Written by Remko Molenaar (Proxzor) OnRPG Journalist
Having so many new RTS games launching such as the new Starcraft expansion or even a high definition version of the legendary Age of Empires 2, there is a series that absolutely cannot be missed. As a big fan of war games and mainly the ones that have the Second World War as a setting, I have always been a big fan of the Company of Heroes series. The game itself always was very different from other RTS games, the game was never really meant to be played hardcore but more casually. I got the chance to play in the Closed Beta, and even though almost anyone can get into the beta, it is still super-secret.
It has been quite some time since we have heard something or seen something with the Company of Heroes name. The last game was Company of Heroes: Tales of Valor, the standalone expansion that was released almost exactly 4 years ago. Back then, the game already surprised me with how well everything was made physics wise, and boy I have seen a lot of new eye candy in this new version as well. Company of Heroes 2 is this time focused on the Eastern Front, and the Soviet Red Army is the new playable faction. One of the major upgrades with their new engine is the line of sight, and even though I really didn’t like the thought of that at the first glimpse, I must say that it works extremely well and creates some scenarios in some of the games. The new line of sight doesn’t let you see around corners that you normally couldn’t see around, meaning you can ambush everyone perfectly even though they are behind the next wall. This also makes the game a lot harder than what it used to be, because it also is more focused on the close quarters combat. Another new feature brought into the game is the temperature that you will have to pay attention to. Even with those crazy Russians that claim they walk in t-shirts when it’s snowing outside, the frostbite really hurts. Troops can be caught in blizzards, and other deadly storms and thus require shelter or at least a fire next to them if they want to survive the deadly winter. Deep snow also has an influence on the troops, they will move slower and makes them more vulnerable. And pay attention to the ice covered lake, one mortar and your troops will be sleeping with the fishes.
With all these new features, how much has actually changed in the core of this game? Well this is a difficult thing to say, as I’ve said in the intro I personally felt that it has gone more hardcore. The game actually rewards the faster and smarter players, and even though it has already been in the older games, the game does require some serious ‘macro’ to be mastered. As a frequent RTS player, this term is really familiar and basically means maintaining your economy and doing as much as possible outside the battles, such as buying new troops and placing new buildings. Unfortunately the match making system is a little broken right now, and as a result I got matched with people around the same level against people that obviously had played a lot more games since they were a high level. And as a result we got shown the door in the battle room, we didn’t stand any chance at all and they had an easy walk over. As an online player you can earn rewards such as ribbons and other achievements, and experience to get a higher rank. Unfortunately, I got teamed up several times with players that had a higher latency, and as a result they lagged the whole game and people do not hesitate twice when the option gets available to kick them, luckily an AI will take over but does miss the real quality a real person has.
Currently in this closed beta we are only able to play the game in a skirmish mode. You can either play versus the computer or get matched up with players and against players. The objective is simple, control as many keynotes as possible to keep having your resources flowing in before you run out of points. By holding these points, you can obviously earn more resources and this makes your enemy lose more points, meaning the control of the map is the key to win the game. Since I am really familiar with RTS games, I saw that my skill really influenced the game, after the game is finished you can see graphs of how well you and your team has done, when I compared mine with my teammates I was highly above them, and when I compared them with the enemy that was at least ten levels higher, I fit right with them in. What makes Company of Heroes 2 a lot more serious compared to the other versions, is that it really is shaped in a RTS game that can be compared with a lot of the RTS games from this time, you will have to keep paying attention all over the map, even in your base while there is nothing going on. Having key points on the map such as buildings, bunkers and even sandbags will help you drastically winning a head on firefight. But this will only help you in the first five minutes of the game, when the second ‘tier’ heads onto the battlefield you will get blown up. Mortars, light armor or even tanks can totally demolish the save bunker or sandbag that you are hiding behind, and thus playing with the new line of sight can really surprise the enemy team.
Even though Company of Heroes 2 is still in closed beta, I doubt it will be long before everyone is able to test the game. Even though almost everyone can get a beta key if wanted, the game still is under a NDA as a write this. And thus a lot of the game can change as I write this, but I highly doubt it. There will be some small fixes here and there, and some major upgrades of course but the online aspect is so rock solid already behind the matchmaking issues that I doubt it will change that much. Now that I’ve seen the multiplayer aspect of Company of Heroes 2, I really look forward to the full game, with the new line of sight features and the temperature to think about; the game is still the same but it also has totally changed and created a much more difficult multiplayer that as a RTS fanatic really pleases me.