Company of Heroes: Tales of Valor

Company of Heroes fans can expect some surprising changes in Relic Entertainment’s latest standalone expansion, Tales of Valor. The development team’s rewriting the rulebook for real-time strategy games. Instead of the swarms of disposable units and resource management duties that comes with capturing control points, Relic is narrowing its scope to focus on putting you in command of a single Tiger Ace tank.

The game features a new control scheme that the team’s dubbing ‘direct-fire.’ You’ll still point and click to move your uber Tiger tank as you normally would. But with direct-fire on, your tank’s turret will follow your cursor movements, allowing you to create a 360 degree arc of destruction as you roll through war torn streets.

Instead of capturing control points to generate resources, you’ll be awarded munitions for taking down enemy forces. Level up, and you’ll be able to spend points on upgrading the skills of your tank’s crew. You can teach your loader to use high explosive rounds or your driver to improve flank speed, for example.

Above: Leveling buildings and wreaking havoc with the Tiger tank rules

Tales of Valor doesn’t sound like a typical RTS, and it doesn’t play like one either. In the demo we sampled, we were dropped off in the middle of Villers-Bocage, France, and were charged with clearing the town of its antitank guns. Small groups of Allied soldiers and their pitiful vehicles were no match for the Tiger tank’s tough armor and powerful firepower. But when you’ve got a squad of enemies launching rockets at you from a derelict building on your left, turrets peppering you with fire through an alley on your right, and a caravan of Allied armor approaching from the rear, Tales of Valor’s battles get intense pretty quickly.

And here’s where Tales of Valor’s unique take on strategy comes into play. Instead of asking you to micromanage the movements of many units, the game charges you with mastering every movement your lone Tiger makes and every round it fires. There are times when you’ll need to quickly reverse at just the right angle, so you can keep your less heavily armored rear away from enemy fire while leveling a building housing hostile units ahead. There are times when you’ll want to quickly switch to armor piercing rounds to take out enemy vehicles after plowing through squads attempting to make a break for cover to your side. And there are times when charging straight ahead with guns blazing is the best course of action.

Above: There will be times when the story calls for your squad to leave the safety of the Tiger. These more traditional missions will feel familiar to CoH fans

It’s a different kind of strategy that shifts the focus from directing lots of individual soldiers to one that wants you to own every inch of a single unit. And as far as single units go, Tales of Valor’s Tiger tank has got to be one of the most powerful hero units ever to grace war torn maps in any RTS we’ve ever played.

From what we’ve seen so far, Tales of Valor’s single player was a blast. But what we’re really excited about is one of the new multiplayer modes Relic hinted at. The working title is “Invasion.” It’s going to be a co-op mode where a group of Tiger tanks defends an area against waves of enemy forces. The longer you survive, the harder it gets.

We love defend-your-base missions. So after holding off swarms of zombies in Left 4 Dead and armies of Locust in Gears of War 2’s Horde mode, Invasion sounds great.

Nov 26, 2008