When Company of Heroes arrived in 2006, it swept away many preconceptions and standards established by previous real-time strategy games. The game played more like an RTS injected with DNA from board games and squad-based first-person shooters.
Even more than the first expansion, Opposing Fronts, CoH house Relic Entertainment will evolve the WWII franchise with the upcoming standalone add-on, Tales of Valor for PC, due in spring 2009.
Tim Holman, senior producer for Relic and the CoH franchise, describes Valor as a "series of short stories" as opposed to the "one big novel" format adopted by previous entries in the Company of Heroes franchise.
"We moved away from the mechanic of building a base, building a large army and going out and finding the enemy," he said. Instead, Valor, staying true to its title, will highlight more personal, "heroic moments."
Holman described the first tale, called "Tiger Ace," which he said is based on an actual event during WWII: British were advancing on a town, when a German tank commander sent his division back, along with his formidable but greatly outnumbered King Tiger tank. "He destroyed 10 tanks and 20 armored cars, just with that single tank. The tank was disabled, the guys escaped back to their division, grabbed another Tiger, and drove the British from the town."
Valor will have three "mini-campaigns" with new multiplayer content to be revealed soon.
Valor’s original announcement came with only a brief mention of a new "direct-fire" feature, which promises to give players more control over units.
The feature, which should change up the play style of CoH considerably, came about as it fit perfectly with the new, more individualized "heroic moments" idea, according to Holman.
For instance, putting players in the role of a single tank commander as in the "Tiger Ace" tale meant that the game would have to adopt a more responsive means of firing on enemies, or at least make combat less randomized. In previous Company of Heroes, players had limited control over tanks and their turrets, but Valor hopes to address that.
Direct-fire will be a "toggle-able" mode in which a tank’s turret, for example, will follow the player’s mouse cursor, allowing a tank’s turret to move and control independently from the vehicle’s path.
Holman explained, "If I’m coming around the edge of a building and I know there’s an enemy there, I can enter my move order and swivel my turret around. As soon as I come around the corner–boom. I fire and the guy’s gone. When you press your mouse button you are firing. But it still uses a ratio of hit or miss."
In Valor, units will be upgradable with new attributes like faster reloads and greater accuracy.
Avid Company of Heroes multiplayer users may be wondering just how direct-fire could throw off the balance of the game when playing others. But the feature is being kept out of regular multiplayer, although Relic is "experimenting with several direct-fire multiplayer modes."
Valor will bring new regular multiplayer maps as well. "We’ve got quite a few in the bank that we’ve been playing with, and we’re going to cherry pick the ones we really like."
New units will be introduced in the single player campaigns and the studio is working on how they fit into multiplayer. Relic’s goal for Valor is to add one new unit per faction, all of which will be vehicles.