In this edition of Steam Sales I’ll be relooking one of my favorite games, Company of Heroes. The whole series of games went on sale about 3 months ago. Each game was a standalone game selling for $3.33 each. The total price for all three games was $10. I felt getting a game for nickels and dimes was going to be worthwhile no matter what game it was, little did I realize I was picking up one of my favorite titles.
History of the Game
To cover the first the game is based around three distinct nations in the war.
The first part of the game to be released was based on the American involvement in the war. The specific focus is around Omaha Beach front. In World War 2 there were six distinct beach landings, Omaha, Sword, Utah, Juno, Gold and Pointe du Hoc. Omaha remained the most important of all of these fronts because Omaha would link up the British Juno Beach and the American Gold Beach. All subsequent beach fronts would land after these first three (except Pointe du Hoc which was a failed front).
Sword Beach was another front that was going on during all of this. Sword Beach was the original main front. The purpose of Sword was to land quickly and moves on Caen. General Montgomery was in charge of Sword Beach and was well known as a failure only put on board to give the British a hero. Montgomery was in charge of the whole operation and his moves in Sword beach would apparently make or break the whole invasion.
Montgomery’s failure would have to be picked up by Omaha Beach. Omaha Beach was a nasty front. It required a specially trained airborne unit that would jump into enemy territory with heavy losses and eliminate gun positions. This would be tied in with a beach front push into the same machine gun pushes. This same airborne would mingle in with the rest of the army and become a frontline push for the remainder of the war.
Caen was of particular strategic interest. Montgomery’s failures would resonate throughout the war as Baker Company was constantly asked to push ahead and secure locations. Caen was a crossroads that would allow the British and American troops easy access to all fronts in France. This was essentially a place where the Allied forces could make hasty decisions based on enemy troop movements.
It was after the successful capture of Caen that two major events happened. The first (and in the game) is American paratroopers are asked to secure a V1 rocket launch site that is bombing London. This heroic act would save London from millions of lost lives. Ironically the Americans would steal this very technology to create the modern battleships. The other important aspect is General Patton (who was grounded up until this point) pushes deep into Germany and is within feet of conquering the Reich.
The campaign focuses around the single supporting airborne unit and Baker Company who are constantly asked by Montgomery and Patton to do all of the dirty work in securing locations so that their pushes can go smoothly. Montgomery and Patton were often left with token resistance while these brave men are asked to do the impossible. The first chapter focuses around these few men.
The third chapter would of course focus around tank battles between Montgomery/Patton and Rommel. Everything in the third campaign will focus around British deployments. While the first chapter gives an American view on history, the British chapter shows us that it wasn’t exactly all that easy for the British.
The second history in the game revolves around the game design itself.
Company of Heroes is not the first game like this. This game’s gameplay is based off of the largely successful Warhammer 40,000 Dawn of War, or simply Dawn of War. Dawn of War was a largely successful real time strategy game that offered something different. Before this most RTS games focused on gathering resources, building units and killing your enemy. Dawn of War went a different path; they removed the gathering of resources. Instead of building bases to invade your enemy you would collect strategic points that would grant you more sway with the emperor and give you another forward position.
The game offered two distinct types of strategy. There was the macro strategy where you would look at a map and make decisions as to what points you should take and what ones might be harder to defend. The second was the micro strategy where you are taking multiple armies and attempting to flank the enemy the best you can
The Dawn of War series was often considered flawed. When playing as the human faction people often just made Space Marines since Space Marines were an all-in-one unit. Space Marines could be anti-anything causing a serious problem. After so many patching attempts they just gave up on trying to balance it. There are so many tournaments in Dawn of War that just illustrated these infuriating balance problems. The main problem with Dawn of War ended up being that there was seemingly no benefit to go beyond your first tier of unit.
Company of Heroes fixes this. They make specialized infantries strong against a large number of things but give them drastically less hit points than tanks. This means that means that when a person with tanks runs into a person without there are dire consequences for the person without the tanks. Of course tanks are not immortal and there are anti-tank weapons (assuming you have spotters). This gave the game a growing complexity of range, utility and itemization.
