Company of Heroes Games Overviews

Some thoughts on Company of Heroes on Android

I am a huge fan of Relic’s strategy games. I still remember the awe and wonder I felt playing Homeworld for the first time. Dawn of War 2 and Company of Heroes 2 number among my all-time favorite RTS games, and I’m one of the more positive people about the overall quality of Dawn of War III.

At the moment, CoH for mobile contains the game’s base campaign and vs AI skirmish. I believe multiplayer is something that’s still in the works and should be coming eventually?

And yet, I’m struggling to be really positive about the mobile version of Company of Heroes. I mean, it’s still Company of Heroes. The game is, as far as I know, basically unchanged from the version that people played on PC (with the exception of UI and controls changes to accommodate the different form factor of a touch screen device). There’s still the same depth and interest to the combat and game systems, and if anything it might look a bit better on mobile due to the smaller display sizes.

But I keep feeling like I have to fight the form factor to actually enjoy the game. It’s the controls that really hamstring the experience for me. That, and the installs.

I have been really struggling with the UI and UX in CoH Mobile. First off, the game’s HUD is like, 30% or more of the viewable area. Players can choose to have a more ‘mobile centric’ command wheel for unit abilities, or they can use a standard RTS command card in the bottom right of the screen. With the command card, the HUD takes up a LOT of real estate, and you have this kind of wide strip in the middle of the screen that’s available for you to see what’s going on.

I keep switching between the radial menu mode and the command card mode. Each has its own drawbacks. The worst thing about the command card to me is that it forces you to confirm any ability use, which is an extra tap. I think you might be able to turn this off, but I haven’t found it in the settings yet?

The radial menu is easier to use but does have its own issues. First off, I keep accidentally activating it while trying to pan the map with my fingers. It gets to be so bad that I often end up turning it back off in frustration. And that’s how it goes: I use the command card until it frustrates me enough to switch to the radial menu, and vice versa, over and over.

The touch controls more broadly are also frustrating. To box select units, you must double tap on the screen and then drag the selection box. However, this is really finicky and I’ve had it fail more than work.

To pick up dropped weapons or manned decrewed guns, you must double tap on the weapon itself with a squad selected. Some of the guns are kind of tiny, which makes it occasionally frustrating to use. I’ve had situations where I have a squad selected and have double tapped on the ground right next to a gun instead of on the gun. I’ve had situations where I’ve double tapped on another squad by accident. I could keep going, but I think it’d get a little boring to read honestly.

Honestly? I keep getting into these flow states where I’m not flubbing the controls and accidentally issuing my HMG a move order into the middle of an enemy situation, or accidentally selecting the wrong squad or throwing a grenade at the wrong place, and everything clicks and then I’m just playing Company of Heroes on my phone, and that’s pretty darn awesome. But then, one of the above things will happen and I’ll be back to being frustrated.

The other thing that kills me is all of the downloads. I had to replay the Omaha Beach (first level of the campaign) something like 5 times due to the second level not loading properly. Players can choose to download all of the game’s content at once or download it piecemeal: I clearly have chosen this second option.

The streaming downloads are frustrating, especially in the campaign. But, I don’t have a lot of room on my phone and wanted to save space as much as I could. It’s a less than optimal user experience I feel. Still, I’m putting up with it to save space on my phone because I’m a contrary old grump.

And that’s about the end of it. That sums up my experience so far. Company of Heroes is a phenomenal game, but the Android version feels held back by its fiddly controls and clunky UI. I’m not even sure I fault the developer that ported the game: Feral Interactive, for the problems. It’s just a really complex games where there are lots of controls that players will expect, and that’s kind of antithetical to pushing your fingers around on a 5 or 6 inch screen. It’d probably be more tolerable on a larger tablet (like an iPad, the original release) or with a controller or something.

It’s not a terrible experience, but I’d hesitate to broadly recommend it. It’s nice to be able to play COH in bed, but at the same time I sometimes want to physically pitch my phone across the room dealing with the quirks of the UI and control scheme.

I think as I play more and commit the game’s oddities to muscle memory, the experience will improve. I’ll get things to a sweet spot and then it’ll just me and a really good Relic game on mobile. Hopefully.

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