The original Company of Heroes released in 2006 to rave reviews. The historical real-time strategy game raked in an impressive amount of awards and remains the second highest-rated RTS title on Metacritic to date. Relic Entertainment certainly has a major feat on their hands to deliver an even more fulfilling strategy experience for patient fans of the franchise. To give players an idea of what to expect from the highly-anticipated sequel, Relic released a demo last week that is accessible through the Steam open beta. The mission, called "The Land Bridge to Leningrad", tasks players with crossing a frozen lake under heavy German fire in order to take over enemy headquarters.
The big takeaway from the demo is not necessarily the mission itself, since the player is asked to fulfill fairly straightforward objectives. I found myself most impressed by the developer’s ability to create a genuine and realistic experience. Two features in the demo stuck out in particular. First, there’s the improved line of sight mechanic. Known as the "True Sight" system, players are only permitted to view the environment through their own units’ line of sight. It makes perfect sense, but you don’t see this attention to detail in a whole lot of games. The gameplay feels much more accurate, albeit, a little frustrating when you can’t quite see your enemy. Regardless, it is a strong addition to the sequel. Had I been blessed with a better graphics card, the visual experience would have been a whole lot stronger overall.
Second, the way in which Relic incorporates the effects of the environment into gameplay is just plain smart. It is crucial that you consider all of your surroundings before making any move. For example, when your troops are fighting through snow, they will get cold. If the player is not weary of this, you will lose your men as they succumb to the elements. These conditions apply to your equipment, as well. When a heavy tanker crosses a frozen lake, it can and will sink. It’s a fairly simple idea, but it really helps the game live up to its strategy genre. You don’t feel like you are just mashing buttons. There is always more than one correct way to accomplish things, making the game that much more interactive.
I was also able to appreciate the game itself as a period piece. The accuracy of gameplay is not the only component that makes you feel like a real leader of your troops. Relic creates a high sense of camaraderie amongst your men, which translates into a strange urgency to do right by the group. The commentary between your men can be inspiring, exciting and even comical at times. In all honesty, it adds a lighthearted element to the game. Since the gravity of war is quite shocking, especially when portrayed so realistically, I think this is an important part of keeping players motivated and dedicated to finishing the story.
Granted, strategy games are not for everyone, but Company of Heroes 2 appears to provide enough fast-paced action to keep all types of gamers interested. The beta mission left me pumped up and wanting more. As long as each mission offers as much of a dynamic experience as the last, I’m confident that the game with not only live up to but exceed the success of its predecessor.
The Company of Heroes 2 beta is open until Tuesday. You can begin the full adventure on June 25 and pre-order the game on Steam.
A product of the geekiest father imaginable, Sarah Conde has been a lover of games since she worked up the courage to play Resident Evil 3 on her own accord. After her paralyzing fear of Nemesis subsided, she found herself hooked. A future graduate student at Kennesaw State University, she has found countless ways to avoid the job market and ramble on about video games in an academic setting. She joins Comics Bulletin on a mission to communicate that games are good for society. If you want to get her talking for hours, just mention cats, cons or Final Fantasy. She's a pretty simple gal.