When you sit down to check out a game pre-release and it’s prefaced with the statement that “this is a pre alpha build”, your hopes sink and you find yourself wondering why they’re even showing it so early on. It was with these low hopes that Company of Heroes 2 was introduced to me. Within moments I found that I had been tricked, having those hopes artificially lowered. There are public betas that don’t look or function as well as what THQ showed me at PAX for Company of Heroes 2.

A sequel to the highest rated strategy game ever, Company of Heroes 2 seeks to add to the legacy. The game takes place on the eastern front of World War II with the player in control of allied Russia. Standard RTS base building and resource management aspects are present and accounted for; but without a larger section of the game than the single demo mission they are not only out of context but stunted, tech tree wise. Being a pre-alpha it would be more than a little unfair to level any complaints about how the game works. The small pieces that we were able to touch worked fine, better than fine given its previously mentioned pre-alpha status.

The best part of the PAX demo had nothing to do with units, bases, or sweeping maneuvers aimed at the destruction of the enemy. We got a taste of Company of Heroes 2’s version of the Essence Engine, True Sight, and the new Cold Tech. The Essence Engine is responsible for destructible environments and deforming terrain. Small arms fire can chip away at a fence or other soft cover and explosives can destroy harder cover exposing your foes or worse, exposing your units. Additionally terrain can be blasted with tank fire, grenades and the like causing the battlefield to change shape around you. Cold Tech shares some of these terrain deformation duty.

In Company of Heroes 2 the Russian winter is as deadly an enemy as the Germans. Snow drifts form and can subsequently be melted, in fact some times it is important to melt snow. Deep snow slows troop movement. Thinking of crossing a field covered in snow? Better call in the flame throwers, or you could risk your slowed troops being caught in the open. Yes, they can be caught unaware, out in the open. This is made possible by what Relic Entertainment is calling True Sight. True Sight is a game changer in the RTS world. Don’t expect your units to walk around encompassed by that magic circle you’re used to. Rather than a visible area around units, the player’s view is blocked by anything that would block their troops view. The possibility of an ambush in a forest or soldiers hiding around a building corner, remaining undetected, is now very real.

Company of Heroes 2 is slated for a 2013 release on the PC
visit http://www.companyofheroes.com for additional info.