’ll see more of what’s happening on the battlefield, and not have your view clogged up by unnecessary prompts.
“Looking at a TV from a distance versus sitting at a monitor means having that extra space is beneficial,” Woolley-Khan says.
One thing that the pair make clear is that this isn’t an either/or situation – bringing Company of Heroes 3 to consoles just means there’s choice in where players can sit down to enjoy a game, they don’t have to choose one or the other.
“Not only do you get that full PC experience on the console – you can still play keyboard and mouse if that’s your preference – but the controller experience makes it a little bit more accessible and opens the game out to a wider audience. And obviously, if you’ve been sitting at a desk office monitor for the whole day, crashing on the couch sometimes is exactly what you need.”
Company of Heroes 3 is available now on Xbox Series X|S.
Company of Heroes 3
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