#690 Company of Heroes

Posted: 15th August 2021 by Jeroen in Games
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988th played so far

Genre: Strategy
Platform: PC
Year of Release: 2006
Developer: Relic Entertainment
Publisher: THQ

While we’re not done with RTS games yet, we have reached one other landmark: Company of Heroes is the final WWII game I’m playing for the list. I know that’s not a major step, but as I’ve discussed before it always feels like a bit of a cheap way to get emotions and to set a scene in a way that isn’t necessarily that engaging for me. It’s something I felt recently with Hidden & Dangerous 2, but goes back to Call of Duty and has always been a thing. I guess it’s because I grew up in Europe, where it wasn’t just a case of the heroes storming in to big hurrahs, and you learn more of the nuance involved.

With an RTS we’ll divorce ourselves from the immediate feeling of death as the units become copycat units on the screen. Let’s see how that works out here.

Our Thoughts

There is something quite refreshing about an RTS from the 2000s that still follow the standard formula of building a base, pumping out units and sending out your armies. We’ve seen it more often, sure, but it feels like the grittier strategy games tend to lean more towards a set number of units you guide through a mission instead. While a number of early missions still limit what you can build – although your basic units still let you set up some defenses – it’s set up to let you build full armies to a limit not unlike the similar systems in Warcraft. To add to the realistic feel, rather than collecting resources you capture support points that give you that income. Again, we can go back to less realistic games for examples of that, with Dawn of War working similarly. It feels more realistic that way, following the flow of battle as it would be while preventing the stalemate that can happen when you run out of units.

At the same time playing the game can feel like you’re going through a macro version of those military shooters. You start off following the battle of Normandy, landing on the beach and guide your troops forward. A lot will die and only a few need to survive. They then move down the level taking enemies out and I found myself thinking of tactical shooters doing a similar set up, moving through as you take control of specific points. You can see how those missions fit in here, but now you’re taking control of the bigger picture, infiltrating that farmhouse being only part of getting control of the area.

What helps that feeling is that a mission doesn’t just start and end with a cutscene, while you play through uninterrupted in between. Company of Heroes fits in new cutscene movies in various places during the missions, while adds to the feeling that you’re doing them in multiple stages which influence each other, but give clear narrative beats. It’s a nice way to keep adding context to what you’re doing.

Final Thoughts

I’m still not fully comfortable with the setting of Company of Heroes, it feels overdone and praying on some cheap sentiments. What it puts in is well executed though, with incredibly solid missions that get quite challenging, but give you plenty of options to proceed in most places. It’s compelling to play and even then feels like it all fits together, even spatially as you can see how one map leads to another and you can feel how it’s all meant to fit together.