Even now, from the comfort of 2013, it seems callous to make pithy comments about World War 2. Maybe I should play it safe by sticking rigidly to the facts. Fact 1: Germany was one of the founding members of World War 2. Fact 2: Some would say that they played such a key role, that the war disbanded soon after they left in 1945. Fact 3: They are the focus of Company of Heroes 2: Case Blue, a DLC pack for the Theatre of War mode.
Real time strategy
Remember the good old days of a few months before the release of Company of Heroes 2? Life was simpler then. You'd visit your favourite PC gaming website, safe in the knowledge that Relic would have cooked up a new trailer for their RTS sequel, probably showing a Russian conscript looking sad. Here, we get to indulge in some early-2013 nostalgia, with a new CoH2 trailer, touring one of two free maps that have today been added to the game.
Windows 8 is a confused thing, so it’s little surprise to find that Halo: Spartan Assault is too. Like the operating system to which it’s tied, it’s been designed to work on smartphones, tablets and PCs but doesn’t entirely convince on any of them –jack of all trades and Master Chief of none.
PC users are spared the touchscreen version’s virtual controls, but it’s impossible to escape the feeling that you’re playing a topdown twin-stick shooter that doesn’t support twin sticks. Controller support is promised, but its absence is keenly felt here, especially when you hop in one of Spartan Assault’s vehicles and find it can only move in eight directions.
You could read a book in the time it takes for Rome 2 to calculate AI movements between turns. Our Chris Thursten has made good progress with Game of Thrones. I, meanwhile, tend to make a cup of tea every end-turn event, and then run my empire with the urgency and recklessness of a hyper-stimulated general with a permanently full bladder. To the delight of my internal organs, CA are trying to trim those long AI thinking times down. They've posted a list of fixes made by a beta version of the second patch, which went into testing on Friday, of which "campaign performance optimisations" and "AI round time improvements" are the most welcome. There are also GPU optimisation tweaks listed alongside significant in-game changes to unit speed and morale-battering flank charges. The fix-list is here for your perusal.
According to Uber Entertainment's latest update to Kickstarter backers, the alpha RTS Planetary Annihilation is on course for a beta release later in the month. Alongside the expected fixes and features that are planned as part of the milestone, the beta will also give players the ability to cause planetary annihilation. Hey, that's the name of the game!
A Twitter reply from Gearbox president Randy Pitchford has confirmed that Homeworld: Shipbreakers, the game formerly known as Hardware: Shipbreakers, is no longer planning to use a free-to-play business model. While you could reasonably argue that Twitter isn't the best medium for divulging information about the funding plans of an anticipated RTS resurrection, realise that it could be worse. He could have done it as a Tumblr gif wall.
I have a lot of sympathy for the tactics displayed in this latest Total War: Rome 2 video. The "send a bunch of guys into those other guys, I dunno, that'll probably work" strategy is a tried and tested favourite of mine. Although, admittedly it has failed on every single one of those tests. Still, this Let's Play provides a nice quick-look, if you're interested in the multiplayer portion of the game, and you'll learn plenty of details about the interactive campaign map, and how it can generate thousands of potential battlefields.
It must have taken ages for those history people to build their massive, ornate castles, all in the knowledge that someone would inevitably attempt to siege, sack, and destroy the place. Fortunately, in Stonghold Crusaders 2, your medieval fortresses will only take a few hours of light mouse clicking to make, not years of hard and potentially futile labour. A new trailer shows off how these historical jerks will attempt to ruin your grand designs.
Seeing you sitting there in that anti-fracking T-shirt and German pickelhaube, with that iguana on your shoulder, mischievous twinkle in your eye, and bookcase stacked with strategy curios like Hostile Waters, Rise of Legends, and King’s Bounty, I’m 98% certain you’re going to enjoy Dragon Commander.
You’re just the kind of noveltyhungry, socially-savvy, lizardcuddling connoisseur to appreciate Larian’s splendidly eccentric mix of RTS, RPG, TBS and shmup. You’re going to love the fact that you can abandon battle orchestration at any point and go racing around maps in the guise of a giant fireball-gobbing dragon. You’re going to nod approvingly on learning that those battles are the spontaneous results of army collisions on a Total Warreminiscent strat map.
Giving power to the people can be a dangerous prospect - especially when those people are a game's community. There's always a chance they'll be completely unhinged. Luckily for Eugen Systems, when they turned to their fans to get feedback on Wargame: Airland Battle, they instead received a collection of features that could drastically improve the already top real-time strategy. Those features have now been implemented, and released for free in the Vox Populi DLC pack.
