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Company Of Heroes: Online Gamescom Preview

Company of Heroes Online is a free to download and free to play RTS from the team at Relic. Those familiar with the current CoH games will feel right at home in this title as essentially is just the MP portion of the game made available free for everyone.

Company of Heroes Online Screenshots

Now saying that its essentially the multiplayer portion of CoH is a very basic analogy as there is so much more to this game than meets the eye. Firstly everyone will be able to create their own avatar with the usual avatar customisation options, facial features, hair colour and style etc.. This created character is your commander ready to be moulded into whatever you see fit. From there you have a number of options, create a custom match and play with your friends, skirmish with an AI controlled opponent or several, join a ranked reward match to try and improve your skill level and leaderboard status, or play some of the single player maps which have been brought back from the award winning Normandy campaign featuring Abel company as seen in Company of Heroes.

Company of Heroes Online Screenshots

As you progress through the game, your commander will gain XP and earn upgrade points to further enhance his capabilities such as increasing the number of planes used in a bombing run etc. Every six levels you gain with your commander allows you to unlock another ability slot which can be used to further mould your avatar to your own play style.

These abilities are located across the bottom of the screen akin to many RPG style games, each of which have their own customisable hotkey combination for ease of access in the heat of battle, so literally at your finger tips you may call in artillery or set off smoke grenades to ease the suppressive fire on your troops.

In addition to customising your commanders' loadout you may also upgrade your actual troop setup by adding army items. These items can be bought or earned in reward matches, and can range from increased squad armor, upgraded weapons for the troops or even epic tanks with bigger cannons or more armour. However you are limited to eight army items for your play style so selecting them to suit your game plan is key to success.

Company of Heroes Online Screenshots

Now the soldiers you send into battle aren't autonomous drones that blindly just follow the orders you give them, they behave with some idea of self preservation as they will dive for cover when under fire, cover each other as they advance just like a real world squad would do.

Along with the impressive AI of the troops, the battlefield also as deformable terrain, so if you were using a hedgerow as cover which then explodes in your face due to a mortar hit, troops would then be able to use the resulting crater as cover rather than the actual hedge. This poses some interesting tactical idea's, do you blow down walls etc to reach your enemy or use those as your own cover while you slowly advance on their position.

Company of Heroes Online Screenshots

Towards the end of the demonstration we were told what to expect from the in-game store. This is where you will be able to purchase things using either real currency or in-game supply earned from multiplayer matches. While most things will be available for supply, items of convenience, double XP etc. will only be available for cash. We were also reassured that there will be no game breaking overpowered item in the store and that the really good items like the hero units will only be available via drops.

All in all this sounds like an exciting prospect from the guys at Relic, who could say no to some outstanding CoH multiplayer for free? Keep an eye out on www.companyofheroes.com as the game is currently in closed beta with an expected release of September 2010.

Wedgeh | 24th August, 2010

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