Relic Entertainment revolutionized the way people thought RTS games could be played with Company of Heroes and since then they have continued to build on that formula with Dawn of War 2. They are now returning to the Company of Heroes franchise with a brand new game and a brand new engine specifically designed to display the brutality and insanity known as the eastern front.
Using the new Engine known as Essence Engine 3, the bitter winter that crippled the German Campaign into Russia is brought to life in a breathtaking manner. From beautiful snowy dunes and frozen lakes to raging fires and rising smoke, everything has been upgraded and improved, the game looks absolutely stunning.
Aside from looking beautiful, the snow also plays a major role in the mechanics of the game. The player is going to have to weigh the risks of using the roads for the extra speed it affords. Of course this is not a singular trade-off as units can just as easily be ambushed while off the roads and due to a lack of speed be mowed down far more easily. Company of Heroes 2 also focuses on the brutal reality of the Russian command during the war, especially Order No. 227, which said no retreat without explicit orders from the high command. This means that the use of retreat that was so easy to abuse in the original game, especially when attempting to retreat before being pinned by machine gun fire, will no longer be an option, as your units will be slaughtered by men on turrets from behind. This whole experience immediately brought to mind the iconic first scene from Enemy at the Gates.
Sightlines have also been changed to be more real to life, meaning that units no longer get a vision circle but instead get sight based on what they would have in real life. This means that what cover you use and how you approach the enemy will make a large difference in the potential success of the mission as it is a lot easier to walk into an ambush. In the demo they showed how a unit which advanced through the trees was ambushed just after leaving the forest because they weren't able to see the entrenched position until right before they were exposed.
Relic is also focusing on modifying how the vehicles play a role in the game, one of the most interesting factors is going to be the ability for either team to take over an abandoned vehicle. This will hopefully solve the late game problem of tank versus tank wars online, as having infantry to scuttle tanks or reclaim tanks will be very important. It also played an interesting dynamic in the single player demo they showed us as it demonstrated the need to be far more careful with your vehicles. The segment showed a tank trundling blindly into a village, due to the sightline change, and being taken out by an anti tank emplacement, all of the crew was taken out and due to machine gun emplacements the tank was left abandoned for the enemy to take over and repair at their leisure.
The big concern for the developers seems to be balancing the game correctly without requiring the player to be able to control 10 times the number of units and have them melt like butter in any encounter. They emphasized that while the Germans will be superior in almost every way, it will not be such a massive disparity.
Despite how beautiful and clean the game looked, it's still not due out until sometime in 2013, but it's definitely one to keep an eye on.