When Company of Heroes first came out people just saw it as a better Dawn of War. It probably upset some people to realize they were only buying 1/3 of the game. As it turns out the plan was to release the game and two expansions as standalone games. Each standalone game would give you the option to play a single campaign while telling you to get the other games to unlock the rest of the games.
Company of Heroes is truly a game that told a story that is so unbelievable you find it hard to believe it is true.
Has It Lived up to the hype?
When this game launched there were so many Warhammer fan boys running gaming websites that it received a 10/10. It received so many perfect reviews it was sickening. Every single RTS nerd jumped out and grabbed this game. Unlike 99% of RTS games out there this game provided a game that was not based out of outer space. This caused some creative problems looping in with some historical issues.
The first big issue is the strength of the World War 2 armies and balance in the game. Historically (and ironically) the strongest and most powerful army during all of World War 2… was the French. Even after the French were conquered by the Germans with the Vonschlieffen Blitzkrieg plan they still had the most powerful tanks and best weaponry. This of course is why Britain was shocked by the conquering of France and it caught everyone off guard. It would be the same thing as Mexico conquering America in 7 days. These sort of fast victories always shock everyone.
So keeping that fact in mind considering that the second generation of World War 2 tanks that are developed during the war are also reworked French tanks. It means that the tanks that Germany defends with are the strongest in the world (the Russians build a tank at the end of the war that successfully trades two panzers for one tank).
The Americans had the worst tank in the world. The only people who might have had a worse tank were the British who invested heavily in an air force instead of a ground force. So obviously as far as armies go the most powerful ones should be (in this order): Germany, America, and Britain. But when you get into the campaign what you find is that America has the most powerful army, the British have the best tanks and the Germans have the best fortifications.
Moving along with that when you play as Germany it should feel like you are almost invincible. The problem, is the campaign. The German campaign is feeling somewhat misplaced. The Germans during the Normandy Invasion were always on the defensive. There was never a point during the American attacks that the Germans were actually winning a battle. There are no ‘tales of heroism’ either because all they were doing on the retreat was burning buildings down and destroying bridges. The German campaign was one entirely of slowing down the American advance in hoping that winter would hit and slow them down. There was nothing daring or heroic about it.
A better choice of a campaign would have been the creation of Germany… that is taking on Poland, Netherlands, Belgium, France and Britain in the Blitzkrieg. It is one with a powerful victory with a smaller army.
The British campaign was not much better.
When you look through the course of British military history it is filled with excitement and interesting characters. During the Napoleonic years Wellington put Britain’s place on the Earth. Similarly in World War 2 the British had no shortage of interesting chipper commanders. Instead you are lead to believe all British commanders were just bumbling idiots who always drink tea.
Worst yet the style of the game did not carry over so well in tank combat. In this game you’re supposed to feel like a commander, not a tank pilot. The great tank commanders were positioning tanks, not physically using the tanks. In the British campaign you are taught to flank panzer tanks and aim for rear armor. That’s where it gets kind of odd. It just always felt like inferior play to what was presented in infantry-play.
In the end that is the only problem with this game, the first section of it (Company of Heroes) is better than the German campaign (Opposing Fronts) and the British campaign (Tales of Valor). This is largely because it will always be more fun to attack with a weaker force and weaker units into stronger units and a stronger force (and winning). That is, it’s better to have weaker units (soldiers) over stronger units (tanks) and better to be attacking (Americans) than defending (Germans).
The main problem is that you need all of these aspects of the game to win (soldiers, tanks, and defense). Multiplayer relies heavily on the development of these three facets of the game. It is a classical RTS game that requires tears of units and precise counters in order to win a battle. With that in mind each campaign only reflects a section of the multiplayer. You can compare this to getting to try out everything in every campaign… it just makes for a poorly crafted game.
Is this a better game than Warhammer 40,000 Dawn of War? Absolutely! But is this the 10-point game it was lead to be? Absolutely not! After you finish the main campaign of Company of Heroes you will be bored to tears by Opposing Fronts and Tales of Valor. After finishing everything you will wonder where the Russian campaign is, which is the most interesting out of all of the World War 2 situations.
It was most definitely worth the $10 I paid for all three games but dear god I would not have bought this again in it’s prime.