Company of Heroes 3 (opens in new tab) has some cracking tanks. They come in so many different flavors, from tiny little things to massive thunderbolts, and I love them all. North African Operations (opens in new tab), the second campaign of WW2 RTS, really lets them shine, giving them wide open spaces and encouraging tank battle after tank battle. They’re mighty war machines that are a hoot to command, and also to stare at, because Relic loves them down to such a small detail. But after completing the first mission of the operation, the tanks are dropped from the top position. Now the Humble Recovery Vehicle is my best friend.
Given the reliance of the heavily-mechanized Deutsche Africa Corps on vehicles, patches are usually made after every confrontation with the enemy. Thankfully, all DAK infantry, not just engineers, but very slow ones, can repair the area. However, long repair times can leave you vulnerable, so when you’ve got a big job, it’s time to tag in a recovery vehicle—in DAK’s case, the Famo Half-Track.
(image credit: Sega)
The Famo isn’t armed, so you’ll want to keep it far away from the fight, but you’ll want to bring it in for its wonders when the smoke clears. The vehicle he is repairing hits his winch and then the team gets to work. Now, while quick repair of a damaged vehicle is a very easy skill, the recovery vehicles in Company of Heroes 3 are a little more impressive than that. They can also fix worn-out vehicles – those that have been taken out of commission entirely.
Even the toughest tanks have weak spots or weapons that can counter it, so you can lose a valuable vehicle very quickly if you get in a jam. Which I often do, because I’m reckless and very excited about the prospect of more tank battles. Reviving these dead vehicles is clearly an extraordinarily powerful ability, but there are already limitations that make it more complicated than hitting a button and watching the tank come back full force.
Once the vehicle is revived, you are not done yet. See, fixing the debris gets them working again—it doesn’t fix them. They come back as damaged as possible, unable to do much other than serve as a very clear target. So you then need to do the proper repair. If you’re doing this out in the open—and it’s not like you can control where the broken tanks end up—you’re going to make yourself an easy prey. This is the best time to attack the enemy.
(image credit: Sega)
The final trick these automakers can do is my favorite: They can even bring back what’s ruined enemy vehicles, and make them work in your favor. There is no greater “fuck you” for the enemy than stealing their stuff and using them to blow up. It’s thrilling. And that greatly expands the types of tanks you can field, giving you access to toys you’d normally never be able to play with.
Now, these stolen vehicles count in your population limit, and you have to pay a portion of the cost each time you revive something. It’s cheaper than making a new one, but if it’s broken you won’t be able to do anything. However, despite these limitations, the Famo still felt like one of the most powerful tools in my arsenal. And it was made even more powerful when I encountered a bug that let me resurrect vehicles once I reached my pop cap. Oh, I had fun, storming a village with 11 behemoths.
As a rule, whenever a fun and powerful entity is added to a strategy game, there is a fair amount of groaning. This is mostly because the vocal parts of RTS communities are generally the people invested in the multiplayer side of things, and they tend to suffer from balance. We don’t know how recovery vehicles will affect multiplayer balance yet, and balance is something that is constantly being tweaked and modified, so complaints seem premature. And while balance is important, especially in competitive multiplayer, it doesn’t have to be fun, and recovery vehicles are a ton of fun.
(image credit: Sega)
The fact that it sounds more fun than balanced is part of the appeal to me. And especially in singleplayer, that should be the purpose. While multiplayer people can be quite loud and their perspective on the game is just as important as anyone else’s, they are not in the majority. Campaigns and comp stomps have always attracted more people, though there’s no denying that multiplayer is what gives these games a long tail. There’s a lot of joy to be had in micromanaging units and preventing them from falling prey to their weaknesses, but I do want to feel more power sometimes, or at least strongBecause I’m here to watch the dirt blow up in the desert.
I expect recovery vehicles, like all units, to go through a lot of changes before and after launch—this is always the case—but I’m keeping my fingers crossed that Relic won’t balance them until all is happy. does not get sucked in. As long as I can be a dastardly thief, surprising my opponents as I drop their defenses with stolen tanks, I’ll probably be happy.