Company of Heroes 2 – The Western Front Armies ReviewPC
key review info
- Game: Company of Heroes 2 - The Western Front Armies
- Platform: PC
- Gamepad support: No
- Reviewed on:
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Standalone expansions are somewhat of a rarity in the video game world these days, but developer Relic and publisher SEGA have chosen to use this concept to expand the world of their military strategy game Company of Heroes 2 via the newly launched The Western Front Armies.
The core mechanics of the series are not changed in any significant ways, but Relic makes solid use of the new factions and has built a unique and interesting set of units and tactics for each of them.
StoryCompany of Heroes 2 – The Western Front Armies is a standalone expansion, which means that gamers can buy it separately without owning the original game, and it feels like a package that’s mostly aimed at veterans of the series and the real-time strategy genre.
The two new factions added are the United States Army, modelled mostly on the Eisenhower-led divisions that stormed the beaches of Normandy (other allied forces that are ignored), and the German Oberkommando West, the section of the Nazi army that faced them all through France and led the strategic retreat to the Rhine.
Developer Relic has done a great job of giving each a unique personality via the design of their commanders and the various special powers they can use in battle.
The new maps, eight of them, are chosen to represent the areas that served as battlefield during the major Battle of the Bulge and they offer both forests that favor infantry and wider areas designed for armored hardware, as well as some snowy conditions that show off the winter-focused mechanics of Company of Heroes 2.
GameplayCompany of Heroes 2 – The Western Front Armies significantly changes the way the core mechanics of the strategy series work for both the United States and the Oberkommando West factions and gamers should first test them out in AI matches to see exactly how they work.
The US starts off with all base buildings already available and they only need to be activated using resources as the game progresses and the base also holds weapons for infantry squads that need to be picked up from specialized racks.
Each new building also offers its own specialized squad of infantry, all of them capable of performing special tasks on the battlefield, and the faction relies a lot on buildings, like tank traps and specialized infantry fighting positions in order to succeed.
Playing as the United States means acknowledging that your armor and your infantry are both somewhat less powerful than their German counterparts and not as plentiful as those fielded by the Russians.
The big advantage is the powerful support unit that the nation has access to, including a variety of ways to take out enemy forces from range using artillery and air power.
I tend to play the US mostly in a defensive way at first, holding down resources point and fortifying the areas that are heavily contested, and only launch attacks when I have solid commander powers unlocked or when I manage to get a number of Shermans ready to roll.
The German Oberkommando West is structured very differently, with special support units used to deploy buildings at certain intervals anywhere within controlled battle space.
The faction can access a King Tiger very quickly, as long as it has the required resources, and it can also call upon a solid line-up of both infantry and support tanks, including some very powerful rocket and mobile rocket launchers.
But its forces tend to be outnumbered and very specialized when it comes to battlefield use, which means that gamers need to carefully deploy them and make sure that they use the right tool for the right job.
When I choose the OKW, I try to go on the offensive early on, using my solid initial infantry choices, while patiently minimizing losses in order to finally call on its powerful tank line-up.
The fact that Company of Heroes 2 with The Western Front Armies now has four armies creates a much wider variety of experiences on the battlefield and the new maps come with their own unique set of cool tactical setups and challenges.
The one potential long-term issue with the standalone expansion is the new war loot drop system, which many players are saying is currently bugged and inconsistent in the way it delivers new intelligence bulletins, skins and commanders.
Graphics and audioCompany of Heroes 2 – The Western Front Armies uses the same core game engine as the title that was launched in 2013, but that does not mean that the experience is lagging when it comes to the graphics department.
The tech is still capable of delivering beautiful environments and smooth action on powerful PC and it scales well for those who are unable to push all options to the max.
If the pace of The Western Front Armies was not so fast, players could actually spend minutes at a time looking at the explosions that bloom from vehicles and the way soldiers crawl around before dying when they get shot.
The greener battle maps associated with the Western Front are also somewhat more interesting than those of the original and the team has introduced a new user interface, which is somewhat more intuitive when it comes to selecting commanders and other inventory items before battle.
The sound department of the new Company of Heroes 2 does not disappoint and adds new sounds for the updated line-up of units and vehicles, and the soundtrack makes the battlefields feel like places for heroics rather than simple death traps for unfortunate virtual human beings.
MultiplayerRelic has understood that the core of the Company of Heroes 2 experience is linked to the multiplayer, so The Western Front Armies focuses on making it easy and fast to get paired up with another player while giving veterans a range of interesting customization choices they can make.
At launch, the two new factions and the older Russians and standard Germans seem pretty well balanced, although those who want to play as the United States or the OKW should have some experience with the core game before they do so.
The company has a long history of balancing the real-time strategy game, sometimes in major ways, which means that any overpowered units or abilities should be brought back into line in the long term.
The launch of The Western Front Armies is a great moment to get into the multiplayer community for Company of Heroes 2 because even the best players need to re-learn some mechanics in order to perform well with the OKW and the US, which creates a more level playing field.
As always when it comes to competitive experience, a lot of time and games are required to keep up with the leaders in the long term, but the matches are usually fun even when I am losing and the Company of Heroes 2 community is mostly polite and even helpful.
- Interesting new factions
- Solid map design
- Community created content
- War Spoils system
- Limited gameplay innovation
Company of Heroes 2 – The Western Front Armies is a solid expansion package for a very good strategy experience and offers enough new content to justify the purchase price.
Both the US and the OKW have unique gameplay concepts associated with them and it will be interesting to see how the player community develops new strategies around them and their commanders.
Newcomers to the genre or the series should pick up the core Company of Heroes 2 at first, to get themselves familiarized with the series and its ideas, and then make the jump to The Western Front Armies in order to experience more varied matches.