Release Date: 25/06/13
Company Of Heroes 2 Review
I’ve always enjoyed Relic’s RTS games. The first Dawn of War was such a fresh take on the genre back in 2004. 2006′s Company of Heroes was no exception. Both of those games removed the economic fiddling that was such a staple to the genre at the time and focused the gameplay on tactics and micromanaging any given engagement. Don’t get me wrong, I love Starcraft II and other RTS games that feature more traditional economic mechanics, but those games can feel like work at times, Company of Heroes was always a blast to play – a particularly back and forth multiplayer match I played in the original CoH remains one of my favorite gaming experiences of all time.
Company of Heroes 2 doesn’t stray too far from the core ideas of Relic’s RTS paradigm. You still send out squads of infantry to capture control, victory, munitions, and fuel points to maintain a trickle of resources to build more units, bunker emplacements, and the like. Basebuilding still takes a backseat however. So much so that new units appear off map instead of rallying out of buildings. In so many ways Company of Heroes 2 feels almost exactly like the original in terms of moment to moment gameplay. This is a good thing, since there’s a lot of satisfaction to be gained from perfectly micromanaging an engagement or executing some sort of tactical plan you came up with on the fly.
An adherence to formula in terms of gameplay may be Company of Heroes 2′s greatest strength, as it has its fair share of blemishes and poorly thought out mechanics. The commander system in the first game was well executed; not so in this. The commander trees were once well thought out and had easily identifable concepts behind them. They also forced you to make on the fly decisions that had reprecussions for the rest of the match. The commanders in this second instalment aren’t as easily distuingishable from one another and present no choice at all. You simply move up a linear path as you gain commander points throughout a match, earning hodgepodge abilities that don’t seem to synergize with each other at all. Worse yet, some of the commanders are locked behind DLC, with the only way to access them is to buy them for $2.99 a pop. For a game that is shipping with Twitch streaming support out of the box and could potentially be something in the competetive sphere of gaming, it’s disappointing to see such a core mechanic locked behind a paywall.
Also worrying in terms of competition is the new bulletin system. Basically as you fulfill certain conditions (stuff like killing 50 of something with a certain unit and things like that) when you play a match in any mode you can unlock intelligence bulletins that provide bonuses, such as heavy machine guns being 2% more accurate. You can then slot in your earned bulletins into a loadout. While I have no problem with customization and choice in games, at least make them more interesting than flat percantage bonuses. Perhaps the bulletin and commander system could have been merged into one thing that only occured in the game itself. This system also rewards pure grinding in its worst form.
Company of Heroes 2′s greatest change to the general gameplay is the addition of blizzards. Certain missions in the campaign and special versions of the skirmish maps are set during the winter of the Eastern front. Periodically a blizzard will form and your units will begin to take damage from the cold if they are not garrisoned within a building or sitting next to a fire. This can make for some tense moments as both sides scramble for shelter, as a blizzard bears down on them. Unfortunately, most of the time this just brings the game to a screeching halt as everyone sits on a campfire or holes up in a building.
Speaking of the game’s move to the Eastern front; the campaign is only played from the Soviet point of view and spans the breadth of the conflict. The campaign is decent enough and the objectives are fun and varied. The way the campaign tries to establish tone is definitely a Hollywood depiction of what happened when the German army invaded Russia, and at times the stiffly animated character models in cutscenes really knocks the breath out of the gravity of the cliched situations.
The Theater of War mode is a great addition and supplement to the campaign. While Relic played it safe in the regular campaign in terms of mission design, the objectives in the Theater of War mode often outshine those in the campaign. You can play as either the Germans or Soviets in this mode, and you unlock more missions as you complete the scenarios. There are of course, regular skirmish modes where you can team up with humans to beat down the AI or jump into the competetive pool with play matchmaking. Though, the matchmaking isn’t nearly as robust as Starcraft II’s.
While it sounds like I’m gloom and doom about Company of Heroes 2, I honestly enjoyed the overwhelming majority the time I spent with it. The most grating thing was dealing with some techincal problems. In its current state it can be a bit buggy at times. I experienced more than one crash, but they weren’t frequent enough to make me start spitting up bile. The AI is often poor at making decisions in the middle of a firefight, and pathfinding often leaves things to be desired.
I’m mostly disappointed in what seems to be a regression of some of the mechanics. These don’t ultimately break the gameplay for me, they just don’t make it as laser focused and compelling as it could of been. If you can overlook this and some shaky tech, there’s a lot of quality content here that will have you coming back to get your fix.
- Tons of content and lasting power if you get into multiplayer.
- Uneven performance
- High system requirements, and some technical issues pop up here and there
- Some core mechanics are locked behind DLC
- Some mechanics such as the commander system feel like a regression instead of a iteration
- Graphically a step backwards.
We talk to Quinn Duffy from Company of Heroes II, discussing the changes in the industry since the first game, modding, community and more.Company Of Heroes 2 Review,