Company of Heroes

Fall in Solier! We join THQ's David Langeliers for in-depth look at Relic's awesome new WWII RTS

Company of Heroes is Relic's brand new second World War II RTS which sees you command the heroes of Able company as they fight across Europe during an epic campaign from the beaches of Normandy to the final assault to end the tyranny of the third Reich.

With Relic's impressive Essence Engine powering proceedings it's looking like an absolute dream too, with advanced squad AI, fully destructable battlefields and the devs behind Homeworld and Dawn of War at the helm, ultimate RTS satisfaction is almost guaranteed when the game hits the beaches this autumn.

During a recent dawn flight over the Normandy beaches, we hooked up with David Langeliers, Associate Creative Manager for THQ on the title to learn more about its epic gameplay and unique approach to the genre.

Fall in for the latest info soldier, as here's what we learned

In what ways do you think Company of Heroes differentiates itself from existing RTS games - and existing WWII RTS games?

The first one is the obvious one: the level of detail in the graphics engine. You really don't see RTS games with normal mapping, full shaders, and a camera that is fully rotatable and can zoom in that far. The character models are first person shooter-quality when you zoom in close.

But for me, the gameplay ones stick out more after you've played the game. The environmental strategy is humungous compared to any other RTS: being able to create your own pathways with tanks, or making sure that your soldiers are always hugged up against a wall and not sitting in the middle of the road.

The last one is how we force people into combat. We always want to have people focussing on the battle and not the economy.

From what we've seen of the game, it seems like a progression from Dawn of War. There are a lot of similar features in there, like the way in which your resource points accumulate quicker the more territory you hold?

We did take a lot from Dawn of War, where we had experimented with this new resource system. It's a little bit risky to do that, but if it works out the rewards are great - and we actually had a really good response to it.

There are different types of RTS players - some prefer the economy-driven games, some the combat-driven ones - but what we found when we were playing the game is that the base-building is there, but it's not something that's very fun, it's something you do to play the game. All the "oh shit" moments are when you're actually in the battle and one of your guys just blew up and flew across the road or something - those are the times that we want the players to remember from playing the game.

The game is built on a whole new engine, though - not the Dawn of War one?

Yes, Essence is a brand new engine, which we started building three years ago. We didn't take pieces of code from the Dawn of War engine, but we took gameplay mechanics and recreated them.

One of the most interesting features in Company of Heroes are the "Commander Trees" - additions to the regular tech tree of available units and abilities. Can you explain what they are and how they work?

In multiplayer you'll have three Commander Trees for each of the two sides, Axis and Allies. Because we only have these two sides, we use the Commander Trees as a way to provide the player with options and different styles of play. For the Allies we have the Airborne, Infantry and Armour companies, and for the Axis we have the Blitzkrieg, Terror and Defensive doctrines. Each one has its own special abilities, own special units and its own passive abilities.

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