Company of Heroes was released in 2006, and even if you missed it, the rest of the world took note. It pocketed Game of the Year awards from many respected sources and left fans wanting more. Relic and THQ responded and produced two expansion packs. Here we are four years later, sitting at the brink of the impending launch of Company of Heroes Online. How does it match up against the original titles as well as the rest of the free to play titles on the market?
Let’s start by picturing Company of Heroes as lemonade. Everyone likes it, but what if that‘s all you drank for a few years? It would get old. After looking around for an ingredient to spice it up, you find some tequila. Now you’ve got a hard lemonade; it maintains the essence of the original but adds an extra kick. That’s what THQ has done by creating Company of Heroes Online.
Players that download COHO are in for a treat: the entire single-player campaign from the original game is included and playable. All of the cut scenes and all of the missions are available. There doesn’t appear to be a quick save option, but I still lost an entire evening (and part of the morning) on the first few levels. The cinematic and emotional experience surprised me and made me want to find out what happened next. However, this preview isn’t about the lemonade in my illustration! So, how did COHO “kick it up a notch“?
They infused RPG elements into the multiplayer experience resulting in a complete overhaul of the core experience. Upon first loading COHO, you must create a commander. Choose between Axis and Allie, then decide on a specialty of infantry, air, or armor. It’s possible to have up to four different commanders so feel free to play around with what suits your style.
COHO holds your hand through the entire process, explaining each decision. It even advises you to play through the tutorial to gain familiarity with its mechanics. Don’t be fooled by it’s fast-paced action; this is a strategy game at heart and it’s surprisingly complex underneath the surface. That being said, I was extremely impressed with the tutorial levels. Each mission has a clear objective in mind and teaches at a comfortable pace.
Playing through the tutorials awards experience to your commander based on your performance. You’ll also unlock Heroes and Army Items. Heroes are unique in-game squads that possess a special set of abilities, whether it be a more effective attack or defense bonus (among other things). Army Items provide a special bonus to specific units. Did you think you’d be able to unlock special Heroes of each unit type and carry them all into a match? Think again and plan ahead because each mission only allows you to select a few Heroes and Army Items.
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