Braving the elements in Company of Heroes 2



There's a panicked struggle at the heart of every engagement in Company of Heroes 2's multiplayer mode. While a lot of real-time strategy games will emphasize squad matchups as a primary means of success in force, Company of Heroes 2 has a much more dynamic environment constantly providing interesting variables to every skirmish.

Much of my own success was ensuring my squads were pressed up against a wall or moving from building to building – staying out of the open. Most real-time strategy enthusiasts and really anyone who's seen a war movie in their life will tell you that's basic stuff, but what makes it feel so special in Company of Heroes 2 is just how rewarding it is to see it impact gameplay. A squad with good cover can take on several adversaries and still live to tell the tale.
%Gallery-173116% The framework of Company of Heroes 2's multiplayer is similar to that of the original – players pick a faction and go to war. Littering each map are capture points that allot resources and victory points, the crucial materials required to win the war. But the maps themselves offer up their own set of challenges on a more granular level, like frozen rivers that can sink tanks to the bottom with ease and the biting cold of the Eastern Front during World War II.

I experienced a pair of maps in Company of Heroes 2 multiplayer, one set in the summer months of the year, the other in the winter. The fair-weather farms and rivers make for interesting battlegrounds, where creek beds can instantly shift into trenches and eventually graves. Making good use of the environment here is nothing too revolutionary – just be mindful of your troop placement and play to the environment with the same care used to effectively match units with those of your enemies.

The winter maps pose a far greater and interesting threat. The cold itself can claim wayward soldiers who aren't either escorted by engineers capable of building fire pits or moved into buildings. It's an equalizer that doesn't see national allegiance and especially harsh to scouting parties, I found. The cold set the pace for my matches, slowing down exploration and advancement. It prevented me from focusing on expansion through territory, and its harsh neutrality told me my opponent was facing similar challenges.

Cold maps often employ frozen rivers, one of which quickly converted into a watery tomb for an allied tank. Either the ice can simply break and swallow a tank, or grenadiers and other crafty enemy units can sink your tank to the bottom with well-placed shots. Infantry units are easier to get across the thin terrain, but ultimately their passage opened another new target for some entrenched rival soldier across the pond.

The impact of the cold was a weight I'd never really felt in a multiplayer RTS before. The backbone of Company of Heroes 2 is certainly resource management and macro development, but the infrequent blizzards and ensuring each recon squad maintained warmth was a new element draped over that old real-time strategy concept.

The cold almost humbles you in Company of Heroes 2, reminding you not to to get too comfortable with your position and keep pressing forward to triumph. If you lose focus, it will take your troops and cripple your lines, giving a well-prepared adversary the upper hand. Braving the elements in Company of Heroes 2 adds that much more weight and pressure to every decision you make in a quest to claim victory over your opponents.

Company of Heroes 2 launches for the PC in 2013.

This article was originally published on Joystiq.