Company of Heroes 3 Is the Best RTS Game of the Last Decade

Inverse Score: 8/10

The Italian countryside is a smattering of burned-out buildings and craters as I desperately command my troops to reinforce a break in my defenses, but it only takes moments before everything comes crashing down.

The first Company of Heroes is one of the most important real-time strategy games of all time. It completely redefined how cover systems and squad mechanics could work in the genre. While Company of Heroes 2 wasn’t bad, per se, it made some serious missteps in terms of gameplay design, map size, and overall tone. 17 years later, there’s finally a sequel that lives up to the promise of the first game: Company of Heroes 3 is one of the most tactically satisfying RTS games of the last decade. The change in setting to the Mediterranean Front (Italy and Africa) versus the usual European and Pacific fronts works absolute wonders, and while Company of Heroes 3 doesn’t have any truly revolutionary mechanical changes, this strategic gameplay is the most expansive and chaotic it's ever been, in a good way.

Theater of War

The lush landscapes of Italy make for a much different landscape from the usual hard grey battlefields found in World War II games.


Company of Heroes 3 has a staggering amount of content to offer, with a smattering of multiplayer maps and modes on top of a massive Italian campaign that takes a more grand strategy approach with a world map, and a North African campaign that’s your typical series of RTS missions. Sadly, each campaign winds up feeling drastically underbaked in some ways but surprisingly engaging in others.

The African campaign is a much more straightforward affair, feeling like your standard RTS campaign that takes you through a series of guided missions. By and large, these missions do a good job of each feeling different and challenging your strategy in some way. For example, one mission has you making contact with recon vehicles and then protecting their retreat when the enemy’s main force arrives.

What’s baffling about the campaign, however, is how its narrative plays out. You play as the Nazi Afrikakorp led by Erwin Rommel, but between each mission, the narrative is shown from the perspective of the Jewish Berbers fighting in the resistance. This creates an odd tonal dissonance that tries to spotlight the horrors inflicted by the Nazis … even while you’re taking command of their forces. It’s clear that developer Relic wanted to display a thoughtfulness to how these events affected real people, but it just doesn’t land very well.

By comparison, the Italian campaign is a much more “grand strategy” affair that has you taking control of the Allied Forces, slowly making your way across Italy to take back Rome. The campaign plays out across a massive world map like in the Total War games, with three advisors largely giving you the “narrative” through dialogue. Overall, however, this is a mode much more focused on mechanics than narrative, and it does a surprisingly terrible job of explaining how many of those mechanics work.

The world map of the Italian campaign feels like an afterthought, simply there to link real-time battles together.


Essentially you need to command companies that have a move range each turn, moving them to different towns and settlements to take over, which provides you with more resources. On the map you can build battleships, planes, and a host of other options that support your army, like anti-air guns and artillery. Again, however, the tutorials don’t effectively communicate how to build everything or what they’re used for. You’ll need to piece together how the mode works and how, for example, building bunkers or cannons in the vicinity of a town will give you access to those perks within the real-time battles that take place. There’s also an overarching upgrade system that ties into your advisor’s “approval,”

In order to take over most settlements you’ll need to play through one of the real-time battles, which consist of some intentionally designed missions as well as standard skirmishes. The mission design of this campaign is where things really shine, with phenomenally designed objectives that really encourage methodical planning and strategy.

Superb Strategy

This is where the switch to the Mediterranean Theatre of war starts to really work, as the Italian maps are packed with buildings, chokepoints, and flanking opportunities. The tight city streets make unit placement vitally important, especially when enemies are blockaded in buildings. Some of the missions in this campaign are an absolute blast as well, with uniquely challenging objectives. One of my favorite missions had me pushing through enemy lines to save a group of Italian freedom fighters trapped in a hospital, only to turn around and have to set up defenses for a counterattack once I’d saved them.

Cover and wise unit placement feel more important than ever, especially with a more dynamic destruction system.


For as slow and plodding as the overall campaign feels, and as poorly as the map mechanics are explained, I couldn’t help but be excited about the next real-time battle. While the overall structure of the campaign fails to have a real impact, it’s undeniable that some of the mission design on display is brilliant, especially when you factor in how your defenses and structures on the map play into things.

On its face, Company of Heroes 3’s gameplay is almost exactly the same as past entries. Each battle has you constructing your home base and capturing a variety of points to gain resources, which you in turn use to construct your army and outfit them with weapons and equipment. If you’ve never played a Company of Heroes game, there are a few quirks you’ll need to get used to, like green and yellow icons showing the amount of cover your units are taking when you place them somewhere.

Orchestrated Chaos

Company of Heroes 3 features a more robust destruction system than past games, which makes it even more important to carefully consider your unit’s cover options and oftentimes shift to new cover on the fly.

Company of Heroes 3 has 14 different multiplayer maps, with a mix of classics from past games and new ones.


While the missions in both campaigns pit you against designed objectives, Company of Heroes 3’s emphasis on strategy is on full display in the vibrant multiplayer matches and skirmishes. Here, full-on warfare is unleashed as multiple players vie for territory, racing to capture valuable objectives that mean more resources.

Each multiplayer match I played quickly devolved into complete chaos in the best way possible. Do you send all your units and focus on the top front to try and breakthrough? Or split your forces and try to reinforce your ally flagging under an assault. There’s a lot to juggle at one time, but Company of Heroes 3 gives you so many strategic options that you always feel like there’s something you can do to keep the fight going.

All of the chaos is only heightened by the fresh coat of paint that’s been applied to Company of Heroes 3’s visual and audio design. These really look and feel like World War II battles, and the game does a great job of zooming in the camera just enough to keep the intensity up while preserving the wide enough view you need to strategize.

The core gameplay of Company of Heroes has never felt better, and there are hours upon hours of fun to be had simply blasting your way through other players or teaming up against AI opponents. The dual campaigns are honestly a bit of a letdown, but I’m hopeful things could be streamlined or improved with future patches and updates. The RTS genre has undoubtedly been in a slump over the last decade, but Company of Heroes 3 might be just the shot in the arm it needs to keep going.


Company of Heroes 3 is now available for PS5, Xbox Series X|S, and PC. Inverse reviewed the PC version.

INVERSE VIDEO GAME REVIEW ETHOS: Every Inverse video game review answers two questions: Is this game worth your time? Are you getting what you pay for? We have no tolerance for endless fetch quests, clunky mechanics, or bugs that dilute the experience. We care deeply about a game’s design, world-building, character arcs, and storytelling. Inverse will never punch down, but we aren’t afraid to punch up. We love magic and science-fiction in equal measure, and as much as we love experiencing rich stories and worlds through games, we won’t ignore the real-world context in which those games are made.
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