Over the course of Company of Heroes 3’s expansive, open-ended Italian campaign, you’ll fight your fair share of classic RTS battles. Quite a lot of them, probably. But to add some variety, there are also several less conventional encounters you can come across with their own rules and objectives, so you have to stay on your toes. From a desperate rescue mission to shadowy commando operations, it will take ingenuity and adaptability to break the Axis lines in the push toward Rome. We got to try out just a few of these unorthodox scenarios.
They say the best way to stop a snake is to cut off the head. I don’t know who “they” are, nor have I actually tested this. I’d rather leave snakes alone, you know? But it can definitely be true when fighting Nazis, which brought us to one of my favorite Company of Heroes 3 missions so far: The Gardening Job. This nighttime infiltration is a stealthy special forces assignment, giving you a small number of very specialized troops and no way to get reinforcements. You’ll have to infiltrate an occupied manor, taking out guards along the way, before assassinating a Nazi officer and escaping, hopefully, with your lives.
Company of Heroes 3 – North Africa Campaign Screenshots
You don’t have the time to slug it out from cover and hope to out-shoot the enemy here, and you don’t have the manpower to bulldoze your way across the map. So it becomes this very tricky puzzle of choosing your engagements, staying undetected, knowing how to use squad abilities, and making sure every firefight is tilted heavily in your favor. I played it a couple times, and I found that moving fast and decisively was really the way to go. It feels like a proper commando raid, getting the jump on enemy patrols and taking them down before they even know what hit them.
Of course, I didn’t manage to clear all the guards before the VIP showed up, which meant my escape was made all the more difficult when the surviving enemy squads joined in the hunt. Not everyone made it out alive. But we got the job done.
Coast to Coast
One Nazi commander out of the way wasn’t going to win us the war, though. I needed to be able to bring my naval superiority to bear on the campaign map, which led right into the bombastic Shoreline Cleanup mission. This one is all about flanking German coastal defenses and making sure they’re out of operation so you can land more troops safely, or get naval guns into range to support the ones that are already there. There’s no timer, but it is pretty tense when every step toward the objective presents you with overlapping defenses that seem prepared for anything.
I don’t want to spoil every surprise this map is hiding or tell you exactly what to do. But it’s really about finding the chinks in the armor, the little spots where maybe one little part of the line is vulnerable to one, particular type of attack. Or, failing that, using your units in good coordination to create an opportunity and exploit it with split-second timing before that window closes. It was a major test of my combined arms abilities, with some seemingly great positions turning out to be traps. It does a great job of capturing the tension and paranoia of attacking a fortified position where the terrain is not on your side, and it’s a worthy challenge even for a series veteran.
To the Rescue
Company of Heroes 3 – First Screenshots
With the coast literally and figuratively clear, though, the mission design team had one more curveball to throw at me. And it was the most brutal one I’d come up against yet. Hill Highway Rescue begins with an Allied captain’s plane going down behind enemy lines. Our company is ordered to get to him before the Wehrmacht can flatten his position, and fight off the waves of attackers. There’s a time limit here represented by a health bar that shows how much longer the captain and his Italian partisan compatriots can hold out without help.
Getting to the crash site was the easy part. Having mastered quick and deadly night infiltrations with the earlier assassination assignment, I managed to make my way across the moonlit countryside without getting pinned down. Switching from fast attack to desperate defense, though, proved to be another thing entirely. When panzers and armored cars got involved, an old barn and some stone fences just couldn’t provide the hard cover I needed to fight back effectively. Try as I might to get some potent AT guns into position, it was too little too late. Our reunion with the captain was a bittersweet one, as we shared his fate when the position was overrun by the Axis.
Back to the Drawing Board
You can’t win them all, and you definitely have to be ready for anything with the diversity of unique missions in Company of Heroes 3. I’ll get my rematch sooner or later, and from the moment the rescue went belly-up, I was already thinking about everything I could have done differently. All the tools I hadn’t used, or how being a bit bolder in my counter-attacks could have been more effective than just trying to dig in as best we could and wait for them to come to us. Offense can sometimes be the best defense, after all.