Company of Heroes 2: The Western Front Armies Review
Company of Heroes 2 has gone from strength to strength since it released mid-last year, and considering how good the base game was upon that release, imagine how good it is now. With a healthy amount of post-release developer support, as well as a dedicated fanbase who provide some really good Steam Workshop content, the game is without a doubt one of the best modern RTS games. Yes, that’s not exactly a wide field, but it’s a testament to the success of the franchise that it’s one of the few in the genre that most non-strategy fans have actually heard of.
So there’s a good potential market there for Relic and SEGA: the unwashed masses who aren’t generally interested in strategy, but are intrigued by COH2’s cinematic presentation of WW2. The series has often tempted those people but going by the sales figures, never quite reached the brass ring. The Western Front Armies is an interesting attempt at reaching out to that larger audience, all while appeasing the fans who are both still interested in the game and those who could easily be tempted back.
While this review will be covering the DLC pack as a whole, you can actually purchase the two new armies entirely separately. What’s more, the packs are stand-alone and can be used to play the game online all for a pleasingly low price that’s sure to get some new players on board. It’s an unusual model that’s sure to catch the eye of more than a few publishers and developers and it’ll be interesting to see how it pays off in the long run. For now, it works pretty well.
The concept behind the DLC is very simple: two brand new armies for the multiplayer (not forgetting comp-stomp) elements of Company of Heroes 2. Alongside the base game’s Soviet and German forces, players can now take control of the US forces and/or the German Oberkommando West. They both function differently to each other and the base armies, often in intriguing and original ways. The Oberkommando in particular is the most unusual army in the history of the series.
First though, let’s focus on the US army. The American forces specialise in adaptability and have a strong infantry focus. They’re somewhat akin to the Russian troops of the base game, but are generally stronger yet less numerous. Keeping your forces alive with the Americans is imperative. The US forces also see the return of fan-favourite airborne troops who can be dropped in anywhere on the map - they’re less powerful that in the original COH, but can still be the difference between victory and defeat.
The Oberkommando West are, per COH2’s slightly twisted history, a late-war force composed of superior high-tech units, but lacking in resources and manpower. So while they’re one of the hardest armies for balancing resources, they do feature some of the coolest and most devastating weaponry ever introduced in COH as a franchise. A lot of it, including infra-red searchlights and gargantuan tanks, are prototypes that were never really used in the war. They do however, make for a fun war game.
Both of the armies are excellently designed to provide maximum enjoyment. They each present their own challenges but also have their own strong points that are a joy to discover and exploit while minimising those weaker elements. COH has always been a game of balance, especially in the excellent online modes, and these armies fit perfectly into the online theatre. There’s still a slight tendency for the Axis to have an advantage, but a decent player will learn how to turn around even the most dire and unfortunate of circumstances and it’s that flexibility that makes COH2 so good.
So if you grew a little tired of the game, then this is a great reason to get back into it. The fun that comes with figuring out the new armies will drag you in and undoubtedly the addictive gameplay will keep you playing. For those who have yet to try the game, or the franchise as a whole, then this is a golden opportunity to give it a go. Arguably, you'd be better served just buying the main game, playing through the fun campaign and making your way to multiplayer from there (especially now that the game is cheap anyway), but this certainly isn’t a bad way to introduce yourself to the series. Oh, and if you’re still playing the game, then this is a must-buy.
So for what you’re actually getting with The Western Front Armies, it’s a DLC pack worth picking up. Saying that, it’s difficult not to wish that the DLC featured a little more than just the two multiplayer armies. A campaign element would have been a great addition, especially considering the rather short campaign in the base game. Relic seemed to have missed a trick by not including a Battle of the Bulge scenario - they’ve got the snow and the two armies involved, all they needed was a tenuous narrative link and a few objective ideas and mission layouts. The very first expansion for the original COH, Opposing Fronts, featured two new armies as well as two separate campaigns. It would have been great to see this replicated with The Western Front Armies. Sadly, it was not to be.
An even greater sin, considering the multiplayer focus for this DLC, is the lack of additional Theatre of War missions. These individual co-op or solo missions were an inventive and inspired addition to the COH formula (the co-op levels in particular are real winners) introduced in COH2. Some rather overpriced DLC has added to the base set, but it’s a real shame Relic hasn’t added any with The Western Front Armies. Again, it feels like a missed opportunity and while the reason for the omission of these objective focused modes is probably more to do with the business side of the game rather than creative, it hurts the DLC as a whole because of it.
So while The Western Front Armies could have been so much better, it’s still a good piece of DLC in its own right, all for a reasonable price. If you’ve always been intrigued by the series but felt a little intimidated by the strategy elements, then this is a great opportunity to shake off that fear (seriously, you should really shake off that fear). That is probably the ultimate aim of this DLC, even if current fans will still enjoy it. Still, those same fans will undoubtedly be disappointed by the lack of additional modes and story elements, even if the selection of new maps are all adequately decent. Also, if we could just get a giant DLC pack of co-op Theatre of War missions, that’d be great.
Company of Heroes 2 (Reviewed on Windows)
This game is good, with a few negatives.
While The Western Front Armies could have been so much better, it’s still a good piece of DLC in its own right, all for a reasonable price. If you’ve always been intrigued by the series but felt a little intimidated by the strategy elements, then this is a great opportunity to shake off that fear (seriously, you should really shake off that fear). That is probably the ultimate aim of this DLC, even if current fans will still enjoy it. Still, those same fans will undoubtedly be disappointed by the lack of additional modes and story elements, even if the selection of new maps are all adequately decent. Also, if we could just get a giant DLC pack of co-op Theatre of War missions, that’d be great.