Not One Step Back
The Eastern Front was home to some of the bloodiest and grittiest battles throughout World War II and it’s not surprising to see Relic bring their acclaimed RTS ‘Company of Heroes’ to this theatre of war. War is hell and Relic proved it in the latest Company of Heroes 2.
Company of Hereoes 2 drops players into the mind of a Soviet Russian officer named Lev Isakovich as he recollects the memories of the past battles. The campaign starts off with the famous battle of Stalingrad and it’s from that moment, players will begin to understand the desperation of the Soviet Red Army trying to protect their homeland (or motherland if you want to get all Russian).
Past Company of Heroes 2 players will instantly pick up the similar gameplay as most of the mechanics have been kept the same. The game still focuses strongly on infantry-based strategy with the addition of support tools like artillery and planes. Relic has added new technologies to spice up the standard gameplay such as environmental weather, TrueSight and the overall graphics/destruction performance.
The real difference I’ve found with Company of Heroes 2 is the actual inclusion of the Soviet Red Army themselves. Being the underdog army during the war, Relic has done well to make the army feel quite challenging to play as. The Red Army lacks technology and firepower and must use the strength of the people to win battles. For the most time, you’ll be finding yourself sending waves after waves of conscripts into German machine gun fire as you gradually gain ground to take their position. Inhumane as it sounds, this brutal tactic actually works and it’s close to what actually happened in reality.
Relic wanted to showcase brutality with the Eastern Front and the inclusion of Order 227 made playing as the Russian rather interesting. If you’re not up to scratch with history, Order 227 was a direct order by the man himself, Joseph Stalin which forbids soldiers to retreat. Soldiers who disobey will be instantly shot by their commanding officer. Veteran Company of Heroes 2 players will know the retreat option is heavily used in gameplay – which allowed reinforcement of squads to be cheaper. However, you’re not playing as the U.S. or Germans because in Soviet Russia, allies shoot you.
“you’re not playing as the U.S. or Germans because in Soviet Russia, allies shoot you.”
Snow plays an important role in Company of Heroes 2 as it challenges the players more into micromanagement. If the Germans don’t kill you then it’s the harsh winter cold that will. Leaving squads out in the cold will kill them. Building fires, seeking shelter whilst fighting them Nazis provides some intriguing gameplay mechanics. Ice rivers/lakes also provide some variation to combat as heavy units like Tanks can be dropped into the water if the surface cracks. This allows smarter forms of tactics from players to utilise the environment to win the scenario and with the Soviet Russians being so under-powered, you must use these advantages as much as you can.
Multiplayer is one of the biggest points of the Company of Heroes series and makes a bigger return with Company of Heroes 2. Players are now able to customise and unlock Generals which allows them to gain a certain trait or skill set for their army. As a player that heavily focuses on artillery and infantry, I was able to customise the general to produce Howitzer cannons and stronger troopers to suit my playing style. The difficult part of this is getting your right setup going and can be the trickiest to do at first. There’s advantages and disadvantages for each General at play here and choosing the wrong skill-set can ultimately lead you to a disastrous defeat. Having a few skirmishes to start you off can decide your preferred playing style.
The focus on Generals mixes up the generic armies we’ve seen before in the series which allows more variation to different battles. Snow maps also make an appearance on Multiplayer adding that extra difficulty for both sides of the match. A snow storm will hit at random times during your match and if your units get stuck then they’ll perish. The snow map provides some exhilarating games and can turn the tide of battles drastically.
Company of Heroes 2 is not an entirely new game but it does enough to earn that number two. The added Russian campaign was the first time I was actually invested in any story for an RTS and it was surprisingly worth playing through. Fans of the previous titles will be happy to see an improved multiplayer with layers added to provide some variations of combat. If you’re itching for a good RTS game or want a break from the usual standard shooters then Relic has your answer here.
Developer: Relic Entertainment
Release Date: June 25th 2013 (PC)