This might sound strange, but we’ve already written about nearly
everything we know about Company of Heroes 2. In our last preview we covered
the biggest additions: TrueSight (a new kind of Fog of War), improvements to
AI, and how the snow changes just about every battle. If you’re interested in
that, then we suggest you head back to that preview – it’s
all there, in stunning detail, and if you want to know the fundamentals you
should go there, first.
But while we’ve already covered the basics, we did get to
see one new thing in a recent demo session with the game: ice. More
specifically, we saw how CoH 2’s ice actually works when under-pressure. Though
that might seem minor feature, it’s actually a super important element of the game’s frigid winter setting.
Since Company of Heroes 2 takes place in the icy tundra of
Russia during the 1940s (where temperatures reached record lows as the German
forces attempted to take on the Russian front), frozen water is going to be a
major part of the game. Developer Relic put a huge amount of work into making
sure that ice was a compelling part of its maps - not just visually, but in terms
of gameplay as well.
Company of Heroes 2’s ice is interesting because, well, it
can break. That might sound obvious, but when it comes to actually implementing
it into the game, it’s an extremely complicated mechanic. Suddenly,
rivers aren’t just things you need to avoid – they’re chokepoints you need to
cross carefully for risk of losing precious lives and even more precious tanks.
We watched as different tanks made their way across the dark blue ice
of a frozen river, slowly rolling (and sliding) as cracks formed behind them.
It was nerve-wracking, waiting for the ice to break, and we were sure that at any moment it was going to give out. It didn’t – at least, not yet. The developers
explained that the ice essentially has a hitpoint system, lowered by the number
of heavy units currently on it, and detailed how the tank they were showing off
was a lighter tank (as far as tanks go), so it was able to move around without
much fear of sinking. It was joined by a small squad of soldiers who, thankfully, were
light enough to travel without problem.
Until they were attacked. After a few shots from the enemy
and a well-placed grenade, the entire army was sucked into the icy depths in an instant. It
was sudden, beautiful, and horrifying. Literally an entire army was gone in
seconds because of bad planning on the player’s part. A few minutes later and
the river had already started freezing over again, creating a bridge for the
living and encasing the dead.
Traveling over ice is extremely dangerous, making these choke-points on the map even more important than they are in other RTS games. These,
when mixed in with the already-established snow mechanics, continue to affirm what we already knew about the game:
while the other faction is definitely your enemy in Company of Heroes 2, your
greatest foe might be General Winter himself.