As it turns out, this Melbourne winter is actually quite toasty. Temperatures plummeted to - 40 degree celsius in the freezing Soviet winner of 1941, explained Company of Heroes 2 director Quinn Duffy during his demonstration of the ColdTech system, which is part of the Essence 3 engine, at THQ last week.
Factoring in wind and a distinct lack of shelter, it becomes closer to - 60 degrees; cold enough to freeze even Vanilla Ice’s skin in a just few minutes.
We’ve already seen the combat mechanics and a glimpse of how the snow and ice affect the gameplay in Company of Heroes 2 with its dynamic weather system. Now, we get to take a closer look at just how important the brutal conditions are when devising tactics in Relic’s RTS.
Mitigating the effects of the below freezing weather becomes a top priority. Each unit is equipped with a thermometer. Let it drop below the crux of life and troops will succumb to the fatal conditions and slowly die, one man at a time.
Mitigating the effects of the below freezing weather becomes a top priority...Troops will succumb to the fatal conditions and slowly die, one man at a time.
Cover can be used to nullify the cold, including the remnants of buildings and vehicles. Better yet, soldiers can be instructed to light fires if you find a suitable location that will be able to sustain the flame.
That’s somewhat challenging in war conditions, however, when you’re forced to push up and attempt to shoot some Germans. Not only does deep snow slow you down, it makes your troops inherently colder and could lead to their death. A good commander will plot routes that avoid deep snow and large obstacles blocking a clear path. Boulders and trees that need to be circumvented are ruddy deathtraps.
In a more tactical sense, ice can change the landscape of the battlefield. A well positioned attack will destroy even a thick layer of ice, sending the troops atop to their hypothermic demise. In-turn, destroying ice can restrict access to certain areas of the map until it refreezes. In conditions that feel like 60 degree below zero, it doesn’t take long for a recently opened lake to rediscover its icelandic overpass.
Vehicles are particularly vulnerable to finding a watery-grave amidst navigating the risky ice and must cross to stable land as quickly as possible. A realistic tactic in the 1940s saw light tanks head over first, followed by medium and heavy armour after the path had been strengthened where possible. It wasn’t entirely successful.
Traversing frozen waters becomes a crucial yet terrifying facet of gameplay. Like ripping off a well adhered Band-Aid, it has to be done, but you mightn’t have the courage to initiate the command. Tanks will be sliding all over the place, heavy artillery is trying to fatally sink the entire unit and then there’s the cold situation: take too long, and your men will die trying to cross. There’s no shelter out on the ice.
Conversely, if you do happen to cross, the enemy is totally screwed, as you’re most likely about to infiltrate their stronghold. Better yet, if you’ve successfully negotiated a recently frozen river, the enemy is unlikely to have strong defence positioned towards a front they thought was protected by water.
Company of Heroes 2 will be released in Australia for Windows PC in 2013. It is developed by Relic Entertainment and published by THQ.
By Ben Salter