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  1. Welcome back Company of Heroes 2 fans! Our coverage of the new Western Front Armies here at COH2.org continues today with a preview of the new German army being added, the Oberkommando West (OKW). Relic Entertainment streamed a cast of an Alpha match which gave us our first look at the OKW, as well as mixed-army play.
  2. COH 2 - The Western Front Armies: US Forces This individual army for COH2 allows you to access all existing COH2 maps in auto-match, and play against all other existing factions in multiplayer. It can also be obtained at a discount by acquiring The Western Front Armies multiplayer standalone, where it is bundled with the OKW army.
CoH 2 - The Western Front Armies: Oberkommando West Download FreeThe time has come; the first true downloadable content for Company of Heroes 2 (as I, personally, don’t count questionable General DLC released previously). Company of Heroes 2: The Western Front Armies is a multiplayer-only standalone expansion pack consisting of two factions: the German OberKommando West strategists and the powerhouse US Forces. Alongside 8 brand new maps, all unsurprisingly focussed around the frontlines of the Western side of World War II.

The trick with The Western Front Armies is that players of TWFA can play against each other OR against players of the base Company of Heroes 2 game. The only catch is that TWFA players can only use the two above mentioned factions, however there is no map restriction – so any map available in either CoH2 or TWFA is playable as long as one player is using the CoH2 base game. Incredibly smart move on Relic’s part there.

Question is: is it any good? The answer is: yes (spoilers).

Of course, as is traditional with RTS games, it’s very difficult to full vouch for a title in the genre before it is released unto the masses and (likely) gone through several balancing patches. Therefore, please, do take my words as they are written as accurate for this date (June 23rd).

For the current Company of Heroes 2 players there will be some notable changes you’ll want to scribble down. Firstly: War Bulletins are out. Gone, forgotten, and now replaced with War Spoils. They function is a rather similar way, but do seem to have an element of randomness to them (or at least I could decipher no clear pattern after 15 odd hours of play). You still choose three of them per loadout, however, so don’t panic too much over the change.

Also, for the current players who want to know, these are the army combinations available in competitive Automatch: US Forces Allied With the Soviets, Oberkommando West Allied With the Wehrmacht, US Forces Fighting Against the Wehrmacht, US Forces Fighting Against the Oberkommando West, and Oberkommando West Fighting Against the Soviets.

Some more glorious news though comes in the form of Public Game matches! There is now a public match list, accessible through the Skirmish menu, so no longer are we bound to the restraints of Automatch or friend lobbies. It’s taken a while, but it’s a welcome update.

As far as factions go: The US Forces are simple(r), but more macro-intensive. You will always start with a fully constructed base, but are limited in your units by a command-tree. You will need certain Commanders to build specific units, such as Captains for anti-tank or Lieutenants for machine gun teams. You’ll be concentrating far more on your opening 10 minutes than most other factions, as without proper scouting you could quite easily be overrun before having a chance to really get your tech-path going.

The US Forces use an easier system once you memorise which Commanders you need to build specific units, and you know the style of play which works best for you. It’s a far more free-flowing battle-style as you can adapt quicker and hard-counter faster, so you’ll be winning far more often with sheer numbers and good unit composition than micro-guerilla warfare.

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The OberKommando West however is a far, far more micro-focussed faction. You begin with a half-track base, but will gain more half-tracks (up to three) as the battle progresses to expand your territory. You can place these half-tracks on any currently captured victory points if you’re feeling brave, or keep them close to the chest and ensure you won’t need to replace them if the battle isn’t going your way. Each half-track you have can be used for either a Battlegroup, Mechanical, or Schwerer Panzer HQ – though you can mix-and-match and say have two Battlegroup HQ and one Schwerer.

Unit-wise you’ll be looking at much faster moving, agile units with the OberKommando – but with a much higher cost. You will be much more intent on keeping what troops you have alive and in the correct positions than you would otherwise be with the US Forces. You will not win battles by numbers, you will be picking your units carefully, sneaking certain ones across enemy lines, and using your sparse, yet brute veteran heavy artillery to back them up whenever necessary. If your APM is normally below 100, I wouldn’t recommend OberKommando.

The new maps are not too varied, but provide a very solid balance without forcing a complete mirror map. A majority of the maps take place either in forestry or across winter landscapes, somewhat limited by the vast amount of the Western Front looking like this, but with less of the environmental hazards that plagued the maps of the base game. I don’t recall one time weather affecting me in TWFA, even on the colder map settings, but I suppose the temperatures weren’t as intense as they were further out in Russia.

All in all, I’d say The Western Front Armies offers a great value product, especially for new players wanting to try out Company of Heroes 2 but wanting to drop a huge amount extra for the singleplayer. Veteran players will have their own loves or misgivings about the package, but considering previous DLC prices TWFA is giving a very decent deal – even for the maps alone. Overall, I’d say TWFA is great, and I hope Relic continues to support Company of Heroes 2 like they are with The Western Front Armies.

Company of Heroes 2: The Western Front Armies will be available on June 24th 2014, for £14.99.

Curious about the verdict? Read our review policy.
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The package includes two new armies for gamers to play around with, the United States and the Oberkommando West, and each of them can be purchased separately by gamers who are looking for some variety but are unwilling to pay for the entire package.

