It’s high time somebody made another Star Wars strategy game, and I reckon I know exactly what it should be. Take the squad-focused, real-time tactical gameplay of Company of Heroes, replace its tired World War 2 setting for Rogue One’s gloriously tropical Scarif, and sprinkle in as much Star Wars flair as you can muster.
That’s right, we’re talking veteran strategy studio Relic developing a Battle of Scarif game in the style of its acclaimed Company of Heroes series. It would have a fully fledged single-player campaign that spans multiple character plotlines, competitive multiplayer skirmishes, and as much DLC as a hypothetical publisher could squeeze out of it.
A pipe dream? Perhaps. A brilliant idea that would instantly win numerous awards if it were to ever actually materialize? I have no doubts. In this week of unfettered Star Wars appreciation, let your mind wander with me into the realm of the hypothetical, and optimistically imagine what such a game would look like. Be warned, though: you may be left disappointed that it doesn’t actually exist.
The best battle of all
The Battle of Scarif might well be the best fight sequence in the entire Star Wars saga. That’s a bold claim, I know, but Rogue One’s climactic skirmish captures everything that makes the galaxy far, far away so engrossing.
With an intrepid band of Rebels, countless legions of Stormtroopers, iconic vehicles, and even an accompanying space battle, it’s Star Wars through and through. From its setting to its scale, everything about the Battle of Scarif sells the idea that a fearless group of heroes is the only thing standing between the galaxy and the overwhelming evil of the Empire. It’s a glorified suicide mission on which the entire fate of the galaxy hinges.
That’s an appropriately theatrical jumping-off point for any strategy game, but also the perfect setting to recreate the combat-focused gameplay of Company of Heroes. The Battle of Scarif is essentially one big siege. There’s little base-building to be done, and certainly no villagers to recruit or resources to gather. Like the khaki troops of Company of Heroes, the Rebels that land on Scarif are on their own; ready and waiting for a bold commander to lead them through tactical firefights in search of objectives to capture and strategic locations to hold.
Those kinds of frenzied battlefield assaults suit Scarif brilliantly. The industrial Imperial compounds that dot the planet's surface would have you scurrying about narrow gangways in claustrophobic gunfights, while stretches of beaches provide open spaces for more dangerous shootouts. This time, though, you won’t be running away from Panzers, but humongous AT-ATs and hovertanks.
Imperial buildings could be occupied by your Rebel troopers, while miscellaneous starfighters, ground vehicles, and supply equipment would support Company of Heroes’ robust cover system. You’d be maneuvering squads of infantry between hollowed-out buildings blasted to ruin under Y-wing bombing runs, before evading the heavy blaster fire of a mounted DLT-19 or the incoming mortar shells of a nearby Artillery Trooper.
The perfect fit
With its vast pre-established lore, the Star Wars universe is practically ready and waiting to be molded into the Company of Heroes template. Stormtroopers carrying classic E-11 blasters would serve as the Empire’s grunts, heavy-weapon troopers with rapid-fire rifles would be your machine gunners, mortar crews could provide longer ranged attacks, while elite Shoretroopers and Dark Troopers would serve as deadly endgame units.
The Rebel side would support a similar roster of standard ground soldiers, stealthy commandos, and airborne Fleet Troopers, alongside more specialist units like melee Wookiee warriors. As in Dawn of War – Relic’s previous sci-fi strategy series – unique character units like Jyn Erso and Cassian Andor would take the role of powerful officers, capable of issuing passive unit buffs and active combat abilities. You'd gradually upgrade them with more powerful weaponry as you progress through the campaign, letting you personalize your squads to suit your playstyle.
But it’d be more than just a mere Star Wars reskin. What better way to sell the heroic ambition of the Rebel Alliance than through the brutal, squad-focused skirmishes of Company of Heroes? This is a game where every soldier counts and an early territorial loss can turn the tide of battle. Place a grenade well, and you could wipe out an entire enemy squad. Position a heavy machine gun right, and you could hold off an entire advancing force of enemy troops.
Throw all of that into the Star Wars universe, and suddenly you’ve got an underdog war story fitting of the courageous Rebellion. Relic’s already shown it can handle narrative-heavy sci-fi with its Dawn of War series. I reckon it can do just as well with George Lucas’ beloved franchise.
A lovely idea
As excited as I might be at the idea of Relic mashing Company of Heroes into the Star Wars universe, I don’t expect it will ever happen. The studio’s too busy developing the third entry in the strategy series, and hasn’t before expressed any interest in journeying to the galaxy far, far away.
Disney has been more open with the Star Wars license in recent years, however, announcing earlier this year that Fallen Order developer Respawn is working on an upcoming strategy game set in the universe. We’ll have to wait and see whether it’ll be at all similar to Company of Heroes, or try riding the coattails of Age of Empires 4’s recent success.
Let’s be thankful, then, that we all already have a cracking Star Wars strategy game in Petroglyph’s Empire at War. It might be over 15 years old, but its ambitious mixture of turn-based grand campaigning with RTS battles is just as potent today as it was in 2006. And if you want to go even older, there’s always Galactic Battlegrounds, which effectively painted Age of Empires 2 in Star Wars colors.