Company Of Heroes 2 preview and interview
The creators of Warhammer 40,000: Dawn Of War return to World War II, as their new real time strategy focuses on the bloodiest battles of the conflict.
Company Of Heroes 2 death of cold
The preview event for real time strategy Company Of Heroes 2 must have been the most sombrely depressing we ever attended. Not because of the game, that looks great, but because of its setting. Canadian developer Relic took a lot of time, and colourised film footage, to illustrate how the Second World War wasn won in the skies of Britain or the beaches of Normandy but on the freezing battlefields of the Soviet Union.
Finding out that the Battle of Normandy was only that 23rd bloodiest battle of the war, and that 13 of the 15 that were all took place on the Eastern Front, starts to make you a bit queasy about recreating the events just to make a fun video game. Especially when you find out that one in seven of the entire Soviet population died during the war.
But Relic are clearly passionate about the period and determined to prove that the Soviet side of the story is not just worth telling, but in fact the most decisive aspect of the whole conflict.
Thankfully they weren all slide shows and grim statistics and although we weren allowed to play the game ourselves we were treated to an extended live demo. The mission we saw was based on the Rzhev Meat Grinder battles, which even Wikipedia barely seems to have heard of despite the fact that a million Soviet troops died during them.
With only three squads of men the virtual recreation starts of innocently enough, as Relic demonstrate the new Essence 3.0 graphics engine and its super realistic snow effects. As you can imagine Soviet snow drifts don do things by half and although you can order your troops around with a simple mouse click they have considerable trouble carrying the order out if they not on a road or track.
But as a Nazi position hoves into view it proves relatively easy to outflank it, simply because lying down in six inches of snow gives you instant cover. Other than the pretty graphics though one of Essence 3.0 major innovations is the True Sight system which accurately limits what each soldier can see based on what obstructions are in their way. The greyed out haze of the fog of war is also vastly more detailed than usual for a real time strategy, with what your soldier can see changing every instant depending on their position.
Although in the real war many Soviet soldiers entered a battle completely unarmed, hoping only to pick up a dropped weapon later on, they not entirely without back up in Company Of Heroes 2. For example, a couple of flamethrower units make short work of a German occupied farmhouse and later in the mission they do get a T 34 tank to help as well.
What they also get though is Order 227 , which a cut scene illustrates by showing retreating Soviet troops being gunned down by their own side just because they wouldn continue their offensive.
The next stage of the mission therefore takes place with a new set of infantry squads and we shown them nimbly jumping over walls and over barricades another new feature of the sequel. It at this point that the T 34 turns up, looking impressively dangerous and clearly modelled with a great deal of care and attention as it wobbles and turns in what seems to be a highly realistic manner.
Vehicles can now be abandoned and commandeered, with Relic suggesting that attempting Charles Mann Jersey to control a derelict vehicle will become a focus point in many missions. It no wonder too because the T 34 also turns out to be the ideal way to demonstrate Company Of Heroes 2 destructible scenery, as it crushes trees and walls and blows holes through tree trunks and buildings alike.
At this point the mission appears to be heading towards a Soviet victory, but as tank and troops chase the Germans across a frozen lake the sound of an aircraft is suddenly heard overhead. As dozens of Nazi bomblets explode across the ground they seem to spell the end for the T 34, but alas at that point the demo ends and we never get to find out who survived.
The impression we left with is of the most technically advanced real time strategy we ever seen, both in terms of the graphics, the underlying mechanics and the accuracy of the simulation. There still something rather disquieting about reliving such tragically bloody battles, but if Relic want gamers to gain a new appreciation for how the Second World War was actually won then Company Of Heroes 2 already seems perfectly designed for the task.
Company Of Heroes 2 from one heat extreme to the other
Although they not chosen to release a video yet, and only a scant few screenshots, after the demo we did get a chance to talk to lead design Quinn Duffy about the Company Of Heroes franchise and the current state of strategy gaming in general
GC:I was a great fan of the original Company Of Heroes, but are you disappointed it didn do better in terms of both sales and general awareness amongst gamers?
QD:In terms of Authentic Charles Mann Jersey lifetime sales it actually done quite well. It Relic highest selling franchise by a long shot. So we sort of excited by that. I think the critical acclaim hasn turned into awareness in the way we might have hoped or might have expected, I think it like a critically acclaimed independent movie to a degree. It doesn have that mass exposure.
But it selling, it competing with multi, multi, Authentic Clinton Portis Jersey multimillion dollar marketing campaigns. But Clinton Portis Redskins Jersey you know we got strong word of mouth, we got a strong community and we see now these people coming back, and more. There been a lot of new people playing the game, even in the last week. So that great.
GC:Do you think that level of success is all strategy games can really hope for nowadays? I mean it even quite hard to tell how PC games are doing, because the digital sales don show up in the normal sales charts, and that does hurt their visibility.
QD:Yeah, because with the PC so many of these titles are now going digital. You know we start seeing the split from retail to digital just reversing itself just radically over the last couple of years. And games are increasingly going digital, so it always a challenge to know how well they selling in that regard.
But I think of strategy games as kind of evolved, they gone into areas they gone into social games to a degree, they gone into things like League Of Legends and these games are played by millions and millions of people. And so I think part of the attraction of what we trying to do is pull them back and give them something really meaty that they can sink their teeth into. And presentation that is Authentic Art Monk Jersey far more encompassing than they can get on a browser based game.
GC:But is there a sense that games like League Of Legends, and even stuff like Blizzard output, they almost seem like a separate industry. They are not the sort of games advertised on the High Street or on TV and many gamers are just completely oblivious to them. Is that a problem for you, that splitting of the market?
QD:I think if we knew exactly what was going to happen we be able to build for that. And I think one of the things that is a challenge, and this is speaking for myself, is that we don quite know where things are going to end up. And Art Monk Redskins Jersey so it a matter of building a team and a studio and technology that can react, that can be applied to different genres, different business models.
And then we can start to see what will shake out over the next several years, with free to play and new ways of delivering games we not entirely sure. But what I feel personally is that there still a lot of legs left in the PC market. There still a lot of demand for these sort of high quality titles, and you see that in Diablo and its kind of success.
There are people, I think, who are interested in a level of gameplay involvement and production values that they just don get outside these big PC games. And I think that something that Relic can really deliver on. Because that something we focus on: a great gameplay experience and great presentation. Hopefully those are things that span multiple markets.
GC:Do you think of Company Of Heroes exclusives as a Second World War franchise, was there ever any thought that the sequel could be set in a different time period?
QD:There nothing that prevents us from going outside World War II. I think what we found was that it an area that still interests us. And that one of the reasons we went to the Eastern Front, because it a story I don't think we could leave that experience without telling the biggest story of World War II. And that was very, very important to us.
But one of the reasons we went back and looked at our creative vision again is that original vision was very tied to Normandy. And what we wanted to do is build something that was location and history agnostic. And so now we got an idea, a much stronger idea, of what Company Of Heroes means. And we could take it to the American Civil War, we could take it to the near future, because it always feel like a Company Of Heroes game.