For centuries, real-time strategy has been a genre where the number of things you can physically do per second has a major impact on how efficiently you can play. And while there’s something to be said for that, Company of Heroes 3 tries to extend the appeal of its tactical gameplay to those who prefer to sit back and think carefully about every move, perhaps with a drink. of whiskey in one hand and a mouse in the other. The tactical pause, as they call it, is no less taxing on your soldiers who are sent to load a machine gun emplacement. But it’s a far less chaotic and, dare I say, more luxurious experience for a commander.
Pausing a single-player mission in Company of Heroes 3 will spawn an action queue for each of your units, allowing you to issue a series of sequential orders that will all be carried out when you resume. So you could tell a squad of infantry to run for cover, throw a grenade, and then keep moving forward without wasting a moment. Giving a complex chain of orders to multiple units at once will see them go like a well-directed orchestra of destruction, allowing for certain maneuvers to be carried out that might have only been possible for an esports pro before.
Company of Heroes 3 – North Africa Campaign Screenshots
I was a bit skeptical about this idea at first. In the past, playing against the AI in an RTS has always been a somewhat asymmetrical warfare situation. I, as a human being, am much more intuitive and capable of abstract thought. In turn, the computer is able to perform calculations in a fraction of a second and can issue many more commands at once. With Tactical Pause, this second perk is removed. But honestly, I haven’t found it to make things too easy. Sometimes I’ll still go entire missions without it, while in others it feels practically essential. But more often than not, I take advantage of it when I feel a bit overwhelmed and need to understand the battle.
Setting up an assault or a flank, or reacting to an enemy advance, are two of the most common times I’ll break that space bar. But it’s also very useful for lining up abilities like airstrikes and, most importantly, dodging enemy ones. Grenades in Company of Heroes 3 have a pretty short fuse, so unless you spot it just as it leaves the enemy’s hand, you probably won’t have time to get out of the blast zone . With Tactical Pause, you could actually get your guys out of there before it goes off.
There were two types of missions in particular where I found this particularly critical. The first is to defend a strategic point against an enemy capture attempt. We’ll use Salerno as an example here, as one of the first towns you’ll liberate in Italy and one of the first places you’re likely to face a counterattack. If you look at the amount of ground we have to hold here and the number of different defensive options we have – from engineers setting up field works, to aiming all our big guns the right way – we would quickly miss the grace period before the attack comes if we were to do all of this in real time.
Stay on the line
With Tactical Pause, however, we can do so much before the onslaught hits us. I can also make sure everyone knows what they’re doing. When I tried to play this mission without Tactical Pause, there were always stragglers somewhere that I forgot to give orders to. It’s just too much to reasonably keep track of. And as the enemy advances, a pause can allow me to coordinate an orderly retreat, rather than just clicking spam to get everyone out of there.
Company of Heroes 3: Unit Spotlight – IGN First
The other mission where I found the feature to be a game-changer was Tobruk, one of the largest and most complex battles in the North African campaign. Leading an assault as Deutsches Afrikakorps, there are always several things happening on this large open battlefield once the action begins. In past RTS, my solution would have been to try and create one or two strong defensive points that I hopefully wouldn’t have to watch while advancing with my main group. Now, however, I don’t even need to have a main group. Everyone can be on the attack and react to attacks at the same time.
The Tactical Pause is touted as a way to make it easier for new players to get into the RTS, and that’s definitely one of the things it could do. But even as a veteran who’s been playing this genre since before I learned my times tables, I just enjoy it as a different way to play a WWII tactical game. It doesn’t even necessarily reduce the skills required. It just emphasizes a different set of skills.
And honestly, having this option available just makes every operation a little more enjoyable to play. At least, as enjoyable as all-out war can be. Not feeling like my brain has to keep track of so many different things from the moment I get started is a breath of fresh air. I sometimes crave chaos, but I don’t necessarily want to sit in it for an entire campaign.