Company of Heroes Online is set to deliver a persistent Company of Heroes experience for online gamers where players will be able to build their character up from private to general through new multiplayer cooperative missions, gameplay modes, and player versus player combat. The teams at Relic Entertainment and Shanda are joining together to create a persistent RTS experience across the expansive battlefields of World War II Europe.
First of all, COHO is free to install and play. Free-to-play games are growing in popularity in the west but have been very successful Asia for many years now. The game developer makes their money via players that purchase in-game items, and these microtransactions are the source of income.
Although players can buy items to help them out in the game, they can’t simply buy their way to a win.
The second difference is that we have added persistence and customization through the Company Commander. The Company Commander is very different in COHO, with a lot more room for customization. To start with, you create an avatar, your commander, and then choose which commander tree to specialize in before you play any matches. As you level up your commander by playing games you’ll be able to unlock more abilities and enhance your existing abilities. Whenever you play a game using that commander you’ll be using the commander tree and abilities that you have chosen, instead of choosing them during the game like you do in the retail version of Company of Heroes. As you play a game and it progresses, you can use your commander abilities.
There are still three Commander trees per army in COHO, but there are actually eight abilities per commander tree, as opposed to six in the retail version of the game. In the COHO lobby you unlock Commander abilities as you level and can invest points in the abilities themselves to improve them. This can create some striking differences between two players who use the same Commander, but choose to specialize their abilities in completely different ways.
Additionally, players are rewarded for playing games with experience points based on what they have accomplished in the game. If you win a game and destroy a great many enemy units and buildings, you gain a lot of experience points versus if you lost or didn’t do very much during the game. These experience points are applied towards the level of your Commander. The level of your Commander determines how many commander abilities you can unlock, how many points you have to further enhance those abilities, and how many heroes you can use in a game. Currently, there are a total of 50 levels in COHO.
Company of Heroes Online also introduces a new concept in the form of Army Items and Heroes to further customize your army. These can be equipped by the player before a game begins, providing an element of meta-gaming that you often find in collectible card games, like Magic: The Gathering.
You can give your squads a variety of bonuses with army items. These are common items that you are often rewarded with for simply playing games, but you can also purchase them. The bonuses they offer vary from simple accuracy or line of sight increases to penetration and hitpoint bonuses for units. These small bonuses can add up and allow players to specialize their armies.
As with army items, hero squads can be acquired by players as rewards for playing the game or they can also be purchased. These squads can level up as you use them, but shouldn’t be mistaken as a unit that will be taking on the enemy single-handedly. They do have abilities or bonuses that make them better than a standard unit, such as an Engineer squad that can construct faster or a Sniper that can sprint.
As heroes level up, they gain more bonuses and abilities. You can tell a hero apart from a normal squad by the big eagle wings that surround its health bar. Be careful the enemy doesn’t mob your hero!
If you’ve played Company of Heroes before, you’ll find yourself at home when you’re deploying your MG42s and Riflemen, but there are also some new facets to this game, such as specializing your Commander abilities and hero squads, that add further to the strategic experience.
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