Fighting Nazis in the snow never felt so good.
The first Company of Heroes was a stellar piece of real time strategy. Sega is returning to the formula in the long-awaited sequel nearly seven years later and it feels just as good to command small companies of soldiers in World War II combat as it did the first time.
In the mission available at Sega’s booth, I played the Russians taking back a German-held town in the area of Leningrad. My objective was to cross the river with my squads of men, take the town center, and then hold it against a German counter attack. Combat is all in real time, and you can select one or more companies at once and give typical RTS commands like attack-move or hold position. Cover is extremely important in Company of Heroes 2, so you want to make sure your soldiers are moving in ways that don’t leave them open to enemy fire. Walls, buildings and sandbags can be destroyed though, so you have to always be looking for more cover when your positions are under heavy shelling.
Artillery and armor definitely factor in your plans. You have mortar teams that can take over German emplacements and use the weapons against the previous owners. Engineer squads can also repair damaged equipment, such as the few APCs I had with me to start the mission. Tanks are a bitch to take down with just rifle fire, so I had to save my own armor or artillery for a Panzer attack.
The long cooldown abilities like air strikes were extremely powerful. A well-timed strafe could stymie a German advance supported by Panzers almost single-handedly. Reinforcements come slow too, so it’s important to watch for when the cooldown was finished. Having a steady stream of troops available was the only way I was going to win.
After I took the German position in town, I found I had to watch the various approaches closely. There was a small bridge that crossed an icy river near the town center. I used my engineers to plant an explosive to blow it up and force the Germans to cross the icy river by wading or swimming – or dying. Of course, in detonating the bomb, I unwittingly took out my engineers, but it was worth it.
The mission kept me busy but eventually I held out against the Nazis. I didn’t get to see all the new features this Company of Heroes 2 offers over its predecessor beyond the much improved graphics and controls, but Ryan McGechen from Sega said there was a lot going on under the hood. Only being able to see what your soldiers see instead of the godlike view in the first game was a huge difference, and the addition of blizzards – cold snaps that can kill your soldiers – in multilayer skirmish modes really adds an interesting decision between risking it all or holding back.
I look forward to playing Company of Heroes 2 when it comes out on June 25th for the PC. (That’s my birthday!)