Delayed Responsibility

I Shouldn't Be Gaming Right Now… But I Am!

Company of Heroes Impressions / Revisiting Dawn of War

Posted by deckard47 on August 5, 2009

So, as part of my “bleeding money out of my face” strategy, I picked up the Relic Super Pack (CoH and expansion, DoW and first two expansions) from Steam. I’m single-handedly keeping those fuckers in gold plated cars. They have such delicious sales.

Company of Heroes is, unsurprisingly (and in a welcome way) the bridge between Dawn of War and Dawn of War 2. It’s more of an RTS than DoW 2, but it’s much more tactical and precise, as opposed to DoW‘s Starcraft-like “fire everything!” gameplay (Chiwetel Ejiofor reference!). Your squads can level up and become veterans (although maybe your guys in DoW can do this too?), and you can upgrade them with various new weapons, abilities, and items, much like in DoW. Having played both DoW and CoH recently, it’s safe to say that CoH feels a lot better.

Which reminds me. A while back, Tom Chick said that after playing Red Faction: Guerrilla, playing other games with big areas and explosives (Just Cause, GTA IV, etc) felt fake and wrong. This is exactly how I feel about not being able to aim my troops in different directions. It’s so simple, clicking to order a move, and then dragging in the direction you want the unit to face. Maybe it’s been done before, but this is the first time I’ve seen it. It makes even the simplest infantry move seem tactical. And when you’re moving the big, slow-aiming units, it’s extremely important. Once tanks get introduced, the direction they’re facing becomes one of the most important things in a mission. It makes the second-to-second activity of the game feel more important and decisive, and it does it effortlessly. I’m not learning some horribly complicated new way of approaching combat. I’m just realizing that, yes, it’s important which way that guy is facing.

Equally impressive (to me, at least) is the fact that I like the look and feel of the world Relic has created. Comparing DoW and CoH (and even DoW 2), you’d think I’d prefer the Warhammer titles’ look and feel, just because they’re set in a colorful, vibrant universe. Instead, CoH has created a WW 2 landscape so detailed and beautiful (it looks almost as good as DoW 2), it’s as entertaining, if not more so, than its extraterrestrial counterparts. Of course, it helps that DoW took place on nondescript ice/grass/desert/industrial planets, and DoW 2 takes place on highly detailed, beautiful desert and jungle planets. I’m not sure how battle-scared northern France seems more original and beautiful than lush alien jungles, that that is how I feel about it right now.

Of course, I’m still struggling a bit with the RTS part of CoH. I’m not great at managing lots of guys, and even my mission to clear a road of German patrols and troops was tough. I was (as always) turtling along, killing everything slowly, until I hit the last pocket of German troops. My riflemen (who were upgraded with heavy weapons) got completely screwed by the German defenses, and I had to mortar the defenses from a distance, waiting for more paratroopers to drop in. I’ve got the hang of the mortar crew, the MGs (with their wonderful cones of fire), anti-tank guns, and other special weapons, but I have trouble managing my basic rifle units. I’m always babysitting them, since they always either a) sit too far away and don’t fire enough, or b) move up close and get shredded. I think I’m handling them wrong, but we’ll see.

I’m excited to pick up some tanks (soon?), along with some units better dedicated to armor-destruction. really, any vehicles at all would be cool.

As for Dawn of War, it’s sadly been overshadowed by its own sequel and by CoH. It’s like a combination of the two, but both of those games are better at what they do than DoW is. I’m still curious about all of the races it has, but it’s single player is not nearly as interesting as the SP in DoW 2 and CoH. Maybe the multiplayer (which is what I loved when I first played the game years ago) will still have something to it?

[on a side note, it’s amazing when modern games don’t have widescreen support. I know DoW came out a while ago, but it still annoys me]

All in all, these are really good games. It amazes me, how much Relic is doing with the RTS genre. Blizzard, the “master” of RTSs, is producing Starcraft 2, a game that couldn’t look more uninventive and stunted if it tried. Relic does interesting new things with the genre every time they make a new game. I know Blizzard has to worry about competitive Starcraft players killing them if the game isn’t “just right,” but they’re being left behind by Relic. From Homeworld to Impossible Creatures (a game I loved to death, for many reasons, one of them being the ability to create a unit called the “Wolvery Owl.” Fuck yeah) to DoW 2, these guys have shown that they’re inventive, smart, and willing to take risks. I’m excited for their action-RPG, Space Marine (although the irony of that title when viewed alongside the heroes of so many video games is intense), and for whatever else they have in the works. My vote? Awesome RPG-campaigns for the Orks, Eldar, and Tyranids in DoW2. That would be so sweet.

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