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Company of Heroes 2

The year is 1941.  For those of you who remember your history, you’ll know the significance of that date.  It was the year that Germany broke the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact and begun its invasion of the Soviet Union during World War II.  “Company of Heroes 2” puts you in the shoes of a commander from the Soviet Red Army and tasks you with fighting back the German invasion RTS style via a single player campaign.  Alternatively, players will be able to participate in multiplayer skirmishes online.  Before we get started taking a look at this game in further detail, I’d like to thank Simon Watt from SEGA and Melissa Chan from Wonacott Communications for providing me with a free review copy.

Company of Heroes 2

Company of Heroes 2 (Windows)

The main menu will allow the player to participate in the single player campaign, play multiplayer skirmishes with the AI or real people, try out cooperative missions and challenges in the theatre of war menu, view replays and tactics, change your army loadouts, and adjust game options.  The options menu is what you’d come to expect from a game that comes from a popular franchise.  You’ll be able to adjust screen resolution, v-sync, texture detail, physics, audio levels, gameplay / UI options, and more.  There’s even an option to log into Twitch TV, for those of you who use the service to stream videos.  Automatching is available in the skirmish mode, should you just want to jump in without having to set up a custom game.

Company of Heroes 2

Stacking the deck in custom games will give you time to try out your faction’s toys.

To expand on the game itself for a moment, “Company of Heroes 2″ is a real-time strategy game at heart.  I know what you’re thinking…”Well, I faceroll noobs in StarCraft all the time.  This shouldn’t be hard.” Well, you’re wrong.  This isn’t your typical RTS game where you’ll be mining resources and building up a bunch of units to throw at your enemy.  I learned this the hard way when I tried out the first game in the series back in 2006.  The “Company of Heroes” formula is focused more around area control and strategic planning.  You can build squads of units or vehicles, but each one is extremely valuable in their own right.  Due to the way resources are earned, you’ll be taking care to preserve each one like a parent would their newborn child.

Company of Heroes 2

Keeping your units alive will mean the difference between victory and defeat.

The sequel looks and feels much like its predecessor, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing.  There are slight improvements in the graphics and user-interface, but everything is where I expected it to be.  Those of you who have played the original “Company of Heroes” will be able to drop into this game with guns blazing.  Newcomers to the series will be a bit overwhelmed at first, but the campaign serves as a nice warm-up for the brutal matches you’ll experience online with live players.  To sum things up for the uninitiated, you’ll be building troops and trying to control resource points around the map.  Resource points are broken up into manpower, ammunition, and fuel.  Capturing these points award you with a steady stream of that particular resource and the more you capture, the better.  This promotes offensive play to acquire those supply lines, as those who turtle up will soon find themselves at a disadvantage.

Company of Heroes 2

Setting the match to the victory point win condition will force you to get into the thick of things.

The single player campaign consists of fourteen missions that allow you to see the Soviet Red Army to victory.  While you won’t be able to play as the German army in the campaign, you’ll have access to them in the multiplayer and skirmish modes.  Multiplayer is a bit more customizable.  You’ll be able to assign AI players to either side of the conflict, teaming up or squaring off with them at will.  Like “Company of Heroes”, I found the AI to be ruthlessly hard, even on the “easy” difficulty setting.  Part of me chalks that up to me simply being a bad player, but the other part of me wishes the AI was easier so that I could practice my tactics and try out new strategies.  I highly recommend adding some AI players to your side of the battle, just so that they can help carry your weight a bit while you get used to the interface and gameplay mechanics.  The profile system features a level up mechanic, allowing you to unlock new features and abilities the more you play.  All of that can be customized in the army customizer menu, which I didn’t find all that hard to navigate.

Company of Heroes 2

You can customize your loadout via the army editor.

So, what separates this game from its predecessor?  For one, the atmosphere is much, much colder.  Units will actually be affected by the snow and cold weather this time around, to the point where units will need to stay near fires or indoors lest they perish before they even get a chance to fight.  Certain ice patches on the ground are destructable, sending unfortunate units that happen to be on top of them when they break into the icy depths.  Not to worry, not all skirmish maps have these features, should you want to warm things up for a while.  The new truesight mechanic gives units a much more realistic line of sight.  Units (and thus, you) won’t be able to see behind buildings, for example, until you actually send them around them to see what’s there.  Oh, and units can vault now…something that was annoying absent from the first game.  It grinded my gears that my units had to walk around a long fence rather than just jump over it…well, no longer.  All of these changes improve the formula for the better, in my honest opinion.  It makes the gameplay a bit more realistic while at the same time, keeping with the “Company of Heroes” we all know and love.

Company of Heroes 2

Don’t want your units to freeze to death? Build a fire pit.

Overall, I found “Company of Heroes 2” to be a highly competent and challenging strategy game.  As an RTS buff, I still find this game to be more difficult than most of the ones I’ve played, which says a lot.  The character and vehicle models are easy to swoon over, especially when they’re pitched in battle.  I’ve played so many RTS games that it’s rare when I actually feel a sense of dread mid-battle.  “Company of Heroes 2” delivered dread to my doorstep in spades.   There’s nothing like watching an enemy Panzer tank roll its way into view, and the mad scramble that occurs afterwards as you try to get your units out of there.  I still think the AI is a bit too difficult on multiplayer, which only serves to scare off the casual RTS folks who enjoy an easier gameplay session.  To sum it up, “Company of Heroes 2” is a great game and a superb addition to the series.  Some will love it for its strategic depth and difficulty, and some will hate it for its strategic depth and difficulty.  As for myself, I liked the game in the Beta and I’m enjoying my experience now.  If you’re not sure about this game, give the original a shot to see how you fare.

Final Verdict: 8/10

You can learn more about and purchase “Company of Heroes 2” by visiting the following websites:

http://www.companyofheroes.com/

http://store.steampowered.com/app/231430/

You can watch video play sessions here:

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