Inside the real-time strategy title, players are tasked with the careful distribution of forces to ensure that the supply lines stay open in order to receive the resources necessary to keep the iconic battles of WWII churning. This is the heart of Relic’s “Company of Heroes 2.” Only instead of stepping in the American Allied boots during the invasion of Normandy as depicted in the first game, “Company of Heroes 2” places fans on the Eastern Front and in command of the Soviet Red Army as they lead the battle to push Nazi forces from their country.
In defense of the motherland
The game revolves around Nazi Germany’s swift invasion of Russia during the Second World War and the resulting Soviet battles to drive the Germans back. Gamers will experience key locations and military tactics from famous historical battles such as the Soviet’s “Scorched Earth” strategy in which the Red Army would destroy their own assets to prevent them from falling into German hands. As such, players can actually use demolition experts within the game to detonate their own vehicles and artillery units so that they can’t be requisitioned by the Nazis.
Russia itself is a cold country and several of the maps in “Company of Heroes 2” revolve around the theme of the threat caused by its unforgiving Soviet winters. Blizzards can periodically ravage through the game’s maps, creating a deadly natural danger for both sides. These winter storms will cause infantry soldiers’ body temperatures to rapidly drop unless they get to the fires which engineer are able to build. Otherwise, these units will die of exposure due to the harsh conditions of the Russian blizzards.
Comrades in arms
All Soviet citizens must take up the fight against their Nazi invaders. Those who retreat will be shot by their own countrymen. This is the theme of the game’s campaign mode and the reason behind the never-ending pool of Soviet conscripts that players are able to call onto the battlefield in “Company of Heroes 2.” Conscripts represent the basic Russian citizens who were brought into action in defense of their motherland. These cheap infantry units may appear to be only fodder, but conscripts can reinforce the ranks of stronger foot soldiers to fill in for casualties these special teams may have incurred. In doing so, the conscripts fully merge with the injured units in order to provide direct support to almost any of the Soviet’s ground troops.
The machines of war
Of course that’s not to imply that the major focus of “Company of Heroes 2” lies in infantry warfare. In fact, players who rely solely on an infantry will find themselves crushed under the tanks and artillery of the opposition. Gamers must quickly capture the supply lines that are instrumental for getting the resources needed for building their own heavy instruments of war.
An interesting feature of “Company of Heroes 2” is that artillery cannons and heavy guns are a separate unit from their operators. Meaning any infantryman can man these weapons. If those firing these cannons are killed, any other foot unit can be ordered to take their place. This mechanic even allows for enemy cannons to be taken over after their operators have been dispatched. If players can manage to forcefully take enough of the enemy’s artillery in this manner, they can turn the tide of the battle by using both their opponent’s weapons and resources against them.
Every commander needs their post
At the start of any skirmish match, players begin with a group of combat engineers and a command post which serves as a base of operations from which more units may be deployed. Using the engineers, gamers can fortify their position by laying vehicle mines and setting up barbed wire fences. The engineers can also build the structures necessary to the manufacturing of tanks and artillery pieces.
Each map features numerous supply points that, when captured, feeds the command post with resources such as ammo and gasoline. Along with manpower, these resources are what are needed to build the units that make up a players army. Regardless of whether they are conscripts or heavy tanks, players need these assets. As such, these supply points hold the key to victory. Leaving any point undefended will likely cause it to be captured by the enemy, causing players to spend the resources to muster a force in order to retake the supply line.
Two nations at conflict
While the game’s single-player campaign and co-op challenges are enjoyable, the skirmish maps of “Company of Heroes 2” are where this RTS title shines. As fans of the genre are accustomed to seeing inside skirmish matches, players are able to choose teams, map setting, and victory conditions. Skirmishes can be played with or against other players or A.I. controlled armies. Gamers can also choose whether they wish to continue playing as the Soviet Red Army or take command of German forces instead.
The Germans are an entirely different faction that has their own unique units and play style. The Soviet conscripts are naturally not at the disposal of the Nazi army. Their base foot soldiers are the German engineers which operate as an advanced version of the Russian unit with the added capabilities of laying large anti-infantry mine fields as well as the ability to construct bunkers.
Bunkers allow the Germans to expertly defend positions as they can be upgraded with machine gun encampments or medical facilities that can treat injured units.
“Company of Heroes 2” features classic resource gathering alongside fast, instant battles that should satisfy any fan of real-time strategy gaming regardless of their desired play style. Those wanting a more action-oriented experience can quickly build an army to devastate their enemy head on, while those who enjoy the strategy and tactical aspects of the genre are also capable of finding these elements within the game.
- Features two unique factions to play as, each with their own feel and strategy
- The game has a careful mix of combat and resource gathering, causing neither to overshadow the other
- A high learning-curve may drive less patient players away before getting a chance to get into the game
An early copy of “Company of Heroes 2” was provided for the purposes of this review.