RPS Advent Game-o-Calendar: December 3rd

Another day closer to death Christmas. And another door opened on our RPS-approved Fairtrade advent calendar , though we almost forgot. Whatever could like behind the door? This time, it’s not chocolate.


Oh. It’s chocolate. Thanks, Fairtrade. Om nom nom nom.

But for you?

We never needed your help, Americans!

It’s Company of Heroes: Opposing Fronts!

Alec says:
In 2006, the best RTS in the world was company of heroes. It’s 2007. Why is there not yet a better RTS?

Kieron says:
Thing is, I was chatting to Soren Johnson about this recently – his argument is that “RTS” should be the biggest genre of them all. And if you look at the prehistory, there’s all these sort of games which got written out of what a “RTS” really is.

Kieron says:
I mean, look at Introversion – their entire history is one of entirely atypical RTS. Darwinia, Defcon – even, if you squint – the real-time element in Uplink

Alec says:
You think Uplink was an rts? I always took it as RPG.

Kieron says:
(That’s kind of his point – “Real Time Strategy” is so big. I mean, Baldur’s Gate is an RTS.)

Alec says:
This way, “what is an rpg?” lies.
But yes. COH is definably an RTS as stereotype has it, but has the good grace to look for ways to make that stereotype positive.

Kieron says:
Putting aside the whole idea of what an RTS can be, in what people *consider* the RTS to be, Company of Heroes *IS* as good as it’s ever got. So there’s no shame in the genre not managing to uproot itself and go better in twelve months. After all, it was more than one year BEFORE Company of Heroes until you find the previous official Best RTS Ever)

Kieron says:

Alec says:
Today I played or witnessed other gentlemen playing Warhammer: Mark of Chaos and Empire Earth III. At one point, I accidentally spat out “god, I hate RTS games.” And I felt terrible for it. Because clearly I don’t, as best evidenced by the glee I feel when I’m beating someone in COH.

Kieron says:
I had a similar moment. I’d played CoH by the time Dawn of War: Dark Crusade came out

Alec says:
But there are so many games that have no realisation of the necessary joys of commanding and conquering.

Kieron says:
So when I saw a mate playing it I thought “Christ, that looks a fucking mess compared with how elegant CoH deals with it”. I didn’t play it. I mean, I did in the last month, but CoH was so good it turned me off everything else.

Alec says:
COH works at the tiniest scale. You don’t ever direct a guy over wherever just to get him out the way, or to wait patiently next to a throng of other units. You have a purpose for everything you make, and thus you deeply care about whatever happens to them. In so many other RTSes, I’m just thinking “I guess I’d better make this now.”

Kieron says:
Exacly – that PRECISION. And – to use your ace line – command by dragging a box and conquer by clicking in a destination. (I.e. That’s what you think in any other RTS).

Alec says:
In Company of Heroes. each unit matters, and it’s amazing how much of a rarity that is in RTS games.

Kieron says:
Yeah. Each unit matters… and in a way which isn’t absolutely clearly faked. As opposed to most Rock/Paper/Scissors style interaction.

Alec says:
Aye. Much as Supreme Commander is better for feeling like a god of war, the inherent meaninglessness of each tiny robot keeps me from ever having a vested interest in why I’m fighting, It’s too clearly a simulation.

Kieron says:
But the humanity’s there in Company of Heroes. This is clearly THINGS fighting.

Kieron says:
My main reservations with the new one was… well, it kind of pushed a bit closer to a game in many ways. I mean,it’s still miles ahead everything else, but the two sides seem more artificial.

Alec says:
Yeah, they were specialist factions. The British were prescribedly Turtle Guys. Though you could twist them to an offensive path to a point. But they weren’t as representative of logically fighting a war as the more symmetrical sides of COH vanilla

Kieron says:
Yeah. They pushed to the poles, so making it feel less real.

Alec says:
Of course, they made up for it with The Year’s Best Swearing In Games.

Kieron says:
I mean, they weren’t REALLY turtle guys – they’re more slow moving. Passive Aggressive. It’s all about where you build your bases.
And, fuck yeah. Seriously, they’re the best Tommies in games.

Alec says:
Well, turtling always involves pushing back at your oppressor at some point. COHOF’s Brits did a particularly fantastic job of making that eventual push feel massive and satisfying, rather than simply “I have saved all my money and built lots of things.”

Kieron says:
And swearing.
Were you thrown by the Nazi Campaign?

Alec says:
Honestly, the campaigns just don’t work for me. Much as the 25% of my blood that’s Jewish wanted to object to playing as Nazis, their campaign is as far removed from the tension and adrenaline of multiplay as the Allied missions are. They still feel artificial and futile.

