In 2006, Company of Heroes was released, and went on to be regarded by many as one of the greatest real time strategy games ever made. Nearly seven years later, the sequel is just about ready for release. The pressure is on Relic Entertainment to deliver another groundbreaking title, with Sega having purchased the rights to publish the game from the now bankrupt THQ. Company of Heroes 2 will take place on the Eastern Front, where some of the bloodiest, most horrific battles of World War 2 were fought.
In With the Old, In With the New
The new faction that you can take control of is the Soviet Red Army. The campaign will feature many well known battles from that period of history, most notably Operation Barbarossa and the Battle of Berlin. You will once again be commanding all manner of troops and tanks across the landscape of eastern Europe. Some would say that the original game would be hard to improve upon, but Relic have brought in a few new features to keep the series progressing forward and mix things up.
The first addition is the new line of sight feature, called Truesight. This gives a much more realistic representation of what your units can see on the battlefield. As you move them around, more terrain will be revealed, but only if it is possible that your unit can see it. For instance, if a squad of riflemen rounded a corner and were faced with a high wall, they would not be able to see over the other side. This opens up new tactical possibilities for traps and ambushes, or different stealthy ways to approach a situation. It also makes close quarters combat a much more tense experience, as your field of vision is much more reduced than what you may be used to from traditional RTS games.
Company of Heroes 2 will be running on Relicís own Essence 3.0 engine, which includes weather simulating technology which will also impact on the Truesight system. The new engine also allows for greater environmental destruction, with walls and other bits of cover only providing protection for as long as they remain standing. One particular environment feature that the developers seem particularly happy with is the way that ice can deform. Eastern Europe is a cold place , and lakes and rivers will freeze over in the winter. This removes the strategic importance of bridges, as you can cross a river at any point. However, the ice is a dangerous place, and if you can destroy the ice with enemy units on it, it will almost certainly spell their doom. In trailers we are shown hulking tanks falling through the ice into oblivion, with any infantry unfortunate enough to be nearby following them into the depths.
The Breathtaking Battle for Resources
You will still be capturing strategic locations, which will grant you resources, but this time it is up to you to decide which resources you think would most benefit you. This will lead to a slightly more balanced multiplayer game, where places with high resource values would always see the bulk of the fighting. With this change in the way resources are managed, and the new Truesight system, scouting becomes more important than it ever was in the original.
The Russian armies you will be controlling are not just copies of previous units with a different skin. The Red Army has many soldiers at its disposal, but these conscripts are not always the best fighters. What they can do, is overwhelm the enemy with strength of numbers, and join up with other units to reinforce them. You will also have access to machine gun teams, rocket squads and snipers, and of course, the all important armoured tanks.
Visually, the game has been improved upon quite substantially. From the amazing particle effects in explosions, to the animations of the soldiers floundering in icy water, Company of Heroes 2 looks great. The Truesight system makes for some interesting lighting effects, with shadows making you feel even more claustrophobic in tight situations. The snowy environments and destructible scenery all make for a very realistic looking game.
The next few months hold exciting prospects for real time strategy fans, with both Starcraft II: Heart of the Swarm and Company of Heroes 2 being released. Company of Heroes 2 will appeal to those looking for a more authentic and historical war experience. The game builds upon the excellent mechanics introduced in the first game, and looks like it will once again take the RTS world by storm.