|As you can tell, I love my Soviet artillery and mortar crews|
- Developer: Relic
- Publisher: Sega
- Release Date: 26 June 2013
- Time played: 23.8 hours
What is itCompany of Heroes 2 is the long-awaited sequel to the original Company of Heroes which was released more than a decade ago now. The game was very well received by critics and it still remains one of the highest rated strategy games of all time; it also made our Choicest Games Top 100 at #54 (yes, a few C&C games, Age of Empires II and Starcraft rated higher on our list, but there's probably nobody old enough nowadays that remember playing these games :P).
Company of Heroes fans had to wait 7 years before they got a chance of playing a WWII Real-Time Strategy game from Relic and this time, the game featured the Eastern Front: Company of Heroes 2 rated well on release (in 2013) but not as well as its predecessor. In fact, over time the game's rating has gone down if its current Steam rating of 60% (Mixed) is anything to go by. Is the game really as bad as people make it out to be or is this another instance of Steam users propagating their political beliefs through a binary scoring system?
How I got itI was a big fan of the original Company of Heroes and Relic developed some respectable games in the past such as Homeworld and Dawn of War, so purchasing Company of Heroes 2 seemed like a logical thing to do. Checking my Steam account history, it seems like I actually got this shortly after it was released in July 2013; not only that but it was the retail version too! I can't quite remember though if I managed to get this as a pressie or whether I bought it of my own accord – so apologies in advance if anybody gifted this to me (and this is the problem when you have a Pile of Shame to contend with – at least reviewing this game will strike one off that gargantuan virtual tower of interactive entertainment)!
Anyway, I recall playing this game when it originally came out but then stopping and not returning to the game until, well, this year quite possibly, when it was selected as a "Pile of Shame" game by Luke. After completing the single-player campaign though and playing a few comp stomp matches, I think I'm ready to give it a review.
What I like:
The single-player campaignThe single-player campaign takes you to several different battles fought by the Soviet Union and its allies during World War II, all the way from the Battle of Stalingrad to the Battle of Berlin. It actually inspired me to learn more about the Eastern Front of World War II as it's a topic I confess to knowing little about. Many iconic locations are also recreated in the campaign such as Lublin Castle and Poznan Fortress in Poland, and, of course, the Reichstag in Berlin.
The campaign is of decent length too, spanning 14 missions and taking me over 15 hours to complete.
High level of detailThe graphics in the game are quite detailed and you can zoom up really close (I'm pretty sure they even use the in-game engine for most of the cut-scenes).
AuthenticityNot only do you get to visit quite accurate depictions of real-life locations but you've got all the WWII tanks, aircraft and weapons you could wish for. What's even better is that there are a couple of nods to how the Soviet Union deployed quite a few female soldiers as snipers, tank drivers and pilots: when recruiting any of these units in Company of Heroes 2 (or utilising air strike abilities), there's a chance they will be female.
The game also has great audio just like the original Company of Heroes; the weapons sound like you'd expect and once you're in a battle full swing it really is a cacophony. There's also great incidental shouts from your troops depending on how the battle is going and what resistance they're up against.
MusicMusic in Company of Heroes 2 is composed by veteran video game composer Cris Velasco who has scored music for games like God of War, Borderlands, Starcraft II and Mass Effect 3, so he's definitely got a lot of experience under his belt. Playing and singing the music is the Capellen Orchestra and Choir situated in the Czech Republic and they do a splendid job to the point that some passages sound as if they're performed by the Red Army Choir themselves.
TacticsJust as it was in the original Company of Heroes, Company of Heroes 2's gameplay requires a bit more tactics than your run-of-the-mill RTS; cover plays an important role and as units gain experience this improves their effectiveness and sometimes unlocks new abilities.
Also, I don't believe this was a feature in the original Company of Heroes but now you can use the frozen terrain to your advantage: breaking river ice can actually sink tanks and soldiers can freeze in a blizzard if not behind cover or warming themselves near a fire (Soviet snipers are somehow immune though).
MultiplayerWhile I haven't tested the competitive multiplayer aspects I've had a few "compstomp" games with friends and they were all a blast to play with no issues whatsoever.
Steam Trading Cards and AchievementsThe game has over 450 achievements you can earn (I've currently only got 12% of them) and 7 Steam Trading Cards to collect.
|The game has many controversial moments such as this mission where you're forced to fire on fleeing German civilians from Halbe|
What I dislike:
ControversyThe game caused much controversy on release and was viewed in a negative light by many Russians and those from post-Soviet republics; it even got to the point where the game's Russian distributor, 1C-SoftClub, halted sales of the game. Those that were critical of the game said there was a definite Western bias painting all Russians/Soviets with the same brush as what you'd see in a film like "Enemy at the Gates"; Relic, however, defended their portrayal of the war saying they took time in doing their research and based the campaign on the writings of Vasily Grossman. The truth probably sits somewhere in the middle and as with many of these things, it's worth taking things with a grain of salt. However, it does mean playing this game might mark you as a pariah with any patriotic Russian friends, so consider yourself warned (or if you're a patriotic Russian yourself, you might want to avoid the single-player campaign)!
Lots of paid DLCConsidering I've only played the game for the single player campaign and compstomps, this is obviously not as big an issue for me but there are some that claim you're only able to unlock overpowered benefits for your Commanders in multiplayer if you purchase DLC. I'm not sure what the actual truth of the matter is but that'd definitely be "Pay to Win" if it were the case.
Also, a few years back, companies trying to sell DLC were not the most popular blokes around and while acceptance of DLC by the gaming public seems higher than it was before, there are still those out there that hate DLC, especially when there's DLC for the DLC (e.g. The British Forces DLC unlocks the British Army for multiplayer but on top of that, you can pay extra money for extra Commanders).
Human wave tacticsThis is a minor gripe but it turned me off playing Company of Heroes 2 when it was first released. Playing Company of Heroes 2 is a bit like playing the Zerg campaigns from Starcraft or Starcraft II: you have to get through your thick skull that your men are expendable – not only that but in the Company of Heroes 2 single player campaign, if you sacrifice enough conscripts you actually unlock stronger troops called Penal Battalions. Once you've overcome that hurdle though, the game is much easier to play (although I'm not sure if I'm a worse human being as a result...)
Confusing army customisationsAdmittedly, I am a bit confused every time I play multiplayer with the sheer number of army customisations on offer. Now I can understand bringing in a different commander into the battle which confers different abilities (a bit like the generals in Command & Conquer: Generals) but you also get things called "intel bulletins" that give little bonuses to specific types of units. I honestly think they could've done away with them since (a) they create a balancing nightmare and (b) it sometimes contributes to much of the angst the community has about the game being "Pay to Win" – so why even bother?
Score – 8/10 (Recommended)If you're in the market for a decent WWII RTS that's not more than a decade old, then Company of Heroes 2 is probably the best choice there is: it has authentic units and locations, fun gameplay, solid multiplayer and riveting music, all the necessary ingredients for an RTS worthy of your time. The game does have a controversial single-player campaign though which is likely to anger any patriotic Russians out there and there's heaps of DLC to purchase if you want to get the complete experience but these are really the only two things I could fault with the game and they didn't diminish from my personal experience.
Is the game worth $17.49 USD?: Yes, that's about $22 AUD with current exchange rates. I suspect the game wasn't this cheap on release but it's definitely worth the price now. Mind you, this price doesn't include all the DLC; you're looking at $35.99 USD if you want all the DLC (which is currently about $45 AUD).
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[ LINK: Official Company of Heroes Website ]