The story of company of heroes 2 takes place in World War II, recounting the encounters between the Soviet Army and the German army, where we follow the specific story of Lieutenant Lev Abramovich Isakovich of the Soviets. Lieutenant Lev is being held in a Siberian labour camp for the contents of his personal diary, which contains excerpts of previous battles and his controversial views regarding the red army and their practices, which condemns him as a traitor the Soviets.
Every mission is meant to be a battle from a passage in Lev’s diary which progresses as he is being questioned in the camp. The war is portrayed mercilessly and effectively, making you feel the weight of your actions, seamlessly convincing you of how Lev felt and how cold blooded were the Soviet tactics when faced against a strategically superior force. There truly was no place for surrender.
From the get go, the game immerses you into a world where everything is decided by the might of your gun. The overall graphics of the game, especially the cutscenes, are not very impressive, but they do get the job done as to guide you through the narrative of the game, but it’s not such a big concern while playing, as the framerate is stable and you will be mostly zoomed out, blazing through the map, constantly giving your orders to your troops.
The menus are all designed with a worn metal military feel, while buttons have portraits and illustrations that make the game accessible to control. All of this is further supported by a nice orchestrated soundtrack that enhances the experience by playing large, dramatic pieces for the most action oriented parts of the game, and slower, more linear pieces when there are no battles at hand. Everything is there to fully immerse you into the battles you will be inevitably facing.
Relic has its own style when it comes to the RTS, which, if you are more used to the more defensive, slightly slower paced Warcraft, Age of Empires or Command and Conquer games, might be were the game completely draws you in, or turns you off.
The game has several modes apart from the standard campaign. The classic Skirmish, where you can have an open battle online or offline with opponents of your choosing, and the theatre of war. The theatre of war presents you with 3 game modes that can be played with the Soviet and German Armies; these are the Co-Op Scenarios, Solo Challenges and AI Battles. Co-Op scenarios are mini campaigns that retell historical occurrences, Solo Challenges, which present the player with specific requirements to complete the missions, and AI Battles, which give you the chance to test your skills against Ai opponents that use specific battle tactics.
Company of Heroes 2 is much faster paced and aggressive in its gameplay. From the start of a mission you will be hard pressed to capture strategically important points for resources by raising your team’s flag on them, and constantly on the lookout, as your enemies will also need them, and can take them from you if you don’t manage your troops wisely. Even some moments of the campaign feel a bit too fast, in some instances presenting you with several new features that you have to learn to manage on the spot, as you will need to address them to progress through your missions.
It can be a pretty unforgiving game if you don’t know what you are doing, especially if you’re not familiar with RTS games, or this style of RTS game, that’s why tutorials are presented to you in the form of Tactics. Tactics explains in video form the basics to understanding the game, and provides you with a simple tutorial mission to get you accustomed to the game. I found myself forgetting some of the information, and wished the tutorial mission actually had more content than what it did.
The game has one mechanic that’s used to emulate the weather conditions of the time, and that’s climate in the form of snow. Snow plays a major role in the game, as it is a mechanic that will make or break any of your strategies where it is prevalent. Your troops can wither and die from the weather, which is why, fire is a very important asset to keep in mind at all times in the game. Campfires are absolutely essential to the survival of troops, and in some cases, you will even have to fight for it.
Once you get accustomed to the game and you have developed a play style, the army customizer provides you with options to tweak your army and assets so they match your style of play and further enhance your success rate in battle.
Company of Heroes 2 is a Great RTS game, it provides a different style of gameplay mechanics compared to competitors who might prefer a more aggressive approach to the genre, without some of the hassles of micromanaging bases and resources, and more straight up action oriented combat and battles. The story is a solid stylization of historical occurrences with some ruthless moments and the overall presentation is quite good. Recommended for RTS fans who want a breath of fresh air from Warcraft or Command and Conquer, and newcomers who like their action and want to try their hand into being a general in the background, instead of just being another soldier.