There’s little to hold a strategy genre fan back from saying that Company of Heroes was arguably the most complete and greatest RTS Strategy game to ever exist. It managed to deliver the events of mankind’s greatest and most tragic war in a fashion never seen before.
By the time CoH was out, so many World War II games had been thrown at us that the core message and historical essentiality of it all seem to fade away.
Anyone would’ve shunned away another game that would incorporate WWII as its set-up, but Relic Entertainment bravely presented us with the first Company of Heroes, which more than just blew us away. Heck, it’s even unjust to term it brave; CoH was so perfect, that it was a no-brainer that it was bound to succeed. The success was so viral, that it even spread to those who had never before in their life touched an RTS game.
I myself was one of those who more or less despised RTS games – they were always too slow, too imbalanced, or lacked structural and sequential quality that every other genre had. Progression was difficult, and when it did come, there were always a few hindrances that would narrow things down to how patient one was.
With a skeptical frame of mind, I picked up CoH, just because of the sky-high ratings it had gotten, and the shouts of appraisal and love for it across gaming magazines and the internet. Like everyone else, CoH surprised and attracted me so much that I willingly re-played the game 4 times over.
The game struck a perfect balance when it came to difficulty and pace. Progression was rewarding, and one had so many potentially successful options and strategies at hand. All in all, CoH was, in every sense, a perfect RTS game.
When the news for Company of Heroes 2 came out, the obvious reflex was to jump off the seat in excitement, but the pleasingly spin-chilling part of it came when news about its features started to emerge.
Company of Heroes 2 will take us back once again to WWII, this time focusing on the northern parts of the conflict, as players take control of the USSR Red Army, progressing on to be a part of various portions of the Eastern Front campaign of the Great War, including the infamous Operation Barbarossa and the Battle of Berlin.
If you thought CoH 1 had stunning graphics for a top-view RTS game, you’ll be stunned by its sequel. Relic has continued to hold up to its legacy of going over the norms, as they once again incorporate life-like details in their game.
Individuals in a unit are so immensely details, that digits on the soldier’s gloved hands are visible, their expressions change, and the textures on their warm uniforms almost perfectly elaborate the intensity of the cold regions of the USSR.
Speaking of cold, snow and ice are an integral factor in Company of Heroes 2 – not just in-terms of aesthetics and visuals, but also the gameplay mechanics. The game uses terrain deformation technique, which makes snow and ice to mimic real-life properties, as they melt in the fire of the troops’ flamethrowers.
Ice in particular has a very, very important influence on how things play out on the battlefield. Frozen water is a major part of the game, as the dynamics and deformation of the terrain can make or break your troops.
For instance, you might find yourself crossing a frozen lake. It’s all cool for the infantry units, but the armored tanks and heavy vehicles are your main concern. Thin regions of the ice will shatter in rare case making you lose precious infantry soldiers and possibly even tanks.
But the more common mishaps – which will also be the situation-altering ones – will occur when battles take place while you are on the unreliable frozen waters. It will only take a few well-placed shots from the enemy, and a wittily thrown grenade to sink an entire set of units and tanks within no time.
This horrifying yet heavily appreciable mechanic is accompanied by the TrueSight visual mechanic, which is being claimed as the game’s most significant feature. By now you should know that Relic is brilliant at bringing absolutely new and revolutionary things to the RTS genre, and the TrueSight system is no different.
In almost every other RTS game, including Company of Heroes 1, the well-known concept of Fog of War is used, which is generally the limitation of one’s available field of vision. Usually, this is a circle with a specific radius, beyond which nothing essential can be observed unless your units move to uncover the area.
The TrueSight system changes the concept completely. Instead of a pre-set circular field of vision, the environment and a unit’s line-of-sight determines what you can or can’t see on the map. So, if some sort of obstruction comes in front of a unit’s soldiers, such as smoke, an explosion or an artillery impact, you literally won’t be able to see past it, as would’ve been the case with the soldiers on the field.
This dynamic visibility completely changes the way one would choose to progress in the game, and adds to the surprise element. More importantly, it adds the ever-constant factor of uncertainty in the hearts of players, making them more wary, more claustrophobic, and in some cases even more paranoid. This feeling of fear and wariness itself is something never seen before in RTS games.
We can also expect to see a huge improvement in the AI, which, according to Relic, will be equipped with the virtual mentality that any witty real-life gamer would have. Additionally, there will be lots of subtle in-game changes that could greatly influence how things progress in the battlefield. For example, abandoned vehicles can now be captured and included in the forces.
From what we’ve seen of Company of Heroes 2, there’s really no reason not to say that Relic is living up to the ridiculously-high expectations when it comes to making a quality sequel to CoH.
The game is already looking fantastic, and only the waiting part seems to be questionable one, as the title is expected to arrive for PC on 2013.