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    Company of Heroes 2: Ardennes Assault, Review

    Late in 1944 American troops were digging in to sit out the Winter, figuring that for now, at least the war was more or less on hold. Then, in a single moment, signalled by the rumble of heavy armour tracks and roaring engines, Hitler’s last great gamble on the Western Front began.

    It would come to be called the Battle of the Bulge, and though the Allies eventually won, it was a hard, brutal and completely unexpected fight. It’s also the basis for Relic’s generously standalone expansion for Company of Heroes 2, and while it keeps the signature snowy setting, it swaps the bleak Russian front, with its meat grinder battles and general disregard for life, with something far more intimate.

    In Ardennes Assault, your soldiers matter. Even if you are fond of just throwing away your digital troops for a tactical advantage, the officers commanding each of the three companies under your command will rightly tear strips off you for the waste. And, at the end of the day or, more accurately, campaign each of those lives does matter. Not only can your by then veteran troops be very effective of the battlefield, but earlier losses my come back to haunt you, and with just one save slot, Ardennes Assault can be very unforgiving for unwary generals.
     [W]ith just one save slot, Ardennes Assault can be very unforgiving for unwary generals
    Which does lead into one of our few issues with the game. If you know Company of Heroes, you’ll be okay, but given the game is a standalone title, and likely going to appeal to people who didn't pick up the first one, it's very light on teaching players the ropes. It’s easy to feel lost in the game even if you're familiar with the mechanics, as new skill trees and the way your three companies interact with each other take a bit of getting used to.

     Thankfully, the game’s campaign system is pretty marvelous, and rich in replay value. It’s a little abstract compared to the real history of the Battle of the Bulge, but essentially your three ‘companies’ need to be used to defend the northern sector of the German salient, and then push the marauding Nazis back. Each company’s strength suggests some obvious synergies your support company is a great blocking force, for instance. Using your airborne units behind enemy lines can be useful but also risky. Each company has a limited pool of replacements to draw upon, and when that dries up, you lose that company completely a HUGE setback.

    Tactical gameplay is essentially the same, but it’s all directed by a larger strategic map, not unlike the ones used in the Dawn of War games. You direct the pace of the campaign and take on missions when and where you want, making this a strategically rich offering.

    There are undoubtedly a few issues with Ardennes Assault, but it remains a highly polished iteration of Relic's take on the RTS. If you go in with a mind to husbanding your resources, you'll absolutely love the personal scale of the campaign. History buffs will cringe, though.


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