Kieron says:
It’s operation market garden. As I said in a review, it felt a bit like being a Texan, buying a game about the Alamo… and discovering you’re playing as the Mexicans.

Alec says:
Yeah. but it didn’t feel even slightly subversive (though Harvey Smith might well call it Super! Fucking! Subversive!) because it was hamstrung by the same artificiality as any other COH singleplayer mission. No sense of fighting an equal and attentive foe. Just crossing trigger points.

Kieron says:
Can I mention how sorry I feel for Harvey with that quote?

Alec says:
I don’t know how any game can tell a good World War II story. We know the outcomes too well. One of the reasons COD4 works well – its more fictionalised setting leaves it free to tell its own tale.

Kieron says:
Yeah. It’s the call of duty-esque waves of troops just running towards you…

Alec says:

Kieron says:
Poor Harvey.

Kieron says:
I dunno about telling a story in WW2… it’s more of a setting thing. Which is what CoH does really well, of course.

Alec says:
Though my concern with Opposing Fronts is, as you say, the artificiality of the new factions. They’re loads of fun if you know what they’re doing, but their complexity’s such a barrier to a total newcomer.

Kieron says:
I think I agree actually. Between that and the Market Garden disconnect is why I don’t quite love it as much as the first game. It’s still the best traditional RTS in terms of mechanics this year. But it’s not quite the 10/10 ultragame.

Alec says:
Well, COH’s best World War II stories happen when it’s you versus The Other Guy online, Really caring about that Sherman you’ve just built or those last two sappers you left in a trench by the besieged victory point. All the cutscenes in the world can’t compare to that deeply personal vested interest.

Kieron says:
And you can add your real swearing to the game’s swearing too

Alec says:
Yeah, it’s a validation of swearing as butch and manly, rather than nerdy teamspeak whining. It’s one of few games to give me a vague swell of patriotism. Yes, we Brits swear better than those nancy Yanks.

Kieron says:
Real Men Don’t Talk About Your Mom. Real men win wars on Corned Beef.

Alec says:
And validated by SAS hunk Captain Price in Call of Duty 4. Ooh, dishy.

Alec says:
But yeah, much as Opposing Fronts is the most fun I’ve had in an RTS this year, there’s that slight dissatisfaction of the holding pattern and bundling in more of the micro-management complexity that the original did a good job of throwing out.

Kieron says:
Well… except the one we’re posting about in a few days, perhaps? Clearly this is a better game. But the other one… has a certain charm…

Alec says:
I feel bad even comparing those two games, in all honesty. But their co-existence is a necessity for the continuance of real-time strategy.

Alec says:
(we’re on quite a lot of words. have we said anything worthwhile yet?)

Kieron says:
(Let’s stop now with a nob gag)

Kieron says:
Er… penises?

Alec says:
Don’t you mean “C-NET senior management?”

Kieron says:
Are you trying to do a John Walker, Alec?

Alec says:
I’m merely commenting that there’s every chance senior management employees at C-NET might possess male genitalia. Unlike us RPS androgynes.

Kieron says:
That’s very true. We are smooth, like nullo.


  1. drunkymonkey says:

    Is that shepherd guy looking at those two sheeps’ bottoms?

    I’m getting this RTS for Christmas. [insert overly British profanity here].

  2. Masked Dave says:

    Wow, you guys don’t use smilies at all!

  3. Tom Lillis says:

    I must have some kind of mental block where I can’t enjoy an RTS title that does not involve elves or aliens. If someone could suggest one that has both elves AND aliens, I would be immensely grateful.

    What I’m really trying to get at here is that while I didn’t actively dislike COH, I didn’t get as deeply “into” it as I had hoped. Unfortunately, the historical setting precluded sort of unit variety I crave.–the Nazis, it turned out, were not in posession of Battlecruisers. Campaigns were ignored, as I do with every RTS game, so I can’t comment on that.

    Can’t wait for tomorrow, when Jim and John will have a drunken Skype conversation about one of the far-too-many expansion packs for the Sims 2.


  4. Lacero says:

    The darwinian failures on the way to the current RTS genre are pretty impressive in their own right.

    Utopia (my fave)
    Cannon Fodder
    The Settlers

    That’s all the (good) examples I can think of before DuneII came out and showed everyone the one true path to the Soul of the RTS. Utopia, Cannon Fodder and Castles could probably do with a new game using their idea of what the genre is about. Castles might need a lot of reworking mind.

