Company of Heroes 2 – The British Forces
I’ve always been a fan of the first Company of Heroes game. Relative to Company of Heroes 2, it featured a more paced style of play for the PC gaming community, where you didn’t necessarily have to be a hotkey mashing whiz-kid in order to beat your enemies, but rather a shrewder armchair general. In short, it valued strategic thinking and allowed you to build up your forces before attacking, barring the odd rush. So it must be said out-rightly that I was highly curious about Relic’s new Company of Heroes standalone expansion offering, The British Forces, since it was rumored that the new faction in question favored a more defensive style of play—I was all in.
My first game of Company of Heroes 2 – The British Forces featured me playing as the Brits, while my allies were playing as the Americans and the Russians. In this respect, I got a good chance to see what differentiated the new “good” faction from the others. Our enemies, of course, were the highly reactive German forces, notorious for their pulverizing, elite armor.
As billed, I was able to slowly advance and protect my highly valued supply lines by setting up nigh-impregnable anti-tank and mortar positions early on. While my Russian ally rushed the Wehrmacht with their vast multitude of poor, expendable conscripts I built up my defenses, and built…and built. Just as the German war machine began at first tapping on my front door with lighter armored vehicles, and eventually came pounding upon it with their much-ballyhooed heavy armor assets, I got a chance to see how my British defenses held up.
Let’s just say that in the matter of minutes, the hulking, intimidating German tanks were reduced to flaming scrap metal, creating an eerie cross between a junkyard and a tank grave memorial. My 17-pounder guns created a dazzling array of pyrotechnics that would make any Hollywood action director envious. The German players, so used to overwhelming anything in their path in the original Company of Heroes 2, were soon to quickly to realize that business wasn’t as usual, when faced with the withering defensive fire and rugged fortifications of the British forces.
Soon, I had a counter-force of rugged Churchill tanks built up and at the ready, and fielded them along with accompaniments of intrepid royal engineers in order to repair them on the fly if need be. Like big, tough, schoolyard bullies, the Germans weren’t used to being on the defensive, and with their highly prized, precious tank columns reduced to smoldering heaps of twisted steel, I was able to more or less roll right over them, paving the way for my Russian and American (that’s right, they used to be allies) comrades to come in and mop up the stragglers. In the course of one game, Relic had managed to rekindle the spark of the ingenious RTS heaven that Company of Heroes 2 always had the potential to be.
I came to view the British forces as a razor-clawed and fanged turtle, slowly advancing, double-downing on machinegun nests and anti-tank emplacements—hunkering down for a little bit until the area is fully secured, and then lethargically lurching forward for the next land-grab. Rinse and repeat this a few times and you’ll soon come into contact with the enemy, and more often than not, it’s not all good for them. While the British forces lack the diversity and adaptability of the Russian and American forces, they excel at turtling up and have a sort of aggressive/defensive force-field style of play that can be a real horror to contend with.
When the Germans switched tactics and tried to emulate my hunker-down style of quiet, steady, aggression, I rolled out the British artillery. Soon, the enemy was forced to sit and watch as dozens of whistling artillery shells rained down on their positions, reducing them to scraps. Eventually, there was really nothing for my enemies to do, except die. Finally, I’d found the antidote to the reactive, button-mashing specialists that used to roll right over my armies early to mid-game in standard COH2 games; the Brits had arrived!
As previously stated, the British forces do lack the overall versatility of the other factions, but they more than make up for it with vehicles like the ever-reliable Universal Carrier Mk.II Forced Reconnaissance vehicle. These little babies can zip around the battlefield like hyperactive hummingbirds, and are perfect for transporting troops between both the rear and front lines or laterally between points. If the enemy is bearing down on your positions with infantry you can always transform them into troop-shredders by outfitting them with Bren guns, or even flamethrowers (ouch!).
The graphics on display are meticulously crafted and give you the feeling of really watching various historical battles and engagements of World War 2 unfold, featuring beautiful, quaint European villages and vast, sprawling industrial sectors. The score was also done well, lending an air to the brave (and dastardly) acts of war that was part and parcel of The Last Good War. As usual, Relic is also spot-on with the action, rendering both explosions, and the results of what happens when large rounds hit soft flesh, in grisly, fascinating, attention to detail.
Overall, I found Company of Heroes 2 – The British Forces to be a breath of fresh air and shot in the arm for Relic’s mighty WW-2 RTS. It not only introduces a new faction to the mix, but offers along with it a completely different style of play, and are a turtleler’s dream come true. If you favor a more defensive play-style, I would highly recommend checking out The British Forces, just be prepared to witness some serious carnage as the enemy tries in vain to assail your formidable fortifications with waves and waves of infantry and armor; it’s really a lot of schadenfreudian PC gaming fun to behold.
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