The core mechanics of the series are not changed in any significant ways, but Relic makes solid use of the new factions and has built a unique and interesting set of units and tactics for each of them.

West

Story

Company of Heroes 2 – The Western Front Armies is a standalone expansion, which means that gamers can buy it separately without owning the original game, and it feels like a package that’s mostly aimed at veterans of the series and the real-time strategy genre.

The two new factions added are the United States Army, modelled mostly on the Eisenhower-led divisions that stormed the beaches of Normandy (other allied forces that are ignored), and the German Oberkommando West, the section of the Nazi army that faced them all through France and led the strategic retreat to the Rhine.

Developer Relic has done a great job of giving each a unique personality via the design of their commanders and the various special powers they can use in battle.

The new maps, eight of them, are chosen to represent the areas that served as battlefield during the major Battle of the Bulge and they offer both forests that favor infantry and wider areas designed for armored hardware, as well as some snowy conditions that show off the winter-focused mechanics of Company of Heroes 2.

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Gameplay

Company of Heroes 2 – The Western Front Armies significantly changes the way the core mechanics of the strategy series work for both the United States and the Oberkommando West factions and gamers should first test them out in AI matches to see exactly how they work.

The US starts off with all base buildings already available and they only need to be activated using resources as the game progresses and the base also holds weapons for infantry squads that need to be picked up from specialized racks.

Each new building also offers its own specialized squad of infantry, all of them capable of performing special tasks on the battlefield, and the faction relies a lot on buildings, like tank traps and specialized infantry fighting positions in order to succeed.

Playing as the United States means acknowledging that your armor and your infantry are both somewhat less powerful than their German counterparts and not as plentiful as those fielded by the Russians.

Map profile
VersionDownloadThe big advantage is the powerful support unit that the nation has access to, including a variety of ways to take out enemy forces from range using artillery and air power.

I tend to play the US mostly in a defensive way at first, holding down resources point and fortifying the areas that are heavily contested, and only launch attacks when I have solid commander powers unlocked or when I manage to get a number of Shermans ready to roll.

The German Oberkommando West is structured very differently, with special support units used to deploy buildings at certain intervals anywhere within controlled battle space.

The faction can access a King Tiger very quickly, as long as it has the required resources, and it can also call upon a solid line-up of both infantry and support tanks, including some very powerful rocket and mobile rocket launchers.

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But its forces tend to be outnumbered and very specialized when it comes to battlefield use, which means that gamers need to carefully deploy them and make sure that they use the right tool for the right job.

When I choose the OKW, I try to go on the offensive early on, using my solid initial infantry choices, while patiently minimizing losses in order to finally call on its powerful tank line-up.

The fact that Company of Heroes 2 with The Western Front Armies now has four armies creates a much wider variety of experiences on the battlefield and the new maps come with their own unique set of cool tactical setups and challenges.

The one potential long-term issue with the standalone expansion is the new war loot drop system, which many players are saying is currently bugged and inconsistent in the way it delivers new intelligence bulletins, skins and commanders.

Graphics and audio

Company of Heroes 2 – The Western Front Armies uses the same core game engine as the title that was launched in 2013, but that does not mean that the experience is lagging when it comes to the graphics department.

The tech is still capable of delivering beautiful environments and smooth action on powerful PC and it scales well for those who are unable to push all options to the max.

If the pace of The Western Front Armies was not so fast, players could actually spend minutes at a time looking at the explosions that bloom from vehicles and the way soldiers crawl around before dying when they get shot.

Tiger to the front
The greener battle maps associated with the Western Front are also somewhat more interesting than those of the original and the team has introduced a new user interface, which is somewhat more intuitive when it comes to selecting commanders and other inventory items before battle.

The sound department of the new Company of Heroes 2 does not disappoint and adds new sounds for the updated line-up of units and vehicles, and the soundtrack makes the battlefields feel like places for heroics rather than simple death traps for unfortunate virtual human beings.

Multiplayer

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Relic has understood that the core of the Company of Heroes 2 experience is linked to the multiplayer, so The Western Front Armies focuses on making it easy and fast to get paired up with another player while giving veterans a range of interesting customization choices they can make.

At launch, the two new factions and the older Russians and standard Germans seem pretty well balanced, although those who want to play as the United States or the OKW should have some experience with the core game before they do so.

The company has a long history of balancing the real-time strategy game, sometimes in major ways, which means that any overpowered units or abilities should be brought back into line in the long term.

The launch of The Western Front Armies is a great moment to get into the multiplayer community for Company of Heroes 2 because even the best players need to re-learn some mechanics in order to perform well with the OKW and the US, which creates a more level playing field.

As always when it comes to competitive experience, a lot of time and games are required to keep up with the leaders in the long term, but the matches are usually fun even when I am losing and the Company of Heroes 2 community is mostly polite and even helpful.

The Good

  • Interesting new factions
  • Solid map design
  • Community created content

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The Bad

Conclusion

Company of Heroes 2 – The Western Front Armies is a solid expansion package for a very good strategy experience and offers enough new content to justify the purchase price.

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Both the US and the OKW have unique gameplay concepts associated with them and it will be interesting to see how the player community develops new strategies around them and their commanders.

Newcomers to the genre or the series should pick up the core Company of Heroes 2 at first, to get themselves familiarized with the series and its ideas, and then make the jump to The Western Front Armies in order to experience more varied matches.