It can be argued what the greatest year in gaming was. Some may say 2010 with Red Dead Redemption, Alan Wake, Transformers: War for Cybertron, and Halo: Reach coming out within weeks of each other. However, some may say 2006 was a great year, if not the best. Games such as The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell: Double Agent, Bully, and Guitar Hero II were just some of the games released in that year. That same year saw a special real-time strategy game land on the beaches and established a foothold in video games: Company of Heroes.
Company of Heroes set a gold standard in real-time strategy and presentation. The controls, authenticity, and story all made tremendous impacts on the gaming scene. This was bolstered by the culture’s focus on World War II, with HBO’s Band of Brothers being a revered show at the time. It’s been 16 years since Company of Heroes first launched on PCs, and now the game has made its way to Nintendo Switch as Company of Heroes Collection thanks to Feral interactive. The result is an excellent game and one of the very best ports on the handheld.
You are about to embark upon the Great Crusade
Company of Heroes needs no introduction, but there will always be those new to the trilogy. Company of Heroes is an acclaimed real-time strategy game set in World War II. The base game puts players in Able Company and Fox Company in various missions, from Operation Overlord to Operation Cobra. Its development history was a milestone. The studio, Relic Entertainment, created their own in-house engine, the Essence Engine. This allowed for more atmosphere and particle effects to create a more dynamic war environment. Over 100 developers worked on the game during development. The award-winning success of Company of Heroes led to Company of Heroes 2 in 2013 and Company of Heroes 3 in 2022.
Company of Heroes is a real-time strategy game. Players command various Allied units where the goal is to complete mission objectives and eliminate the enemy. The objectives vary depending on the mission and battlefield but ultimately point to destroying anything German or resembling fascism. Players begin having access to basic infantry, using squads of soldiers to engage the enemy and complete smaller objectives. Later missions give players access to beefier units, such as tanks and aircraft, but raise the stakes with a more dangerous and desperate enemy.
The Eye of The World is Upon You
The ebb and flow of Company of Heroes is to build resources and capture Victory Points. Certain areas on a map can be seized for Victory Points. These points can then allow for the construction of certain assets, from mines to observation posts. There are many options, and each option gives players a tactical advantage. It is a race against time, as reinforcements are finite and can be exhausted, making battles increasingly harder. Resources are everything in Company of Heroes. How you use your tactical noggin is just as important as having a tank destroyer.
The biggest draw with this re-release is how it performs on Nintendo Switch. It’s been something of a trendy sensation to take a game and port it to the Nintendo Switch. There are excellent examples of ports done right, such as Dusk, Doom, and The Witcher III: Wild Hunt. However, there are underwhelming ports such as Pillars of Eternity and the recently released Mortal Kombat 1. I’m incredibly pleased to say Company of Heroes Collection is one of the best ports for the Nintendo platform. At a time when the game is listed as unsupported on Steamdeck, Company of Heroes Collection is the only way to play the game on the go if you don't own an iPad.
Bring The Rain
On a technical level, Company of Heroes Collection holds up very well. Sound sampling has the audio mix extremely well, with gunfire, explosions, and soldiers yelling commands sounding genuine and without interruption. With all the chaos and fire of war, the game doesn’t skip a beat. The game holds at a solid framerate and visually still looks impressive after all these years. Explosions are filled with dirt and grime, showering nearby soldiers in debris. Smoke and steam move realistically to wind conditions. Even the transition from pre-rendered cutscene to in-game visuals is seamless, albeit a tad bit dated.
Company of Heroes Collection is packed with content. In fact, almost all the content released for the original game is in the Company of Heroes Collection, minus multiplayer. Despite multiplayer being cut, Company of Heroes Collection has everything from skirmish mode to several expansions folded in. The base campaign, coupled with all the content that came with the Opposing Fronts and Tales of Valor expansions, make the Company of Heroes Collection packed to the gills. The expansions also contained single-player campaign missions, bringing the total to 41 missions for the collection.
The Tools of War
Real-time strategy games are notoriously challenging to port to consoles for the various systems and control inputs necessary. Any game in the genre is best played on a keyboard & mouse, but Feral Interactive gave Company of Heroes a premium treatment for the Nintendo Switch. Using the shoulder buttons, players access radial menus. These menus give action to constructing assets, special unit maneuvers, and the deployment of reinforcements. These menus do take a bit of getting used to, but it shouldn't take long for players to understand how they function.
On selecting a unit, the shoulder buttons unlock special moves and upgrades for each unit. These include throwing grenades and satchel charges or performing an overdrive move to make units temporarily more effective. Some units can be upgraded to make them more lethal and effective in battle. Clicking on a structure and opening the menu allows for the construction of assets. The same menus open the Company Commander radial menu. This menu allows for special actions, such as sending in special units. One mission had me parachute more airborne soldiers to help reinforce units on the ground.
Give 'em Hell
Even with these menus, it's strongly encouraged to participate in the training mode before embarking on the campaign. It is unwise to fumble with controls in the middle of a firefight when Germans have Allied soldiers pinned down with MG-42 fire. However, the controls are easy to learn for any player, regardless if they are grizzled experts on the genre or they just fire up a Nintendo Switch for the first time.
As great as the controls are, this port does not support a touchscreen. This is a strange decision that could have enhanced the gameplay in various ways, such as pinpointing units and where they need to go. Company of Heroes did see a strong port to the iPad, where the entire UI and controls were tethered to the touchscreen. While having touchscreen controls on the Switch would have been nice, having physical controls is much more beneficial to controlling the chaos of war.
A Company of Heroes
The same great experience that Company of Heroes is known for is intact and on full display. Every moment feels remarkable and dynamic. You can smell the gunpowder and feel the ground quake beneath your feet. The whistle sound of artillery before it strikes is a sound of terror and victory as it strikes German targets. Playing Company of Heroes is a challenge and a rewarding experience, as brains meet military might.
There's really not much fault I can give the Company of Heroes Collection. Company of Heroes is now on the Switch, meaning that acclaimed combat can now go anywhere you want to have the very best WWII experience around. The story is riveting, and the combat is engaging. The multitude of missions and factions offer plenty of combat scenarios that will keep players playing for quite some time. Feral Interactive went above and beyond with this port and, in doing so, set another example of what can be done in porting games to different hardware. May this game lead the way not just for the other Company of Heroes games but for many other titles to come in the future.
Company of Heroes was reviewed on the Nintendo Switch OLED thanks to a key from Feral Interactive.