The tactical RTS is on its way with an epic sequel set in the Eastern Front conflict. The promise of an experience that will show the ruthless truth of war can be a tall order. Can Relic Entertainment deliver the experience of this brutal war?
I guess there is only one piece of info that needs to be heard about the first game, which is that there are still a lot of people are playing it. In March 2012 there were 254,000 active players recorded.
The game’s main inspiration is coming from the successful box office hit, Saving Private Ryan. So just combine this with extensive historical research and you’ll get a compelling RTS experience that shows the different types of battle that had been fought during this war. The Eastern Front, even though some may have a harder time recalling it, had some of the bloodiest battles in the war. The war took quite a strange shape where an ideological, a political and a war against survival were fought at the same time. The amount of losses because of the cruel weather were almost as high as the losses from Operation Barbarossa.
The team also did museum and site visits as well as a very professional live sound recording for a number of weapons and actions that were presented to us; the difference was noticeable. The aim behind going out of their way so much was to give the player a chance to experience war like never before; and every war will tell a different story. Relic Entertainment promises that while players will forge plans, they’ll also forge their own narrative which could give quite a lot of replay value to the game. They also say that winning must be tactical as the whole game is focused on troops, with smart commanders being rewarded for their efforts. One example that we saw was when one of our tanks was taken out and, because there’s a so called “abandon vehicle” feature, re-capturing the tank became our optional objective due to resources being scarce.
There’s a new engine too, called Essence 3, with the results of this new little shiny piece of gaming goodness being aesthetically pleasing straight away. The vehicles, and even the troops, are very detailed having realistic interactions with the environment. There’s a “Presentation Layer” that allowed Relic Entertainment to add more fidelity, more destruction, more environmental gameplay elements along with more authenticity. The best example for this is the inclusion of the snow, which slows troops down and lets vehicles and explosions leave actual marks. After having a look at this, I had the chance to see a system called “True Sight” which basically means that the player will see whatever the selected troops or vehicles can see. So objects will restrict your view and sometimes maybe demolishing a couple of houses is a more healthy option for you as the enemy could have a machine gun or RPG set up just around the corner. While this isn’t a brand new innovation, but it is most welcomed and it certainly works well.
The Campaign mode details were quite scarce but, apparently, the main mission will be to free Mother Russia as the Soviet Red Army and the player will be able to see events unfold through the eyes of a Russian war correspondent. There’s a massive difference between the two armies though, which will give the player the opportunity to experience the war in two different ways. Obviously the strength of the Russian army will be their high numbers while, on the other hand, the German army will be technically more advanced. Their ideology will play a major part as well. Let’s just mention Order 227 that forbade retreating. So if you try to attack the German opposition but think that you need to fall back and maybe come up with a new plan, your own comrades will shoot you like if you just turned back and said “Guten Tag!”.
Some additional upgrades are the directional and dynamic cover. This means that your troops need to take cover on the right side of the object, keeping in mind that a tank can easily modify your cover into a pile of hay or dust. Fear not! There’s vaulting in the game that works brilliantly for flanking enemies.
The gameplay that I saw was a superb presentation of the above mentioned features and I think that those of you who loved the first game, will be very pleased with the (not yet final) results. Last, but not least, let me mention a great little moment when our brave soldiers smacked the opposing forces after some clever tactical manoeuvres, were almost beginning to catch their breath, got out the vodka next to the numerous captured enemy and friendly vehicles when a massive plane bombed their faces in a matter of seconds.
War is tough, eh?
Company of Heroes 2 is due to be released in 2013 for PC. Keep your eyes on GodisaGeek.com for more news and more about Company of Heroes 2 as well as plenty of other upcoming titles.