Company of Heroes 3 is coming next year, but you can play a demo right now

Company of Heroes 3 was announced today after many years in development, and you can sign up to play what developer Relic Entertainment calls a pre-Alpha preview build of the game here.

This is the third chapter in one of the most revered RTS series of all time. Company of Heroes debuted in 2006 to near-universal acclaim and multiple awards, including PC Gamer's Game of the Year for 2006, and received two expansions—Opposing Fronts and Tales of Valor—before, in 2013, a full sequel, Company of Heroes 2.

Company of Heroes 3 is set in Italy and North Africa, and features a dynamic turn-based campaign littered with bespoke real-time missions and skirmishes. It looks massive—PCG's online editor Fraser Brown couldn't get enough during his hands-on time, and in his detailed writeup explains why it's a World War 2 RTS on the scale of a Total War game

(Image credit: Relic)

You'll be able to play as the German, UK and US forces in multiplayer, though in the campaign you'll just be playing the Allies. The campaign is turn-based and take place on a huge map with discrete objectives, which also allow you to explore and conquer them however you prefer.

The game's big pitch is a 'holistic loop' that keeps the overall campaign feeling inextricably linked to the RTS battles. Everything you can do in a real-time fight, you can do on the turn-based map: you can potentially wipe out enemy forces before the 'main' fight even happens.

That embrace of a Total War-style structure is the headline attraction, but there are other systems that may have even more impact, such as the tactical pause. At any point in a singleplayer battle, you can pause the action and freely explore the map. That alone is convenient, but the real boon is the ability to order units and queue up commands while paused. Everything you can do normally, you can do with the action frozen (though multiplayer will remain exclusively real-time).

Here's the gameplay trailer.

As the above shows, Company of Heroes 3 has more than doubled-down on the series' traditional strength of destruction. All props, from buildings to foliage, can be damaged, and they don't just have two states. Buildings can be chipped away, vehicles can have parts blown off, and after fights the maps can be barely recognisable.

Best of all, you can play it now. Relic is using fellow Sega studio Amplitude's Games2Gether programme, and signing up for that means you get sneak peeks, updates and playable builds. A pre-alpha demo is available on Steam right now, and you can blow up tanks and breach buildings with flamethrowers until 7 pm PDT on August 2/3 am BST on August 3. 

(Image credit: Sega)

There's a reason why Company of Heroes remains a fixture in our list of the best strategy games on PC, and hopes are high for this one. Here's everything we know about Company of Heroes 3, and the game will release in 2022.

Rich Stanton

Rich is a games journalist with 15 years' experience, beginning his career on Edge magazine before working for a wide range of outlets, including Ars Technica, Eurogamer, GamesRadar+, Gamespot, the Guardian, IGN, the New Statesman, Polygon, and Vice. He was the editor of Kotaku UK, the UK arm of Kotaku, for three years before joining PC Gamer. He is the author of a Brief History of Video Games, a full history of the medium, which the Midwest Book Review described as "[a] must-read for serious minded game historians and curious video game connoisseurs alike."