Some clever formula twists make for the best single-player outing of the franchise.
F or an exclusively single-player outing, Company of Heroes 2 latest batch of DLC, Ardennes Assault, sure plays like intermediate multiplayer training. The Soviets take a back seat to the plight of the US Forces during Nazi Germany’s last desperate push of World War II: the Battle of the Bulge.
This is familiar territory to fans of the original Company of Heroes, and even more so for anyone that’s played the last round of DLC, The Western Front Armies, as the playable US Forces faction is identical. What’s refreshingly different is the experimentation with the single-player formula. Three companies are selectable with different proficiencies, the catch being there are only three companies available anyway, unless you want to dabble in purchasing another option via micro-transactions. Then you’re thrown into the thick of things, with a steep learning curve, even if you complete the bare-bolts initial
Controversially, Relic has stripped the convenient option to save and reload within a mission, which meant that my risky tactics were often dynamically countered by the cunning enemy AI, and I even had to completely restart more than once to ensure victory. You can still select the ‘Save and Quit’ option, but because you have to reload the mission to restore your point, it encourages you to stay in the battle overall.
Couple this with the reality that losses inflicted in a mission eat away at a company’s overall unit count, restricting your potential for reinforcement, and Relic has made some smart choices for rewarding tactical play and punishing rush/retreat strategies.
There’s also a between-mission Total War-like map overview, which is technically turn-based, but the Nazis never seem to get a turn. It lets you upgrade and reinforce your companies, but it could have been taken further.
Ardennes Assault marks the best presentation of the Company of Heroes 2 single-player formula, to date. It serves as a shiny set of training wheels for those interested in tackling the steeper learning curve of competitive multiplayer in the core game or recent The Western Front Armies DLC.