Going into the Android port for Company of Heroes, I wondered how well the game would hold up after so many years. Is it the RTS classic we all remember, or is it only impressive when viewed through rose-tinted glasses? Having played through the mobile port of the beloved strategy game, I’ve realized that wasn’t the right question. I should have been asking if Company of Heroes is a good fit for Android, and I’m not convinced it is.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. Developed by Relic Entertainment, Company of Heroes is a 2006 real-time strategy game set during the Battle of Normandy in World War II. The recent Android port comes courtesy of Sega and Feral Interactive. The game begins with D-Day on June 6th, 1944 and ends with the Battle of the Falaise Pocket that August. The plot follows three difrent companies in the U. S. Army. Able is an infantry company with bonuses to fixed defenses and the ability to call in off-map artillery support. Dog Company is an armored cavalry unit with access to unique vehicles and upgrades. Meanwhile, Fox Company’s paratroopers can deploy and reinforce from anywhere on the map.
Whether you’re playing the Campaign or Skirmish mode, gameplay revolves around what is effectively capture the flag. The maps are divided into multiple sectors with a “capture point” in the middle. Securing a point allows the player to build structures in that area. Each sector additionally provides a steady trickle of one of three resources, Fuel, Munitions and Manpower. Most units and buildings require Manpower and Munitions. Vehicles and artillery also require fule to produce. Capturing sectors also increases the number of units your faction can deploy at a time. This encourages the player to move much more aggressively than they might otherwise.
Company of Heroes may be a real-time strategy game, but it has the soul of an FPS. Movement and position are just as important as training the correct number of each unit. Good cover can be the difference between life and death for infantry, and flanking is a hard counter to almost everything. A column of German heavy tanks is something to fear, but they’re not so scary when your men sneak up behind them with a rocket launcher. If you don’t have a rocket launcher you can always steal one from an enemy squad. The same tactic works with artillery and anti-tank weapons. These units suffer from poor mobility and limited cone of fire, but make up for it with range and damage.
If this sounds micro heavy, that’s because it is. I haven’t even mentioned things like upgrades, garrisoning units and reinforcing. You won’t get very far by clicking select all and sending your units in headfirst. Fortunately, Company of Heroes allows the player to issue orders while the game is paused. And trust me, you will need to take advantage of this feature. Company of Heroes does a great job of capturing the chaotic atmosphere of a World War Two battlefield. And by that, I mean there will be about seven things needing your attention at any given moment.
This is where the problems begin. You can’t make precise clicks on a smartphone, at least not to the same degree as with a mouse. I often had to give the same order two or three times before the game interpreted it correctly. Scrolling is tedious, as is selecting multiple units. I successfully used the bounding box to select units precisely once and managing control groups was a test of endurance. Frankly, if I described every time the interface proved to be difficult, this review would probably be 1200 words long.
Then there are the bugs. I discovered after installing that my phone wasn’t on Feral’s list of supported devices. While I didn’t encounter anything game-breaking, I did experience a few recurring glitches.
Now, none of this makes Company of Heroes a bad game, just a bad game for Android. It was designed to be played with a mouse and keyboard. Feral Interactive simply hasn’t done enough to compensate for this fact. While I believe that older PC titles can be great on mobile, Company of Heroes is unfortunately not one of them.
Is it Hardcore?
Company of Heroes is a good game that simply isn’t a good fit for Android. The spark of greatness remains, but I spent more time fighting the interface than the enemy.