There's no escape. You'd have thought that Company of Heroes 2's release would have meant the end of its non-stop trailer bombardment. But no, Relic are refusing to surrender. Today's incoming media air-drop marks a free update, which brings a reworked version of the classic Company of Heroes map Langres - one of the most popular small-scale maps of the original. Remade for the Eastern Front setting, this new Langreskaya has been introduced with summer and winter variations.
"More war, war men!" shout the RTS fans, who have become increasingly hungry for fresh humans to tactically expend through glorious battle. Men of War developers DigitalMindSoft are in the ideal position to answer these cries, and have done so by announcing Men of War: Assault Squad 2 - a follow-up to their infantry-heavy standalone expansion.
It all begins so peacefully. A vast field of inky darkness, with just one point of light in the middle. Within it, a library stands tall and proud, but with many shelves left empty. Next to it, a few fields are tended by villagers, and a woodcutters’ camp stands in a clearing nearby. A scout sits and strokes his pet dog. In the middle of it all stands the town centre, its homes packed with children, waiting to come of age and leave a legacy unmatched by any other civilisation on Earth.
Rise of Nations attempts something quite audacious: fitting the entire span of human history into your lunch hour. It’s real-time, as in ‘real-time strategy’, but it accelerates that supposedly ‘real’ time to ludicrous levels, packing the scope of a game of Civilization into an hour without compromising on the detail. You might send a group of hoplites into battle with bronze spears and have them arrive armed with muskets. Imagine the aforementioned Civilization blended with Age of Empires, the Total War series and Red Alert and you’re getting close, but Rise of Nations has a few tricks of its own.
Creative Assembly's Al Bickham and Joey Williams gather up their elephants in an attempt to show you how to tackle Total War: Rome II's historical Battle of the Nile scenario. Watch on to learn how best to organise your units into a suicidal charge up a heavily defended hill. Or, if you're me, how to then wait patiently and subtly alter plans without resorting to ramping up the unit speed and letting the whole thing descend into slapstick chaos.
RAF Tornados wheel like hungry buzzards while a line of British Army Centurions pushes northward, pulverising everything in its path. Another chunk of Denmark is on the verge of liberation when the bottom left corner of the mini-map suddenly contracts a bad case of the measles.
There are Soviet T-55s and BMPs running amok in my rear echelons! My foe has used a wiggly coast road to bypass my carefully placed defences. I’m about to congratulate him on his canniness when I remember I’ve been playing solo for the last hour. Eugen’s latest Cold War RTS features an unusually artful artificial adversary.
I get a cold shiver whenever I hear the word Gettysburg, and not for historical reasons. But the sins of other games are no reason to damn Ultimate General: Gettysburg. It's an RTS being made by the creator of Total War's DarthMod - a series of mods that improved the AI and upped the battle realism for many of Creative Assembly's strategy games.
What a surprise. Last month's impossibly cryptic teaser about a spiritual successor to a "Bullfrog masterpiece", headed up by the lead designer of Syndicate Wars, has been revealed as a spiritual successor to Syndicate Wars. Satellite Reign is now live on Kickstarter, and is taking pledges towards this new spin on the real-time, class-based tactical classic.
It’s called Company of Heroes 2, but it’s a long way into the 15-hour campaign before Relic’s real-time strategy game finds any heroism. It’s set on World War II’s frigid Eastern Front, and is more concerned with rifle-butting home the horror of that bloodiest sector of the conflict. The Eastern Front saw the brunt of the war: Germany lost 80% of its Wehrmacht casualties east of Berlin; the Soviets themselves lost some 26 million souls overall, 8.6 million of whom were in the military.
Demos, eh? A lovely feature, if you're prepared to wait a couple of months in the hope a developer will maybe cut out a chuck of game and post it online. Of course, barring multiplayer betas and the occasional generous indie, you're not going to get to trial a game's singleplayer mode before its release. What do you think this is, the '90s? Wait, is it the '90s? I ask because Company of Heroes 2 has just released its E3 demo to the public.
Graham is hitting the stands at E3 2013 this week and ducked into the SEGA booth for a look at their RTS-tastic line-up, which includes Company of Heroes 2 and, one of our most anticipated games of E3, Total War: Rome 2. There he had a chance to chat to studio communications manager Al Bickham, who said that Rome 2 is "approaching beta" ahead of its distant release on September 3. The Creative Assembly are doing "feature tweaking, a lot of polish, a lot of bug hunting" ahead of the beta.
"We've got all the bits in a bag, we've got all the features, and it's making sure they're all balanced and they're meshing and working together properly" says Al. Watch the video below.