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Ardennes Assault - New Campaign Details

"How you win is more important than just winning"

That's the key paradigm behind the upcoming Company of Heroes 2 Single Player stand-alone expansion, the Ardennes Assault. This campaign will focus on the Battle of the Bulge from the viewpoint of the American forces in 1944 and is available on November 18 2014. Known to the German as "Unternehmen Wacht am Rhein" (Operation Watch on the Rhine), the offensive campaign by German forces is a storied part of World War II history. German forces pushed deep into allied lines, before being driven back. The events in the Ardennes Forest are commemorated by many films depicting US forces and the famous 101st Airborne, perhaps most popularly by the Band of Brothers series.

Our coverage of the Relic announcements at Gamescom continues with a look at some of the new features being introduced in Ardennes Assault. COH2.ORGs own MilkaCow was at the event and wrote a blog about the trip. In addition to drinking beer with the Relic devs, MilkaCow brought back juicy details available only to the press.

A sneak peak at the new stand-alone expansion!

New Strategic Systems

The new campaign puts you in command of one of three entirely new Companies with their own unique officers and play styles. It offers major improvements over the original COH2 campaign and tries to connect the battles via a variety of new systems:
  • Company Veterancy
    Retaining your veteran units in a mission as well as completing side objectives will improve the veterancy of your company.

  • Company Strength
    The losses you take during a mission will have an impact on the strength of your company.

  • Company Units
    Your company has access to certain units that carry over from battle to battle.

  • Company Abilities/Unit Access
    Winning battles grants you access to different units as well as abilities.

  • Requisition Points
    What these do is unknown to us, only their existence is.

What exactly these features will do and how they will impact the behavior of your Company is currently still unrevealed. What we do know, is that how you win will matter. These systems present players with meaningful game play choices about how they complete missions. Making strategic choices to keep the company strong by keeping units alive also benefits players by gaining veterancy on their units. Choices matter!

We looked for hints in everything, but I guess gas masks and grenades did not really grant more information.

Other New Features

While some new systems focus on creating threads to connect game play from battle to battle, other systems are being introduced to improve the single player experience:

  • Sitrep
    Before you start a mission you gain access to all the information your intel service has gathered. From information on the location of the battle, the mission objectives and the reasoning behind them to a short video detailing some of the objectives.

  • After Battle Report
    Your officers will comment on your performance in battle. Sustaining losses, achieving goals or side objectives - all of this will be part of the dynamic report at the end of the battle..

  • Secondary Objectives
    Complete secondary objectives such as static crates that improve Company experience, or dynamic objectives such as taking out a broken down German tank before it gets fixed again.

  • New abilities
    Each Company has a set of unique abilities. An airborne focused commander with a Paratrooper Call-In, as well as linked P47 AT and AI strafes was demonstrated. Using either of those strafes caused the other to be on cool down.

  • New Units?
    It seemed there was a USF mortar squad available to be built. Besides that some units seem to be getting new abilities, as it was mentioned Pathfinders could be infiltrated from ambient buildings.

  • Re-playability
    A mission with the same starting units can still play out completely different. It seems that the enemy units are partly fixed, but also partly dynamic created.

As you can see some of these points are detailed and some are not even certain. This is due to the fact that we received all this information in a press meeting on Thursday 14th of August at the Gamescom. Lord Rommel from COH-HQ and myself, MilkaCow, for COH2.org were invited by Relic to attend and cover the event. We received the same presentation as all other press, but since we are far more knowledgeable in regards to COH2, we could dig deeper.

MilkaCow and Lord Rommel

Quinn Duffy vs. Germans

While Quinn was playing one of the new mission - 'Eschdorf' - the rest of the team commented on the game (and on his poor playing skills ;P). The first major difference to the original CoH2 campaign was the Sitrep. To me it seemed like a mixture of the DoW2 pre-mission briefings and the COH on-map briefings.

Quinn detailing the awesome new things

Orders Are In

The Germans pushed deep into the American defenses, but this left their supply lines open to assaults. This mission, sub-titled 'Surgical Strike' is such an assault. You will be attacking a heavily fortified town called Eschdorf which has repeatedly changed ownership already, but now the Germans need to keep it for their supply lines. Your objective is to take out a supply convoy before it can leave the town.

Everyone focused on the Eschdorf mission. Quinn being so pro, he plays with one hand.

