The mini-campaigns themselves are also disappointingly brief – the Tiger Ace campaign shouldn’t take you more than 90 minutes, by the end of which you’ll have unlocked every special ability available and turned the Tiger Tank into a totally unstoppable death wagon. The other two campaigns are similarly brief, with one focussed on the use of elite hero units and paratroopers capturing a causeway and the other a desperate town defence by the battered Wehrmacht.
Still, the craft and polish that’s defined Company of Heroes still shines through, and there’s undoubtedly fun to be had in all three campaignettes. The core mechanics of the game are still strong, with just the right balance of low level unit and wider strategy and the satisfaction of blowing stuff up never diminishes – it’s just a shame the single player side is all over too quickly.
While the single player portion of Tales of Valor is disappointingly short, Relic has made a big effort to expand the multiplayer side of Company of Heroes, with no less than three completely new game modes loosely linked to the three different single player mini-campaigns.
First up is Panzerkrieg, which reduces multiplayer Company of Heroes to you controlling just a single tank, in the same way as in the Tiger Ace single player missions. Teams of up to three players face off as either Allies or Axis, with the choice of three different armoured toys for each faction to play as. Combat is then heavily micro-management and direct-control reliant, with the tanks gaining special abilities as they slaughter the opposition's armoured doom chariots.
Things are kept interesting with the addition of victory points, similar to those found in the more traditional multiplayer modes, which when captured grant specific benefits such as activating a nearby mortar bunker or unlocking stealthy support infantry. Each tank can also deploy defensive anti-tank infantry of its own to help lockdown specific areas, making for a surprisingly strategic affair where communication and co-ordination between team mates is vital to combine special abilities and finish off the enemy.
It’s reminiscent of some Warcraft 3 mods (sans the inventory and item system) and is surprisingly fun and satisfying, especially if you’re playing with a few friends who know what they’re doing, although the handful of maps and available tanks might make it lose its charms after a while, and the reliance on direct control can get a bit frustrating.
Second is Assault, which again takes some cues from popular Warcraft 3 mods, this time somewhat aping the insanely popular Defence of the Ancients (or DotA) mod. Teams of three select from a batch of hero types with unique abilities like healing surrounding units or halving the incoming damage and then face off against an opposing team of similar heroes amidst a large battlefield across which the AI spawns and sends waves of standard units.
The player controlled hero units can then level up by destroying opposing forces or enemy heroes, choosing to increase armour, weapon damage or grenade damage with each increased level, with the objective of slowly chipping away at the opposing team’s defensive lines before destroying the final objective.
Unfortunately Assault struggles badly as a game type, with little variety between matches. As hero abilities are set from the start there’s no unlocking of more powerful special moves as you level up, and games tend to end with the highest level hero simply charging through the enemy lines and rushing the end-game objective whenever he gets bored.