  5. Mindtrap says:

    For god’s sake…For the true RTS play Supreme Commander Forged Alliance! that’s pure strategy. COH is more about tactics, not strategy. Strategy is about scale. big armies, big explosions, and big maps! where you can have 2, 3, 4, or more bases, where you can make a secret artilhery platform right behind the enemy base, drop some advanced units right on the back of a enemy force to cut the escape route. that’s strategy. Total Anihilation was The Strategy Game back in the old days.. The spiritual sucessor came.. Supreme Commander (by the same creator) and now the expansion Forged Alliance, giving even more variety and balance to a almost perfect game. All of you, go play some Supreme Commander Forged Alliance and tell me if i’m not right.
    C ya all on the battlefield!

  6. Andrew says:

    Weather like this makes me think God’s a fucking Jerry.

  7. Matt says:

    Why do I giggle like a twunt everytime someone writes “Om nom nom nom” :(

  8. Cruz says:

    You know, this game flew totally off of my radar. Thanks for pointing it out, methinks I’ll checkout the demo on Steam. Those screenshots are certainly /fap worthy.

  9. Steve says:

    I was playing a multiplayer game with a friend when I first heard a Churchill crew say “SHUT THE FUCK UP! … WE’RE MOVING!”

    I pissed myself laughing.

  10. Dr Snofeld says:

    Haven’t got the expansion…don’t suppose an example of this swearing would be out of the question?

  11. Steve says:

    I’m going through the sound files now but the labelling is very non-specific and it’s pretty hit or miss whether I turn up something with swearing or just “hurry it up Sir!”. Plus it takes time extracting and editing the files into plain wavs.

    Even if I find something, I have no idea whether I’m allowed to post it or not, heh.

  12. Ben Hazell says:

    Can someone upload some of these swears somewhere… I like to drop random game speech snippets into mix CDs & these sound good.
    Almost as good as the “Oi wish oi coud do dat, boot I caan’t” from the first Commandos game.
    (I refuse to check that because I bet I’ve got it wrong)

  13. tacticus says:

    I must second Mindtraps comment
    COH was an RTT(tactics) not an RTS(strategy)

    RTS of 2k7 was Supreme Commander and it’s expansion

    the RTS of 2k6 was the same one as 2k4\5\3\2\1\etc

    Total Annihilation

  14. Jocho says:

    Was just about to say something like “who cares if you use tactics or strategy, most of us don’t see any diffrence” when I checked Wikipedia on the two to see if I was right. I wasn’t. This is what they say:

    “Strategy is differentiated from tactics or immediate actions with resources at hand by its nature of being extensively premeditated, and often practically rehearsed. Strategies are used to make the problem or problems easier to solve, and also for you to understand it more.”
    “Military tactics (Greek: Taktikē, the art of organizing an army) are the techniques for using weapons or military units in combination for engaging and defeating an enemy in battle.”
    So, basicly, tactics are how to win a battle, and strategy is the larger movements?

    Anyway, we tend to not take any diffrence in the naming of the genres.

  15. Rock, Paper, Shotgun: PC Gaming’s Ivoriest Tower » Blog Archive » Universe At War Factions Vid says:

    […] Jocho: Was just about to say something like “who cares if you use tactics or strategy, most of us don’t see any diffrence” when I… […]

  16. Andrew says:

    Jocho, some people like to make the distinction so that they can pretend Supreme Commander is actually at the pinnacle of its genre.

  17. Jachap says:

    I’ll get this when I my pay comes in. The British side sounds like it’ll make me laugh, fill me with patriotism and completely suit my play style all at once.

    I personally enjoyed COH because I love infantry-centric RTS games. Ever since Command and Conquer, when I used to build dozens of grenadiers just to watch them explode in a dominos-style fashion when one died, I’ve had more affinity for the cannon fodder end of the tech-tree food chain than, say, the big stompy robots at the other end.

    COH brought to life – better than any other strategy game I’ve played – my gang of toy soldiers and that’s why I loved it. As avatars, they were certainly more engaging than the hordes of troops I sent to die playing the Infantry role in World in Conflict.

    To be honest, though, after a while, I sorely wished that they’d cut out the resource management out on COH, in much the same way World in Conflict does. It seemed to act as a buffer zone between the player and the fun to be had in the beautiful tactical messes that the game excelled at.

    There’s enough highs and lows in the game, shepherding that elite sniper out of trouble as the enemy tank approaches or, as described, watching those final two sappers in a trench without enforcing troughs in the action on the player by getting them to buy grenades or whatever.

  18. Turin Turambar says:

    Supreme Commander is not about strategy. It plays almost the same as others RTS but instead of attacking with 5 units, you attack with 25. Instead of 2 troop-making bulding, you make 10. Instead building 4 turrets, you build 20.

