Company of Heroes 3: How Relic Brought a Strategy Game to Console for the First Time

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. 

A Company of Heroes 3 screenshot showing the unit command wheel

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.”

Company of Heroes 3 screenshot showing units selected

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. 

Company of Heroes 3 screenshot showing radial menu for controllers

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.

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Company of Heroes 3

Relic Entertainment

Welcome to the Mediterranean – a breathtaking new theatre filled with untold stories of war. Engage ferocious enemy forces across Italian mountain passes, breathtaking coastal vistas and the sweeping deserts of N Africa. Stunning visuals deliver authentic and highly diverse environments designed to keep you on your toes. Company of Heroes 3 is the ultimate WW2 console experience, delivering an acclaimed blend of action, tactics and strategy. Purpose built for Xbox, Company of Heroes 3 delivers a custom UI, full controller support, and features that allow you to play at your own pace. Gamepad support enables you to command your armies across an ever-changing battlefield, ensuring you can make the right moves, when you want to make them. The User Interface has been adapted for gamepads to deliver a fun, riveting gameplay experience. Full Tactical Pause feature allows players total control over the pacing of single-player action. Plan your attacks, then effortlessly queue up lethal precision plays that will give you the edge in battle. Experience the biggest single player campaign in franchise history. The new Dynamic Campaign Map delivers full ‘sandbox-style’ gameplay, allowing players to command the overall war effort and experience an unprecedented level of strategic choice. Establish vital supply lines before deploying rear guard defenses to secure your advance. Launch air and naval strikes to weaken and scatter enemy forces or liberate a nearby town to develop a Partisan spy network. Choose your forces and upgrade your veteran companies to match your playstyle. Overwhelm your opponents with four unique factions and all new international Battlegroups. Command ground, air and naval forces and build supply lines to crush enemy advances on the new Dynamic Campaign Map – no two playthroughs are ever alike! Play at your own pace across campaign and skirmish modes before diving into blistering multiplayer action. Discover the untold stories of a stunning Mediterranean theatre, featuring next generation destructible environments, all powered by Relic's proprietary Essence Engine. Company of Heroes 3 delivers the next generation of acclaimed tactical gameplay. Beloved combat mechanics collide with authentic new gameplay features, making for the deepest tactical experience to date. Make use of daring flanking moves to expose enemy side armor, experience all new infantry breaching mechanics allowing you to flush enemy units from their garrisons, and master elevation to enhance your line of sight and gain the upper hand. Company of Heroes 3 promises to delight even the most ardent WW2 enthusiasts thanks to the largest number of launch factions in the series to date. New army customization mechanics will allow you to call in the help of a varied cast of specialist units. Take up the fight with new elite squads including the American-Canadian Special Service Forces, the revered Gurkhas from the Commonwealth and many more. From devastating tank destroyers to clandestine recon vehicles, Company of Heroes 3 features the largest roster in the series to date. The super light Weasel, the armor sniping Nashorn, and the Chaffee Light Tank are just a few of the units making their debut. Also, let's not forget revamped classics like the M3 Recovery Vehicle Halftrack, which can now be used to repair and steal abandoned enemy vehicles! Feel the blistering impact of every mortar shell and naval bombardment with Relic's state-of-the-art Essence Engine. In Company of Heroes 3, every location becomes a fully destructible sandbox, opening up limitless tactical gameplay options for you or your enemy to exploit. Bring fortified buildings crashing down onto enemy squads, then witness enhanced destruction mechanics at play as soldiers exploit fresh ruins as dynamic cover. Stunning new rendering and particle FX technology depicts fire, sand and smoke like never before. Brilliant new soldier animations combine with enhanced A.I, delivering realistic squad reactions to the battlefield. Optimized for DirectX 12 and multi-core CPUs, Relic's new engine technology will deliver cinematic action to rival any Hollywood blockbuster. *Game Pass/Xbox Live subscription is required to play "Multiplayer", "Cooperative Play (vs. AI)" and "Custom Games". *Single-player mode does not require a Game Pass/Xbox Live subscription, but does require an Internet connection.