Sunday, July 07, 2013

(Spoilers) Company of Heroes 2: Single-player Portion Review

***SPOILER WARNING: Spoilers may be found in the post below about VARIOUS ITEMS. And I'm going to add in a bit of filler text here to limit how much of the main article gets shown in a preview. That should take care of most of it. Hopefully. And away we go. SPOILER WARNING. ***

There's a good chance that I let out about a dozen or two four letter words while playing this. I'll explain in a bit how much this is related to the game and how much it's just my temper.

Anyways, I bought this a week ago and managed to finish up the single-player campaign and half of the single missions in two weekends. The Steam counter says that I've put in 30 hours over 8 days, so I think I got my money's worth. You can find a detailed description of the levels in the campaign (a pseudo-walkthrough) from my four impressions posts.

This is an overall summary of the single-player portion of the game over. I have no interest in the multiplayer portion of the game, which may be the main attraction.

The settings I used were probably around medium and things looked good at 1920x1200. Performance was very smooth, so I probably could have gone higher. Every unit from infantry to vehicles use detailed animations and textures. It was possible to zoom all the way in, but the game isn't playable from that vantage point, so it wasn't used much. Cut scenes were all animated and looked fine.

Single-player Campaign

Seems like it's pretty popular nowadays to do the "start from the end post-op interview" method to tell a story. This game uses that. From what I remember, you play as a commander sitting in a Soviet prison after World War II. He talks about his experiences, the atrocities, and you get to play them from the Soviet perspective. I'm going to be honest: I wasn't interested and just wanted to play. As far as I know, it tries to follow the historic progression of the way. You start off in Stalingrad replaying the first action sequence in the movie Enemy at the Gates.

The levels were varied from defense to offense based in urban and rural environments. Weather and seasons also played a major part in many of the levels. During winter missions, it was possible for troops to freeze to death unless they were placed near fires or in buildings. I found this part extremely annoying and added to the micromanaging required. There was also a mix of base-building and fixed squad size missions. Some levels had controllable heavy armor and others were purely focused on infantry -- that doesn't mean I didn't have to go up against German tanks.

If I had to choose a favorite level, it had to be one near the end where I had to capture a fortress in the middle of the map. I started with a base and the ability to build most types of tanks and I went up against a lot of German armor. Most of the level was based in a dense city environment and there was a rural area to the north. Overall, quite an interesting mix.

Difficulty and A.I.
I'm not the best strategy game player, so that's out there. Playing at medium difficulty, the campaign wasn't very hard. There were many instances where I had to start over because I was too slow or screwed something up early on.

I found the A.I. to be average: both friendly and enemy. The enemy didn't do anything to really impress me, but there were instances where friendlies just went full stupid. Most of my complaints against friendly A.I. dealt with path-finding and tanks not shooting back when up against other tanks. What I could depend on from the enemy was for it to shoot back and use a lot of mortars, which got very annoying when I tried to sit back and build up. Teams and vehicles would pull back and re-orient when required.

Sometimes the enemy A.I. would just stop producing new units though. They had a fully intact base and just stopped making new stuff. Maybe that was just how the level was implemented.

At the end of the campaign, I had probably put in about 20-ish hours, which is pretty good these days.

Throughout the game, I was in control of Soviet infantry, vehicles, and special abilities. Almost every individual unit had a unique ability like throwing grenades, blanketing an area with fire, bombarding an area, etc. These units and abilities were used against similar enemy units. Certain units were better at killing other units (e.g. machine guns against infantry, anti-tank against vehicles), and some were completely ineffective against certain others (e.g. machine guns against tanks). So, a lot of strategy and choice required in choosing what to produce and bring to a fight.

My job was to control existing units and pump out additional ones and being careful to make counters for everything. The objective of most levels and the game would be to advance against an enemy and capture control points. This just involved sitting in an outlined area around the point with infantry for long enough. Controlling points would usually provide additional resources like ammo and fuel.

This was a lot of fun and irritating at certain points in time. Due to the amount of individual skills and abilities, a lot of micromanaging was necessary. Levels where I couldn't produce new units were a lot easier and funner to play because I could focus on individual units and their abilities. Throw in the choice of what to produce, monitoring resources, building new buildings, and it became a bit overwhelming. I'd have to make sure to produce machines guns and anti-tank guns, then orient them in the right direction, make more units, throw grenades using individual units, circle a tank around an enemy tank, etc. There was a lot going on.

One way it could have been made easier would have been to have infantry-based heavy machine guns and anti-tank guns reorient themselves. Both units were absolutely essential, but if an enemy ran out of its field of fire, they would be able to have their way with the unit, for the most part; that is, until I manually repositioned them. Tanks and turrets would auto-reorient themselves, so I don't know why the designers chose to add this "feature". I can't help but feel at a disadvantage when the enemy A.I. can perform a few thousand calculations per second for every unit while I have to manually click everything. Maybe the focus was on the multiplayer portion of the game where other humans would be at a same disadvantage.

Single-player Extra Missions and Skirmish
On top of the campaign, I found about a dozen or two individual missions with half playable as Germans and half as Soviets. Missions were based on historical battles and I think I mostly saw 1941 in the dates. They were divided into co-op, challenges, and standalone missions. I finished most of the standalone missions and found that most coupled me with a friendly A.I. player. These levels were mostly build a base and attack, capture the control point and run down the clock type battles. If you're not aware, capture and hold is where capturing a control point runs down a counter against the enemy -- the more you capture, the quicker the clock runs down.

I tried a few challenges and at least one of them involved defending against waves of attacks with limited resources. They were okay and an alright addition to lengthen the game.

Co-op was unavailable to be played offline, as far as I know. When I tried a mission, the program looked like it wanted to look for another player online. Not sure if I could have set the other player to A.I.

Skirmish was the standard strategy layout where you pick how many friendly and enemy players to go up against and the map where it goes down. I tried it once and it was a capture the control point game. On 2 versus 2, I had the friendly A.I. set to "hard" and enemies as "regular" and still had a hell of a time throughout the game -- barely won. This is probably where I will spent most of my time if I come back to this game.

I got my money's worth at 30 hours and counting. Company of Heroes 2 is a good looking game that plays well for the most part and was a lot of fun. It has a lot of longevity built into it to with single-player and multiplayer based skirmish missions on top of the relatively long main campaign. I'd wait for a sale, just because, but it was worth the full $60 price tag.

Company of Heroes 2 [Download]