Real Time Clickery

I’ve recently been replaying two real time strategy games (cos somehow I’ve lost my save games for both). Bear in mind, the last time I played one before these was probably the original Red Alert waaaaaaaay back when. And I was terrible at that, too. The two games I got are from the same developer, Relic. They are Company of Heroes and Warhammer: Dawn of War 2.

Warhammer: Dawn of War 2 (which I will abbreviate to DoW2 from now on cos that title is too long) is the most recent one, and is surprisingly based on the Warhammer 40,000 thing. I think it’s a tabletop game with figures and dice. Anyways, it’s filled with space marines (which reminds me, I used to play Space Hulk on the Amiga back in the day, goddamn that was awesome). You are tasked with killing everything (there is a plot, but all it really boils down to is “KILL SHIT UP”). You do this by selecting your squads and right-clicking on enemy things. Each squad is different; some can do melee fighting with chainswords (awesome), some use massive machine guns called bolters (also awesome), some use big fuck off flamethrowers called flamers (also pretty awesome), and some use sniper rifles and shotguns (surprisingly shit). What the game tries to impress upon you are the basics like making your men use cover, being strategic and planning your route through the levels, and generally not grouping them all together into one big pack of death. Unfortunately, what the game doesn’t do is tell you things. Things like – which squad works best against which enemy type, which weapons work best against which enemy type; important things like that. I believe the game doesn’t tell you this as it is part of the game itself; you are expected to watch fights and work out for yourself what works and what doesn’t.

This would be awesome if it wasn’t for one rather big structural flaw. In order to be different, Relic have stolen some structure from RPGs. Your squads have independent experience bars, and can level up. Enemies sometimes drop equipment, which can be given to your squads to upgrade them. This means that you can plough through the game without ever giving a shit as to what squad works best against what enemy, cos even if you fuck up and everyone dies, your squads still level up. They just get bigger and better, and can equip better armour and weapons, and you can go back and steamroller your way through the level that killed you. Sadly, this takes the challenge out of the game, and it gets old quickly. Kinda enjoyable to see the Orks at the beginning, who are lead by Nobs. Seriously. After that, it gets boring and samey.

Which is something that Company of Heroes never does. Company of Heroes was made a billion years ago (four), and is set in World War 2. Where you see another FPS set in WW2 and groan, for an RTS game, a historic setting works wonders. It’s obvious as to what each weapon is and does. It’s obvious that a sniper works best in cover, or miles away. And if you don’t know these things, CoH gradually explains all these things to you as you go along the first few missions, which is something DoW2 never does. Something else that CoH does that DOW2 doesn’t is present individual, unique missions. Each and every one of them is distinct, and you’re rarely asked to do the same thing twice.

One of the missions, Carentan, is a superb slice of gaming. You’re tasked with pushing your way through the town and taking out the German defences to clear the town centre. When you do this, you are told that the Germans are coming in five minutes ( a big countdown clock appears on the screen so you know you’re in deep shit in five minutes), and you’re told to dig in by putting mines down on the roads, installing machine gun nests, sticking up sand bags etc. You start doing this in a fucking hurry, and then BOOM – the Germans appear, two minutes early. The game lies to you, and you shit yourself, and you grit your teeth, and you click like you’ve never clicked before to stop them Nazi fuckers from breaking through your hastily-erected defences.

Finally, Company of Heroes (and this bit is so good, I even typed the game’s full name out) has the best voice acting and script I’ve seen in a long time. My favourite line up to now appeared when I clicked on the sniper (and I’ve never heard it since, damnit). I clicked on him, and he said something along the lines of “Just point me at the Nazi bastard, sir, and I’ll shoot his fucking eye out”. This is a real time strategy game, and yet it has more character in one mouse click than most FPS games have in a thousand head shots.

DoW2 is good. It is entertaining, and it does “angry men killing everything” well. It doesn’t really do strategy, but it does do death. CoH is fucking superb, and it does “World War 2” better than any other game I’ve seen. It’s all about teaching you strategy, and making you use it. And it’s fucking ace.

(God forbid anyone still reads this shit other than me, but if you want to play Company of Heroes for free, there’s an online version that is free to play; it might run in the browser, I don’t know, cos I’ve not signed up for it, cos I got the original game, innit)


    Space Hulk 🙂 Did you ever play Space Crusade? Fucking awesome.

  • I remember the box art, must have played it somewhere along the line. I do remember being fucking enthralled by Space Hulk, cos that was a merciless cunt of a game. There’s a fine line between being ruthlessly hard and being unfair, and Space Hulk skipped across that line constantly. Anyways, just downloaded Space Crusade (and this is as good a time as any to test whether the comments still support hyperlinks after my foolish comment dickery earlier in the week), will see if I recall the bastard.

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