Company of Heroes 2: Ardennes Assault (PC) Review

By Eric Ace 24.11.2014 2

Review for Company of Heroes 2: Ardennes Assault on PC

Company of Heroes 2: Ardennes Assault is a real-time strategy game that injects some much needed innovation into the genre. This game is completely separate from the Company of Heroes 2 release, which is an online strategy title, with SEGA this time focusing on being only a single-player experience. This decision might be a surprise to many fans hoping for an expansion because, despite the title of this game, it is an independent experience, not requiring the base game to play. How does this innovative focus hold up in what is otherwise known as a multiplayer franchise?

Ardennes Assault strikes out into some bold territory, which is surprising given the normally rather unchanging RTS genre. The innovation is commendable, and it holds up for the most part, but falls short in a few places, which ultimately drags the game down to an average level. The major additions made are a forced 'Iron Man' save system, losses now follow the player between missions, a hard counter system is in place for units, and it is proves to be a very randomised experience.

The game itself plays like a very frenzied, fast-paced real-time strategy title, where the point is to capture and hold various resource nodes around the map - given the World War II motif - such as 'Fuel' and 'Munitions.' There is the central base for both players, but in general the game is won or lost by the various 'King of the Hill' fights going on across the map. This encourages skirmishes rather well; unlike many RTS where simply building up a huge blob is the key and whoever's army gains victory, wins the game.

Screenshot for Company of Heroes 2: Ardennes Assault on PC

Another thing done fairly well is the immersion. The soldiers make small talk, discussing what is happening in the battle, about what enemies they see, and so on. The player is absolutely flooded by messages, which seems like it could be a bad thing but it is actually a good point to capture the feeling of the chaos of battle as "We're getting torn up out here!" and "Tank!" both vie for the gamer's attention.

Between battles, the game enters a slightly turn-based map of Western Europe during the Battle of the Bulge. Three different 'Companies' are controlled; the Paratroopers, Mechanized, and Support - moving one at a time into battle, and using those units to engage. Each company is different and can be upgraded with their separate tech trees, leading to a very different gameplay style. Paratroopers stress mobility and speed, able to land anywhere on the map, but are the worst in prolonged combat, Mechanized get vehicles easier, and are best for long sustained pushes, whilst Support are the most defensive, having powerful artillery to use.

Screenshot for Company of Heroes 2: Ardennes Assault on PC

As the battle goes on and as units are lost it hurts the Company's 'Health,' which during the campaign moves ever downward, and if it gets too low, the company is removed from the game. It gave it a good feel of real units, not just mindless swarms sent to their death. This, forced with the mandatory 'Iron Man' style of auto-saves, means it is not possible to just reload if a skirmish goes awry. This is an interesting design choice, yet because of some aspects, leads ultimately to why there are some serious problems, despite the innovation.

First, the game is buggy. Occasionally, there will be areas of the map that cannot be attacked. The player will waste turns and health moving over, only to find a bugged location - and they cannot reload. Furthermore, this leaves very little room for experimentation; given nearly non-existent instructions, it is a case of being thrown in face first, and every mistake is saved to compound this, making it even harder as events continue.

Screenshot for Company of Heroes 2: Ardennes Assault on PC

Another major problem, beyond the auto-saves and the bugs, is that the game itself is punishing in a bad way. The 'King of the Hill' element is great, and a cool way to discourage blob build-ups, but what happens is that there is simply so much occurring that it cannot be controlled well at every point. Normally, this might not be a huge issue, but two aspects make it especially so here: most units look the same and there are hard counters - nullifying the ability to react quickly.

For all intents, there are only three types of units as they look on the map: soldiers, vehicles, and artillery. However, within that there is a substantial variation. There are the heavy machine-gun soldiers, the rocket launchers, the mortars, and they all hard counter a specific type of unit. What this means for the player bouncing between various battles, is they see a group of soldiers, and other than a small icon not always visible, there is no telling what they are beyond 'soldiers', yet this has huge gameplay effects as if it is the right type to counter the player's unit, said unit will be dead long before an effective move can be planned.

This is especially evident when moving to higher tiers of units - early in the game, the better units cost a lot and there is basically a 'rock, paper, scissors' decision of what unit to buy for the first one. If choosing incorrectly, such as grabbing a machine gunner when a vehicle would have been wiser can be disastrous as the AI kills the unit easily, and the Tier-2 unit proceeds to destroy all the lower level units. This game would be much better suited as turn-based, as the information overload, and the cataclysmic consequences of sub-optimal play, severely detract from what is the framework of a decent game. The randomness works in its favour for atmosphere, but from a gameplay perspective was a bad decision.

Screenshot for Company of Heroes 2: Ardennes Assault on PC

Cubed3 Rating

6/10
Rated 6 out of 10

Good

Company of Heroes 2: Ardennes Assault makes some big moves in the RTS genre, and most are steps in the right direction. The battles have the potential to be fun, chaotic, and it is fulfilling to watch a rampaging tank be stopped and then to push back the onslaught. However, many times the 'rock, paper, scissors' element, compounded by the difficulty in telling units apart, makes the game an exercise in frustration as a player's well-crafted plans are ruined by an ultimately randomly-chosen hard counter that puts the player too far back to recover. This fact, and given the 'health' system and the forced ironman. These negative points all pool together to spoil what could have been a really great RTS game, sadly. The battles, when done right, are a great, novel experience, but the frequent 'choose wrong' syndrome will drains gamers of wanting to play again.

Developer

SEGA

Publisher

SEGA

Genre

Strategy

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  6/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date None   Australian release date Out now   

Comments

Our member of the week

I wonder how accurate the renditions of the locations are, since I basically live in that part of Europe loaded with history of World War II (my hometown was destroyed at 90% by Americans' and Germans' cannons on December 24th 1944 my current house was one of the few still standing on the morning of Christmas). I don't expect lesser important locations to be accurately rendered but hopefully the most important ones have some semblance of recreation to them Smilie. I'm not a fan of the RTS genre at all though, so I don't think that'll be a huge incentive to me even if it's realistically recreated Smilie.

Cubed3 Limited Staff :: Review and Feature Writer

There seemed to be a farily accurate dendition, as far as an individual battle, cant say for sure, but they refer to many small towns by name.

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