Assault on Eschdorf (Duffy Style)

In addition to the new intel information presented before a mission, you also receive a short video in the usual COH style detailing all known enemy positions and giving advice on the approach. If only Quinn had listened more carefully! "[...] the main road is heavily defended!" was still waiting to be saved by the long term memory, when I saw him move his tank straight down the road, only to be met by a mighty PaK 40. On such a huge screen with high details, the animation of the Sherman's ammunition was mighty frightening. Quinn then proceeded to use his infantry to move in the dense forests. These are impassable for any but the heaviest vehicles and were the perfect place for Thompson armed Paratroopers and Riflemen. Nothing could stop them, even heavy Machine guns only delayed them. Suddenly a pop up on the screen "We've intercepted radio transmissions that a German tank broke down nearby. Take it out before it gets repaired!". So Quinn spread out a bit, searching for this prey only to realize when he had discovered it that he had no anti tank weapons beside a looted Panzerschreck.

Mitch, Relics Single Player designer telling us about the fruits of his work

Carnage and Calamity!

Following the simple principle "If something makes a big boom it has to hurt" he threw a smoke grenade at the tank and used the smokescreen to plant a demolition charge. This definitely proved be a good choice and the tank was soon nothing but a charred wreckage. After reinforcing his squads Quinn moved on and Mitch leaned over, smiling and saying that this is one of his favorite parts while turning up the sound. Pretty much at the same time Quinn encountered another heavily defended German position, this time some grenades and demolition charges wouldn't be sufficient to overcome it and he called in his planes to assist. Unlike normal aerial attacks, these strafes are linked - using one puts both of them on cool down. The sound.. the visuals.. it was just amazing. A HMG was pinning one of his squads, Volks were shooting and shouting, his Rifles shot back, the Paras were trying to flank, in the back a Stuart and a StuG III were battling it out all the while the plane kept coming back to rain down more rounds from above.

Milka saying something useful for once!

Shell Shocked

Not only I was amazed by that sound, I guess everyone in the surrounding area had to be, considering how loud it was. The guys in the room next door from Alien: Isolation soon retaliated by putting their sound to the maximum. After gunshots, now screeching and screaming filled the space. Mitch said they were having sound wars the whole time.

Even Alex chipped in a few words on the expansion

Putting the Nail in the Coffin

In the mean time Quinn filled his ranks with new units and then proceeded to move into the center of the town, fighting to clear house after house, breaking down fences with his tanks to open flanking ways and clearing several courtyards. Then it was time to face the convoy, headed by a Panzerkampfwagen V 'Panther' as protection. This beast was seriously hurting Quinn, but in the end it proved no match against the combined ground and air based firepower of the US Forces. With it's protection gone he was easily able to take out the rest of the convoy and conclude the mission, but that did not end the presentation.

Group hug: Quinn, Noun, Mitch, Milka, Lord Rommel

After Battle Report

A fully new "after battle report" awaited us, with the usual comment that it's still an early Alpha design. This screen showed the rewards you got for the mission. Additionally your performance was evaluated by your officers, which for example commented that Quinn should try to use better tactics in the next battle (because he lost far too many men). Eschdorf rewarded Quinn with one new ability, a recon run and a new unit, the 105mm Sherman. Besides that he gained 20 (mysterious!) Requisition points, which even after a lot of digging, asking and talking were not explained. Same goes for the company strength, we speculated what it would do, but Alex gave everyone an evil glance - "You best not talk!". A lot of other questions were asked, if it was a linear campaign or if you could choose your mission similar to the DoW2 campaigns, what happens if you lose a battle, yet not many answers were gained. Relic made a good presentation to showcase the information they wanted to release, but they would not go any further.

Mitch signing our awesome CoH2.org posters, design by Le Wish

In order to appease and probably bribe us we were then presented with some loot! For more details on that and how the evening continued, read my blog post

Totally focused on the loot

Thanks For Reading!

Thanks for reading our coverage on the new single player stand-alone expansion Ardennes Assault, set to release November 18th, 2014. Stay tuned for more news as it surfaces!

Thank you Relic for this presentation and allowing us to get an early glimpse on your expansion. Being a huge fan of the original vCOH as well as the DoW2II campaigns I am psyched to see something upcoming that looks similar to those, but better! I hope we'll meet again :)
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