Winter Warfare in Company of Heroes 2

Company of Heroes has long held a reputation for being a deep and demanding strategy game. That said, the sequel released last year takes the game to a whole new level. While the core gameplay continues the successful real-time strategy model of the original, Company of Heroes 2 adds a level of realism you didn’t even know you wanted.

For starters, units no longer “see” in a predetermined radius around them. Everyone who has played a real-time strategy game is familiar with this concept: The fog lifts as your soldier moves forward, revealing any enemies located within the detection area.

Company of Heroes 2 uses what the developers call “True Sight”. Instead of a fixed circle, groups of soldiers must actually look at their surroundings, determining what you can and can’t see. Your soldiers can spot enemies for a significant distance in front of them, but if that line of sight is blocked by a building or vehicle, your vision will be blocked as well. Rounding a corner can reveal troops you didn’t know were there, and you can hide behind walls or smoke to set up an ambush.

However, the real challenge appears with the winter snowstorms. Just like on the battlefields of western Russia in 1941, snow severely limits visibility, reducing the range at which units can spot enemy troops. As if that wasn’t enough, your soldiers can freeze to death of not taken care of properly. Huddling by a fire or taking shelter indoors can protect your troops from the bitter cold, but can also take them out of the fight while they recover.

As the snow falls, the battlefield changes. Snow drifts impede movement and increase your chances of dying of exposure. Rivers can freeze over, opening up new angles of attack. You can send a squad across the ice to outflank your enemy, but if spotted, a single grenade can break the ice and doom the entire group.

You can even move vehicles across the frozen surface if the ice is thick enough, but there’s no way to tell for sure. You might be able to get a few soldiers across safely, but that doesn’t mean your tank won’t plunge into the icy depths mid-crossing.

The one upside is that these environmental obstacles can be used to thwart your opponent as well. A bridge can serve as a choke point where you can mow down invaders, and if your enemy tries to cross the ice, you can make sure they won’t live to regret that decision.