Company of Heroes 3 sticks to its WWII RTS roots in many ways. But perhaps the biggest novelty is its open Italian campaign. While the Ardennes Assault expansion for Company of Heroes 2 toyed with the idea of a non-linear story, this new campaign takes things to another level in terms of story branching and player freedom.
One of the ways this campaign shows war from a new point of view is the inclusion of Italian partisan forces who worked against Mussolini’s government and the occupying Axis forces, helping the Allies liberate the country. They are represented by the fictional rebel leader Valenti, who will come to you with requests and suggestions.
“So if you work for loyalty with Valenti… you’ll be able to access abilities that will allow you to use partisan hubs on the campaign map“.
Partisans can weaken enemy strongholds before you even attack, and Partisan units can also help you in combat if you stay on their good terms, granting you Italian irregular troops that are good in a skirmishing and harassing role. But it won’t always be easy to stay on his good side as you try to achieve your larger goals.
“They remind you: take care of our land and our people. You are here to help. Don’t hurt us. Don’t destroy these culturally significant places“.
“We did a lot of research, and what we came up with was trying to tell the best story while being as accurate as possible. An incredible story told in Italy is the Battle of Montecassino. The battle is dramatic and sad: in the end, the abbey is destroyed. We give players the opportunity to make very delicate decisions on this map, even to the point of being able to save the abbey“.
Monte Cassino is an abbey in Lazio built in 529 AD In real life, the Allies bombarded the abbey without knowing for sure whether the Axis forces were using it as a defensive position or simply camping around it, which has remained controversial until today. Valenti and her supporters won’t appreciate you going down the story path, which can lock you out not only of the bonuses she can provide, but also of certain story moments later in the campaign. It’s just one of several major narrative decisions that you can take
However, whether or not to help the partisans is not your only concern. Commanders of allied conventional forces will also sometimes ask you to choose between them.
“So we’ve taken from the pages of history this rivalry that happened between some real commanders… the American and British commanders who clashed a lot over what to do during the Italian campaign. The American commander really wanted to push to get to Rome, and the British commander wanted to play a little more conservative… you’re going to be right in the middle of this dispute.”
Since the Italian campaign is one of the most unknown parts of World War II, Relic was fortunate to get some feedback from a local.
“One of our most committed players… Marco Fiore, recently joined us as a developer. And he is very committed to making sure that we represent Italy and Italians correctly. He calls our attention to the language when we use profanity and try to include some Italian flavor. He’ll tell us: ‘Oh, that’s not how they would say it. That’s not exactly correct.’ When we refer to the squads, he says: ‘No, it’s guastatori’ and we all say ‘gustatori’ or ‘poseglieri’ or whatever. He is very good at correcting us“.
Nevertheless, Company of Heroes 3 will come out with a second more linear campaign. Set in North Africa and centered around the Deutsch Afrika Corps under the command of the notorious Erwin Rommel, Relic knows how difficult it is to campaign from an Axis point of view.
“I think Rommel is a character that was highly glorified in the popular media. He was the ‘cool general’ of the German army. But we want to make sure that people understand that you’re not going to play anyone good here when you play the Germans… The impact of Rommel when he swept through North Africa with his army and the impact on the Berber people. It is an important story that we want to tell, because it is a story that I did not know“.
Rommel’s image was somewhat rehabilitated after the war, as the Cold War was brewing and NATO nations felt that West Germany needed positive figures to rally around. This led to a narrative that implied that the Wehrmacht and the average German soldier had not been aware or directly complicit in the worst Nazi war crimes.
“Representing Rommel is complicated. Representing any major military figure from World War II is… a challenge. Rommel makes it especially complex because of the perception that he was a chivalrous general, that he was part of ‘War Without Hate’. And we can’t believe any of those myths… we want to be honest about what he was fighting for and what he stood for… there was a very dark side to the war in Africa. But Rommel was a larger than life figure and he was this brilliant strategist that everyone was fascinated by. So we represent Rommel as a mastermind, but also as part of the German war machine. As something we all know he is brutal and terrible“.
“I hope that when people play the game… they get to play with all the units they expected and the cool tanks and weapons, but along the way, we’re going to tell a heartfelt story about the people who were affected as well… it’s really an amazing story about the rebellion, and I hope that people can appreciate the amount of work and effort that we have put into it.”
Whether you’re looking for a more freewheeling experience with interesting characters to influence and be influenced by in Italy, or a more traditional linear campaign in North Africa, Company of Heroes 3 aims to bring some of the lesser-known parts to the fore of the conflict for the first time in an RTS. And throughout this month, we want to bring you more information about Company of Heroes 3 as part of IGN First, so stay tuned for our posts.