I have to give the in-game tutorial its own paragraph. Why? Because in my opinion it’s the best in-game tutorial ever made. It’s divided into four categories. It starts with basic training (with an option to skip it) then move to infantry combat training, followed by base operations training and finishes with armor training. Each training section has a text and audio walk through, highlighting what you need to know and do. Very well done and very helpful.
Well all the pretty images and sounds wouldn’t mean much if the game play wasn’t there. The game play is easier than most other RTS games I’ve played, but it doesn’t sacrifice the fun factor. I hate to micro-manage. I hate to click on every single unit on the map and give individual orders. Company of Heroes side steps a lot of that by letting you control squads instead of men. You can pick-up other dropped weapons or order your men to man a major weapon system. You can then click and drag to the direction you want that weapon or squad to face and cover. As with most RTS games, you can assign groups to a key (which comes in handy when the fighting gets intense and the screen starts to overflow with units).Though it is easier to manage units than any other RTS game I’ve played, I still find myself (once there’s just to many units and the enemy is busting down my doors in hugh numbers) dragging a box around every one of my units and ordering them to attack the most dominant enemy. I know it’s not supposed to be played like that but it goes back to why I generally don’t like RTS gaming.
At first I didn’t like the idea of control points and territory sectors, but after playing it for a while it makes sense. If you think about war in general, it really has everything to do with control. What you control and keeping those areas under control and supported with proper supply lines. All these are modeled in the game. You have missions to do, but to complete those missions you usually have to take over and control sectors then to expand your “empire”. There are three main resources that you have to capture and control. They are manpower, munitions, and fuel. Again, at first I didn’t like this concept, but it’s not over done and fits into the war for territory idea. As you capture certain points, you get the ability to deploy and use more men and equipment.
You have a nicely done tactical map that is usually part of the initial mission briefing. It shows you what you have to accomplish and where certain known elements of the battle are located. You also see the puzzle like territories that you have to capture and control. The more blue you have the better off you’ll be, but lose just one of those connecting sectors and you will lose the ability to re-supply and / or re-enforce. You can pull up this tactical map anytime, and learn to use it for your overall strategy plan.
Your units, your squads, and the equipment also have the ability to upgrade. One of my favorites is the ability for the engineers to upgrade to flame thrower units because you’ll find that ability very valuable when clearing out enemy controlled buildings. Your units also get promoted and you can use those promoted units in future missions… as long as you keep them alive.
You also have what they call “Company Commander Reward Points”. These are rewarded as you take territories and kill enemies. These are specific skills or actions that you can call on once in a while, but once used you have to wait for them to “recharge” before calling again. These could be as simple as the much loved and feared artillery strikes, all vehicles repaired, or calling in some air support. And many more. These Company Commander Reward Points can be distributed in three different categories to Infantry, Airborne, or Armor.
What’s also great about Company of Heroes is that you can and should use real world tactics to complete a mission. Sure you can cheat the system stack a few of your favorite units with some nice extras, then just send them all head long into a battle, and you may win, but your defeating the purpose of the game. The best achievements and most rewarding game play are accomplished when you use what you have to suppress — then flank — the enemy. Sure, I can send in 2 or 3 Sherman tanks head-to-head with a few Tigers and may or may not win. The game is not perfect or that realistic, but if I keep those Tigers suppressed or busy with something else, I can easily flank them and shoot them in the rear engine area where they are not as strong. I win the battle and lose none of my valuable armor units.
When you click on a unit and give him a move order, you’ll see three colored shields at the place of order. These represent protection and proper cover for your units. Green is good, yellow is a little cover, and red means your men are about to be dead meat real soon.
The campaign is well done and goes in the general sequence of World War 2. Most of the missions are based on real world battles, but there are a few that are out-of-place. For instance, you’re tasked with taking out a V1 rocket complex early in the war. Oops.