THQ and Relic are heading back to World War II with the new real-time strategy game Company of Heroes 2. Focusing on the Easter Front of the way, players will be commanding the Red Army to defend Soviet soil from the ongoing full-scale invasion from Germany. Developed on Relic’s proprietary Essence 3.0 Engine, the game developer promises this tech will deliver enhanced levels of destruction and increased graphical fidelity. Quinn Duffy, game director on Company of Heroes 2, talks about the 2013 PC release in this exclusive interview.
Game On: For those who haven’t played the original game, can you explain the backdrop of this RTS franchise?
Quinn Duffy: Company of Heroes, the franchise, is a tactical RTS set in World War II. It’s very authentic, and built on tone, pace, immersion, and really getting the player engaged in the experience. Company of Heroes 2 takes us from Western Europe to the Eastern Front, where you play the Soviet Army trying to free Mother Russia from the German invaders in brutal frontline combat.
What has that opened up from a gameplay perspective?
There are a number of things that we looked at. First off, we built a brand new engine to help support the creative vision of the game. That gave us a lot more power and flexibility in how we wanted to introduce new features. It gave us things like True Sight, our new line of sight system, where you can only see what your units can see. That all of a sudden adds this new tactical layer to the game and creates a whole bunch of emergent behaviors and capabilities that the player has now. Now they can properly flank, ambush, and sneak attack. It’s a very cool system. It integrated really seamlessly with the Company of Heroes gameplay.
What role has fan feedback from the franchise played in what you guys are doing with this game?
Fan feedback is really important to us. We released Company of Heroes in 2006, and we still have really high PC, or peak concurrent, users. There are tens of thousands of people playing the game in any given day. We have these active and vocal fans. They love the franchise as much as we do. One of things that they wanted to see with the game was a move to the Eastern Front, so we listened to those guys. We also took a look at what we wanted to do with the game, and decided that that would be the best move for Company of Heroes 2.
What will this experience be like for someone who has the latest, high-end PC?
Company of Heroes is a gorgeous game. Company of Heroes 2 provides even more fidelity and higher performance. When we’re talking about the top-end systems, we’ve got DirectX 11 support. We’ve got all of the three and four letter acronyms, like SSAO (Screen Space Ambient Occlusion. The game just looks fantastic. We sold a lot of OEM graphics cards with Company of Heroes. It was an amazing looking game. The video card guys loved us, because the game looked amazing on their fastest rigs. Company of Heroes 2, for the high-end systems, it’s going to be absolutely unbelievable.
What are you most excited about when it comes to the new gameplay that this delivers?
I think it’s really just the way it all came together. We added a number of new tactical features like vaulting, True Sight, and abandoning the vehicles, but Company of Heroes is a game that’s really just about the sum of its parts. It’s more than the sum of its parts, I should say. It’s this amazing engaging experience, and when we add just a few new features to the game, it really creates a multiplicative effect of new tactics and emergent gameplay behaviors. I’m really excited to see what the fans do with these new features that we’re adding.
What do you think it is about RTS games that have stood the test of time?
There’s something about the way you engage with the game. They tend to be a thinking man’s game; there’s a lot of depth to them. There is a fair amount of complexity, but it is engaging complexity. We want to reward smart players with our systems, and I think the players understand that. I think they get really engrossed in commanding this sort of layer of troops. We also have this really engaging presentation layer. The game looks and feels like no other RTS. Our audio and the way the game looks really draw the player in. We find that really exciting, the fact that almost six years after we launched, we still have so many people playing the game. We want to move those people on to Company of Heroes 2, because I think the experience is even better. It’s more immersive and authentic. There’s more brutal frontline combat.
Over the years we’ve seen a lot of World War II games. What do you feel this adds to the World War II genre?
I think the Eastern Front is something that, especially Western gamers, have really seen very little about. They’ve seen movies like Stalingrad or Enemy at the Gates, and they’ve got a sense of it, but I don’t think people understand the full picture. What we want to do is fill in the picture that players have of World War II. There are so many new stories to be told from the Eastern Front, the most brutal conflict in human history. We use that as a backdrop for the next evolution in tactical RTS warfare in Company of Heroes 2.