In a preview event, held by developer Relic in San Francisco, GameStooge got to experience both the single and multiplayer modes of Company of Heroes 2. This preview will focus on the multiplayer mode.
First off, the event featured Company of Heroes 2 in full DirectX 11, so the Essence 3.0 engine is exploited to its fullest extent. Freezing troops trudging through thigh-high snow is rendered in numbing clarity. The snow feels like individual particles rather than a texture. Smoke, water, and snowfall are procedurally generated, so the physics are realistic and believable.
Relic highlighted its ColdTech system as well. The system engine is chiefly made to do one of two things. The first, most obvious is the effect on troops themselves. Staying in blizzard conditions too long will cause them to first freeze, then suffer hypothermia and then die, if left exposed to the elements too long. Cold weather will also slow troops down.
Another function is that water freezes authentically, and while frozen rivers can be traversed, players can use mortar fire to shatter the ice and send enemies to a watery grave.
We were treated to 2 vs. 2 multiplayer, this time with no AI opponents. The Germans and Russian sides are balanced, but have distinct “feels”. According to Relic lead designer Quinn Duffy, the Germans are far more flexible in their tech tree than the Russians, but the Russians have much more mobile squads, with bigger units.
During my multiplayer session, we were tasked with capturing points on the screen. Admittedly, from the German side, the interface wasn’t very user-friendly, and needed Relic to explain some of the options available, since my first mission found me and my partner taking two control points rather quickly, but falling behind because we were unsure of how to get some of the more advanced units.
Time is of the essence in Company of Heroes 2, especially in the freezing winter maps. It is essentially to build warm campfires and claim buildings and other regions that are proof against freezing. In addition, technologically, there is little margin for error. Fall behind a little, and it’s difficult to catch up.
One interesting thing happened during multiplayer: during serious blizzards, some other players found themselves making a temporary cease-fire with each other, while others took advantage of the weather and blitzed their enemy. It’ll be interesting to see if such social dynamics are present in the game’s final release.
In DX11, the game looked absolutely amazing, while gameplay was frustrating but rewarding when done right; admittedly Relic admitted we were playing advanced maps, and that players would have a slower learning curve to deal with.
The game is due to be released in March 2013.