Company of Heroes 2 preview Breaking the ice

This might sound strange, but we’ve already written about nearly everything we know about Company of Heroes 2. In our last preview we covered the biggest additions: TrueSight (a new kind of Fog of War), improvements to AI, and how the snow changes just about every battle. If you’re interested in that, then we suggest you head back to that preview – it’s all there, in stunning detail, and if you want to know the fundamentals you should go there, first.

But while we’ve already covered the basics, we did get to see one new thing in a recent demo session with the game: ice. More specifically, we saw how CoH 2’s ice actually works when under-pressure. Though that might seem minor feature, it’s actually a super important element of the game’s frigid winter setting.

Since Company of Heroes 2 takes place in the icy tundra of Russia during the 1940s (where temperatures reached record lows as the German forces attempted to take on the Russian front), frozen water is going to be a major part of the game. Developer Relic put a huge amount of work into making sure that ice was a compelling part of its maps – not just visually, but in terms of gameplay as well.

Company of Heroes 2’s ice is interesting because, well, it can break. That might sound obvious, but when it comes to actually implementing it into the game, it’s an extremely complicated mechanic. Suddenly, rivers aren’t just things you need to avoid – they’re chokepoints you need to cross carefully for risk of losing precious lives and even more precious tanks.

We watched as different tanks made their way across the dark blue ice of a frozen river, slowly rolling (and sliding) as cracks formed behind them. It was nerve-wracking, waiting for the ice to break, and we were sure that at any moment it was going to give out. It didn’t – at least, not yet. The developers explained that the ice essentially has a hitpoint system, lowered by the number of heavy units currently on it, and detailed how the tank they were showing off was a lighter tank (as far as tanks go), so it was able to move around without much fear of sinking. It was joined by a small squad of soldiers who, thankfully, were light enough to travel without problem.

Until they were attacked. After a few shots from the enemy and a well-placed grenade, the entire army was sucked into the icy depths in an instant. It was sudden, beautiful, and horrifying. Literally an entire army was gone in seconds because of bad planning on the player’s part. A few minutes later and the river had already started freezing over again, creating a bridge for the living and encasing the dead.

Traveling over ice is extremely dangerous, making these choke-points on the map even more important than they are in other RTS games. These, when mixed in with the already-established snow mechanics, continue to affirm what we already knew about the game: while the other faction is definitely your enemy in Company of Heroes 2, your greatest foe might be General Winter himself.

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