Capsule Computers recently got the chance to interview Simon Watts, Creative Manager on Company of Heroes 2, at a THQ pre-E3 event. The event also featured the first hands-off demo of the game ever to be shown to the press.
Company of Heroes 2 is a real time strategy game that takes place on the Eastern Front of World War II, with the player controlling the new-to-the-series, Russian faction. Queue “in Soviet Russia” jokes.
Though talk of a sequel has been rife through Relic, the developers of the series, for a long time, Watts says that the studio had been waiting for “technology to evolve for the sequel. We really wanted to do the first game justice.”
That being said, he went on to affirm that Relic were not out to change the formula, but rather to “give it new life”. The first step in doing this was the setting.
“The Eastern Front of the war is one that’s been rarely reported,” he says, “but it’s also the theatre in which Germany lost 80% of its troops.”
I then raised the question that, since the Eastern Front involved gargantuan amounts of troops, if the number of units we’d be controlling will have been increased in comparison with the first Company of Heroes.
“The focus of Company of Heroes, the thing people loved about it, was the close-up, tactical combat,” he replied, “The player still has front-line control over a small number of squads, though we have increased the number of units in each squad… There’ll be plenty of heroic moments.”
When the demo kicked off, it became apparent that terrain would play a tremendously important role in the game. Units travelling in snow move far slower than those who travel on the roads; of course this does also mean that they are less exposed. Artillery can flatten snow to reduce the movement penalties, soldiers can now vault over fences instead of having to annoyingly run around them, and the cover available in the environments is dynamic and destructible. Observant players can even notice enemy tracks in the snow, giving them the key advantage of knowing their movements. In short, Relic have upped the ante on realism and tactics over the past few years.
In a similar vein, the game features a line-of-sight system unlike anything in past real time strategy games, called True Sight. Watts talked at length about this feature: ” We wanted to do something that had never been done before and create realistic line of sight.”
Buildings and cover will block line of sight, so that rather than having a 360 degree view surrounding your units, the map will only unveil what they can actually see on the battlefield, as if the little three-dimensional soldiers each had his own pair of eyes. Squads of infantry will, of course, be far more useful at seeing things around their position, while vehicles will have a mainly linear field of view, which balances their heavy weapons and armour.
“This will be great for setting up ambushes, and it will always keep players in suspense about what’s in the dark parts of the map,” continued Watts, “It also makes skills like the smoke grenade much more useful, as they now block line of sight.”
Last, but certainly not least, any fan of the original Company of Heroes will know that the focus on graphical fidelity that was such a staple of the first game has returned in the sequel. The game looks fantastic and Relic have been aiming for “higher levels of detail and authenticity”. Though the featured demo was running on DirectX 9, Watts assured me that there would be DirectX 11 support when the game released. The beautiful will be beautiful-er.
Company of Heroes 2 is aiming for a 2013 release, and for more on what THQ is cooking up in the near future, be sure to check right back at Capsule Computers over the next few days.