Company of Heroes 2 is the sequel to one of the biggest and best World War II strategy games ever made and, presenting it at the Eurogamer Expo earlier this month, Quinn Duffy decided to start off by talking about snow. He pointed out how, as infantry moved through intense snowdrifts, their feet would clip through the snow and they'd be slowed down. It wasn't the most thrilling or bombastic opening to a game presentation ever seen.
And that's a good thing. In the opening moments of the show Company of Heroes 2 shows that it isn't trying to redefine itself as some sort of bombastic extravaganza, but is staying true to form. Like the original Company of Heroes, micro-management and deep understanding of simple rules will be key to victory - and those rules are drawn from the grim reality of the setting. Snow is a crucial part of the game.
It's war. Bring mittens.
You see, the cold affect more than just infantry movement - it affects almost every part of the game. Unprotected infantry will find their morale and health drain away if they spend too long out in the frosty waste, for example. Just a few minutes after Relic's Quinn Duffy pointed out how the boots of Russian soldiers would disappear into snowdrifts, half the unit had keeled over from exposure.
There was some mention of how infantry reactions had been improved so that comrades wouldn't just blithely watch their friends fall, but we didn't see any dramatic evidence of this in play. Nobody stopped to mourn or looked surprise as the men at the front collapsed into frozen heaps. They didn't even stop to grab his coat and bullets, which is exactly what I would have done in that situation.
Then I'd have burned the body because of White Walkers.
Stay toasty, Marines!
The only way which infantry can survive the extreme temperatures in Company of Heroes 2 is to build outposts as they travel, it seems. Advance parties set up small campfires which later waves of infantry can use to keep warm and regenerate at as they move forwards, basically functioning as a sort of supply line.
Supply lines can be cut, however - and when this happens it'll make retreating or advancing a lot more difficult. Later in the demonstration we watched as Quinn crushed campfire outposts, explaining how infantry would have to now either rebuild, find a new route or accept weakened units until they had.
While the presence of campfires and the oppressive threat of the cold definitely creates new tactical possibilities though, it's the flavour enhancing effect of it that makes it most appealing. It shouldn't need to be said that the Eastern Front was a spectacularly inhospitable environment and, in using that fact to inform game features, Company of Heroes 2 moves closer to perfecting the unique mood of the period.