Essence engine 3's dynamic effects extend to fire which can burn entire buildings like little boxes of tinder. Your flamethrower doesn't help things, able to arch over cover, melt Nazis, and then propagating and demolishing everything that looks like it can be demolished. It's quite literally a scored earth policy, showing off impressive, almost Red Faction-levels of destruction. Almost any structure on the battlefield can be brought down and poked with holes - barns, fences, trees - and even the land itself can be shaped, artillery shells causing an explosive dent when they land.
During the demonstration, however, there was one questionable moment where a tiger tank roared onto ice. Tanks have been completely redone, now heavy, diesel-guzzling monsters that carry with them a real sense of weight and dread. The tank was due a tumble but the ice didn't crack, despite several German shells pounding it for good measure. Pursuing 'gritty realism' is fine, as long as Relic follows through with it. Fortunately, they've done so with the new line of sight system.
DOGS OF WAR
It's hard to appreciate, sitting at your desk with a God's-eye view, but soldiers down there can't instantly see for miles like you can. A thick fog of war makes things difficult, darkening areas of the map you either can't see or haven't been to. In the last game, your line of sight magically spread out a few yards in every direction whether your view was obstructed or not.
Here it's different. You won't be able to see what's on the other side of a burned out tank or a dense pocket of trees without actually checking first. This might prove fiddly, the player required to click on every dark patch just in case it's concealing something dangerous, but it's a tenser and more tactical alternative enabling flanks, ambushes and surprises attacks.
Company of Heroes is still immensely popular, registering 254,000 unique players as of March 2012 and well into Steam's top-ten most-played (or it would be, says Relic, if it was on Steam). This ambitious sequel looks to push forward on all fronts, from visual detail to environmental destruction to weather effects to sound design, all built from the ground up.
It's a PC exclusive, and you'll definitely need a monster of a rig, but that's all part of that mission - to create the highest-rated RTS ever. Relic, it seems, is well on its way.