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Company of Heroes 2 Beta Impressions

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The launch of Company of Heroes 2 is approaching faster on the horizon. Relic Entertainment announced today that shortly after launch, they release a DLC called Theater of War 1941 that will include more commanders, units, and nine unique missions per faction. While the game will be released on June 25th for the PC, closed beta has been under way for a while, and I have had the chance to spend some time with it.

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If you spent a lot of time with the original, then you will be in familiar territory. COH2 features an enhanced version of the original graphical engine known as the Essence Engine 3.0. Players can survey the field of war, and zoom in as they always have. Dynamic weather plays the biggest difference in the game, as you will have to make sure your soldiers stay warm during battle. This can be done by keeping them in buildings and building fire pits.

The game includes an abundant amount of micro-managing, and you will most likely get blown out of the water early. The A.I. doesn't hesitate to take all the points immediately and send everything they have at you. The blizzard conditions can really affect the flow of what you're doing. Most of the maps on the demo are in snowy conditions, with one exception being in daylight and dry.

The beta allows you to go online with up to 8 people in a 4v4 match, or just do an offline skirmish. There's non-interactive tutorials that give you an idea on how to do things and what's new. It will take a few playthroughs to get up to speed as the computer A.I. shows no mercy, and most of the people online know what to do. Depending on the size of the match, I got lag. You will be prompted to boot them if they keep holding up the match, and they are replaced with A.I. The best bet to get a good understanding is to do a 2v1 match with an A.I. ally to find your rhythm and explore around with your faction.

Speaking of factions, the game features Germans and Russians, each with their subtle differences in soldiers and tanks. Unfortunately with all war strategy games, the game revolves around capturing the points, and building the biggest army to take out your opponent. If you're the faction with the best tanks, usually you'll be the one that pulls it out. Germans have Panzers and that's really all that matters in the end. A lot of people are fans of that formula, but once you figure it out, things begin to get stale.

COH2 also includes a leveling system that unlock perks, other commanders, and unit skins over time. The beta allows up to five customizations of loadouts. Perks add a small percentage to soldiers or units to increase certain skills.

Most PC's should be able to handle COH2 on high graphical settings with no issues. There are a ton of little things that you will have to take info effect (and looks neat) such as icy rivers cracking and tanks potentially falling in. Line of sight is the big thing as soldiers will take cover behind walls and fences, and if they cannot be seen, will remain unnoticed. Finding the opponents mortars can be frustrating as bombs just come in to where you are, and it's difficult to locate them. Tanks are an important part simply for taking down walls and buildings. All the explosions and effects come off as very smooth.

Pre-ordering on Steam will give you early access to the beta, and is definitely worth it if you plan on playing online. The leg up at the time of launch will be huge.