Bring It Back: Company of Heroes
Company of Heroes (CoH) is a World War II real time strategy game for the PC. In fact, you could probably say it is the World War II real time strategy game for the PC (or any other platform for that matter). Developed by Relic Entertainment and published by THQ, Company of Heroes didn’t necessarily do anything new for the RTS genre. What it did do is combine the best elements of various RTS titles to create one of the highest-rated PC games, according to Metacritic (93).
While CoH received two stand-alone expansion packs (CoH: Opposing Fronts and CoH: Tales of Valor), it never got a true sequel or continuation of the series. It could be argued that Opposing Fronts is really another game in its own right, but the fact remains that the game engine in Opposing Fronts is the same as in CoH vanilla. For the purposes of this article, I will focus mainly on CoH vanilla.
If we compare the CoH series with Relic’s popular Dawn of War series, we can see a pattern of development. Dawn of War was followed by several stand-alone expansions that used the same technology. Dawn of War II has an upgraded engine with improved visuals and gameplay elements, essentially giving the series a new look and feel. According to Relic’s own development pattern, we have yet to see a proper sequel for CoH.
What Made Company of Heroes Great
Perhaps my favorite part of CoH are the visuals, which is unusual for me. I am not one to base a game’s worth on how it looks. However, looking around in CoH is simply a joy thanks to the Essence Engine, which is supported by the Havok physics engine. At any time during gameplay, you can rotate the camera in just about any direction you want to. You also have the ability to zoom in our out a good amount. If you want to watch a battle unfold from behind your tank line, do it. The effect is somewhat cinematic and extremely entertaining.
CoH’s strongest appeal lies in the gameplay itself. The units are unique, but more importantly, they respond intelligently to your commands. If you tell infantry to attack-move to a certain point and they get ambushed along the way, they won’t keep running towards the objective, heedless of their brothers falling in the withering cross-fire. They will engage the enemy while they seek cover. You read that right. The infantrymen automatically seek any cover they can find. Naturally, this applies to enemy troops, which means that you have to figure out clever ways to either destroy the enemies cover or somehow lure the enemy troops out of their cover.
The single player campaign is entertaining and well-executed. As with most of Relic’s work, cutscenes revolve around in-engine rendering or artwork. The artwork is exceptional and does a great job of adding to the overall mood of the game. As far as RTS games go, the story telling is pretty good. Although I never felt emotionally connected with any particular characters, I did feel invested in the outcome of the story.
What the Next Iteration Could Use
To be completely honest, I would simply like to see another game in this series. Perhaps it could be set in the Pacific Theater of World War II. I would love to see some naval battles and create huge battlefleets. It would be interesting to see how it would work out if they moved the series forward or even backward in the time line. All I really want are big ships in the ocean that duke it out with large-caliber cannons.
Is There A Realistic Possibility of Return?
Seeing as Relic was working on CoH: Online, I think there is a very real possibility of CoH II coming out eventually. What is CoH: Online, you ask? After Relic finished Tales of Valor, they began working on a free-to-play online version of CoH. It got as far as the end of an open beta before THQ silenced the project. There is some speculation as to why it was canceled, but no real facts are known.
It would surprise me if Relic or THQ let all the work that went into developing CoH: Online simply wash away. Perhaps THQ will release another expansion in the series. Or maybe Relic will use what it has learned to create a new look and feel for the series and create a Company of Heroes game with that beautiful 2 next to its title. It definitely isn’t the end of the line for the CoH series. It is, however, time for the next game in the series. I think there is a strong possibility to see a return for Company of Heroes.