Good news on the RTS front: Company of Heroes 2 is getting a new stand-alone expansion later this year!
On the one hand, this is pretty obvious ground for Relic to cover. I mean, the Battle of the Bulge is celebrated as one of the defining moments in the European Theater, and the defense of Bastogne during the winter of 1944 is probably one of the most remembered moments in the history of the war, besides Operation Overlord. It was really only a matter of time before we saw these pivotal operations converted into a campaign, and it looks like Relic is going to give us a tightly-focused campaign here.
While the setting is less than unique when we look at representations of World War II in games (with very few exceptions, the Pacific Theater remains fresh ground for exploration, especially in the RTS genre), some of the special considerations being made for the Ardennes campaign really interest me.
In addition to 18 new combat scenarios and 3 new U.S. company commanders to choose from, Company of Heroes: Ardennes Assault will offer new gameplay mechanics meant to simulate the experience of sustained combat during this particular operation. From Sega's press release via their blog:
"Player choices are crucial as every decision will not only impact the story but also their Company with upgrades and Veterancy carrying over from mission to mission. With limited soldiers under your command, you must manage their lives and well-being effectively or risk losing that Company for good. Will you lead your Company valiantly and emerge as heroes?"
While Company of Heroes II received largely mixed reviews, it's my hope that the expansion will do for the main game what the Caesar in Gaul expansion did for Rome II. The smaller theater of operations for the Ardennes campaign should give Relic a tighter focus on the single-player campaign experience, and I think focusing on a much smaller part of World War II combat in the Western theater is a smart idea (Operation Barbarosa took place over an incredible span of distance). The Battle of the Bulge offers the developers some fantastic ways to incorporate interesting game mechanics that reflect the experiences of combat in the Ardennes. I'm especially interested in the idea of persistence in game. Apparently supplies and soldiers will be limited across scenarios, so if you lose a platoon assaulting a small village in the Ardennes, you'll have to deal with that loss in future scenarios. I think this is a great way to tie together a series of scenarios in at RTS and helps address the repetitive nature of many RTS scenarios. If you know your success in mission one will have implications in future scenarios, now incentives exist beyond simply "complete objectives A, B, and C." I'm looking forward to it.
Better pack an extra pair of socks. And a wool blanket. And a coat. And an overcoat. And extra ammunition. Company of Heroes 2: Ardennes Assault is slated to come out November 18th.