Company of Heroes 2: The Western Front Armies (PC) Review
Posted by Liana Kerzner on 07.02.2014
Liana Kerzner rallies the troops to check out this standalone DLC
Title: Company of Heroes 2: The Western Front Armies
Developer: Relic Entertainment
Genre: Real Time Strategy
Players: online multiplayer only
Rated: M for Mature
(NOTE: I had a very limited selection of photos for this review, because screencapping my experience would have grabbed other players' screen names. I didn't want to chance missing a tiny screen name in photoshop, thereby violating another player's privacy.)
Stand-alone video game expansions tend to be mixed bags. There's no firm definition for the term, other than that you don't need a copy of the original game to play. But does a multiplayer-only map and army pack constitute a real stand-alone DLC? Technically, yes. But in the case of Company of Heroes 2: The Western Front Armies, the reality comes up short.
It's a shame, because the provided content is quality. There just isn't enough of it to justify the price. Company of Heroes 2 is a uniquely visually interesting RTS title, with audio – unit chatter and booming orchestral music – that's also above average. The Western Front Armies doesn't improve on the base game, but it maintains the quality, and there's absolutely nothing wrong with that. For players of Company of Heroes 2, it's decent add-on content. It's just not a good first exposure for new players: there's no campaign, no accessible points of entry, and no sense that this is a polished standalone product.
Company of Heroes 2: The Western Front Armies uses the main CoH2 lobby and just locks off everything from the main game, so getting into the multiplayer skirmishes is like passing through a digital graveyard and carnival midway combined: it shows you all this cool stuff you can't use, while massive ads scream at you to give them money. Even ads for the game you've already purchased.
For twenty dollars, you get two new armies – the US Allies and the Oberkommando West army. The biggest addition for existing players is the paradrop functions that drop supplies and certain units onto the battlefield. Whether the two new armies and additional maps are worth the money depends on how much you value the CoH2 multiplayer experience. I enjoy historical RTS games because their campaigns are interactive tours through some of history's greatest military moments. Company of Heroes 2 was uniquely interesting because it focused its campaign and multiplayer on WWII's frequently-overlooked Eastern Front, a campaign that still has aftershocks today. The Western Front Armies multiplayer pack, by comparison, lacks a certain amount of cohesion for me, because there's no campaign to ground me in the reality of the game. I suppose the Western Front is better-known history, but games aren't history lessons. These maps are just maps, that give you nothing to immerse you in the experience. I wanted to see the CoH2 version of the Western Front of WWII, and I didn't feel like I got a full experience.
Now, that being said, if your primary focus is multiplayer, the new maps and armies are well-designed and contain interesting additions to the base game that don't break the formula. The Western Front Armies expansion is a good fit for existing multiplayer players who have mastered CoH2 tactics. Experienced players can also help their friends learn the game through the new maps before they invest in the full product.
Without a grounding in the main game, however, the new content is impenetrable.
There's only one tutorial map, that walks a player through game basics that are well-known to anyone who's played any RTS game. What the various units do and how you build an army are still unknown variables when you jump into your first skirmish. For some reason, 1 on 1 skirmishes that would allow you to play against an AI are locked off, which would have been an easy solution to this issue. As it is, you're on your own, doping it out and frustrating whatever poor bastard gets randomly dropped into the game with you.
On the bright side, the detailed graphics don't require maxed-out PC specs, and investing in an RTS franchise virtually guarantees a ton of replay value. But I'd rather recommend the full-priced base game than this bundle of add-on content masquerading as a stand-alone experience. The Western Front may technically function on its own, but without the main game's campaign, learning the ropes is just too much trial and error.
No game is for everyone, so I didn't want to be too hard on Company of Heroes 2: The Western Front Armies in the numeric score: there is value here if you're purchasing it as an add-on. However, "standalone DLC" implies a complete experience, and Company of Heroes 2: The Western Front Armies isn't one.
A decent extension of the Company of Heroes 2 experience
Well-balanced new armies
A cheap way to play with friends
Tutorial doesn't sufficiently tutor
Too much just feels missing, and in-app sales are too grabby
A notable lack of story structure
Company of Heroes 2: The Western Front Armies skimps too much on red meat, and results in a game that is impenetrable for players with no previous CoH2 experience. If you're an established fan, or if you have a friend with the base game and you want to play with them for cheap, WFA is a good fit. But if you're thinking of buying it as a first taste of the franchise, that first taste is going to be sour.
The high quality Company of Heroes 2 graphics continue
Functional, but not well explained.
Unit chatter and music are well done.
If the new maps and armies click for you, there's a lot of replay value, but the expansion doesn't hold on its own.
The things that hit, hit. But the things that miss, really miss. Overall it's a letdown from the main game because of a lack of cohesion.