It’s a bit chilly out there (cont...)
But it is not just the units that feel the cold. The landscape is just as affected and the frozen wastelands can be used to your advantage. It is a legitimate tactic to place landmines or fences across roads so that enemies will travel across frozen rivers. These frozen waterways can then be heated up with a flamethrower or bombarded with mortar shells or grenades. The attacking units will then drown in the chilly waters.
The Campaign mode is quite extensive as it takes in much of the German push into Russian territory. But apart from the Campaign mode, there is also an Online Skirmish mode which lets you go head to head with friends or indeed anyone around the world. The Theatre of War mode was probably more enjoyable for me as it gives you a number of Challenge missions or battles that you can take part in, by yourself or in co-op. They don’t give the same sense of satisfaction as completing the campaign missions, but they are fun nonetheless.
Looking out over the battlefield
Company of Heroes 2 does a great job of setting the visual scene. As with many games based around war, the landscape is a dreary one, devoid of colour. Browns, greys and the white of the snow makes up much of the palette. The blue and red army indicators stand out quite clearly on most occasions. That is, unless they are sitting close to foliage where the units could seem to disappear. Clicking the unit icon at the top-right of the screen indicated where the unit is located on the mini-map, but does not take you to the unit, so at times I spent time looking for stray squads rather than concentrating on the task at hand. It was an issue that rarely occurred and one that rarely affected the outcome of any battles, so there was little damage done.
Another issue surrounded the zoom in feature. It was great to see the minute details of the soldiers as I zoomed in for a close-up. Unfortunately, zooming in on the units also makes it almost impossible to view the battlefield and therefore makes planning your attack/defence quite difficult. A third (or first person) view would have been great, enabling you to direct the battle from a commanders perspective or watch as your snipers scoped an unsuspecting enemy. Otherwise, the screen layout is quite clear with all the required information on screen, or simply a mouse click away. Units being fired upon or in combat are easily discerned via the mini-map or from the unit icons at the top of the screen.
The audio is one of the highlights of the game. The background music is unobtrusive but sets the scene wonderfully with the sombre mood that gives the impression that the soldiers on the battleground have accepted the inevitable. Each of the various unit types has different voice-overs, some of them (such as the sniper squad) having multiple characters. The communication with your troops is quite good, as they immediately respond to your orders. Weapon effects also sound reasonably accurate, although I cannot say for certain how a WWII Russian built sniper rifle sounds.
War is hell…but so much fun
Company of Heroes 2 is a wonderful game. The gameplay elements work remarkably well. The unit pathfinding is spot on, the combat is intuitive and resource gathering is simple. The early missions act somewhat as a tutorial as you learn the basics of the game. And as you progress, your skills improve and new skills are learned. The small squads also make it simple to manage your troops, whilst there is enough variation in both the unit types (both yours and the enemy’s) and mission goals to keep things interesting. Although the visuals aren’t as high quality as some AAA titles, they do the job adequately and assist in setting the gloomy tone of war introduced by the musical score. And with a decent storyline, moving through to the next mission has a sense of accomplishment.
Wonderful musical score sets the sombre tone of war. Decent story - for a Real-Time Strategy.
The tutorial is mostly videos showing what to do. An elongated tutorial mission would have worked better. Zooming in on units makes planning troublesome.