    It’s the same concept, but with higher number count. They didn’t succed in their objetive to make a strategic game, instead of a ‘tactical’ game.

    The real different factor is the economy aspect, very unique in comparison with other RTS, like TA.

  19. Thomas Lawrence says:

    It sounds great, but can I bring myself to buy a WW2 game?

    I just.. ugh, WW2. Nothing turns me off a game faster.

  20. Andrew says:

    There is one big reason to get Opposing Fronts, Jachap, and that is the fact that the Panzer Elite get a Funkwagen Vampire Halftrack.


  21. Pod says:

    To all the anal people who like to make the distinction between RTT and RTS (which is me, actually): Who cares if COH is considered the best RTS? We all know thats a lie :). If we go by what Alec says, i.e. what people stereotypically belive an RTS to be….is COH really one of those? Or is it just a really good 3d version of Close Combat, for example, which is very far removed from C&C.

    If you be a little bit more specific about definitions, then “the best game where you aquire resources and spam out units in the opponent’s direction” is clearly* Rise Of Nations. I’m happy to let COH take the mantle of “Best game where you give a toss about your units/squads and get them to move about and shoot and stuff by clicking the mouse” though.

    *I use the word here in the same way that rascists and Conservatives do, i.e. I’m Right you’re Wrong. How could you be so silly as to think otherwise?!

  22. Kieron Gillen says:

    Masked Dave: We assume that all lines are unserious.


  23. Andrew says:

    CoH definitely isn’t Close Combat. In any way.

  24. Nallen says:

    So if Opposing Fronts is getting away from some of what made CoH great, which is the best version? Or is it still the best version and I didn’t really pay much attention? :)

    I might dig out my DoW/CoH double pack again :)

  25. Turin Turambar says:

    CoH is still the best. Single player is better, and the multiplayer factions are better balanced and they are more fun to play with, british and PE are to specialized for my taste.

    Still, Relic is working hard in future balance patches for CoH OF, and both games are compatible in the multiplayer arena, so if you buy CoH and you love it, you can add CoH OF later to your collection to try the new sides. Or you can find some cheap pack with CoH + CoH OF for a good price and buy it.

  26. Andrew says:

    Well, personally I feel that Opposing Fronts isn’t that much more game-y than the original. The British and Panzer Elite are no longer standard armies in the way the Americans and Wehrmacht of the original were, but that’s mainly because they lack standard weapon team squads like MGs, mortars, and AT guns (although in the case of the British, all these can be mounted on emplacements, and the Panzer Elite get them in halftracks/other vehicles). They’re still like the original sides in that they focus on combined arms in a realistic way, it’s just that they’re less jack-of-all-trades than the Americans and Wehrmacht. The Panzer Elite have very little access to defences, for instance. The British are, really, more standard, and can be played pretty similarly to the original sides despite the possibility that exists for strong defensive positions and so on and so forth.

    They complement the original two sides very well.

  27. Andrew says:

    Oh, also: gliders are the best thing ever.

  28. Steve says:

    Yeah, you’re really best off getting the Gold Edition. THQ seem to be doing it with all their expansioned games recently – SupCom, TQ, CoH – and they tend to be either the same price as the expansion individually, or cheaper, in the case of Opposing Fronts.

    Amazon’s Gold Edition (CoH and OF) is actually £2 cheaper than OF by itself. Or vanilla CoH.

  29. Ryan says:

    I must have some kind of mental block where I can’t enjoy an RTS title that does not involve elves or aliens. If someone could suggest one that has both elves AND aliens, I would be immensely grateful.

    Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War! Eldar! Elves…in…SPAAACE!

  30. SwiftRanger says:

    Never really understood what people saw in CoH in comparison to DoW except for prettier graphics, physics, more micro and a remarkably worse setting.

    That being said though, having lots of character and really making every single unit as important as it can be is of course only one way to approach an RTS. Having real total control with all the tools (and weapons) imaginable is more my thing, playing “god of war” is just a bit more fun than playing “colonel/drill sergeant of war” for me so I picked up Forged Alliance instead of Opposing Fronts.

    And idd Steve, those THQ gold packs are very good deals. I am already wondering how they are gonna call the new DoW collection pack once Soul Storm is coming out. :)

  31. Steve says:

    I only played the demo of DoW before CoH came out, but obviously CoH came with a free copy of vanilla DoW in the UK, so I’ve had plenty of chance to play it. Thing is, I just didn’t.

    When you play CoH first, DoW feels… unfinished. The largest difference is how bland and featureless the levels feel. One thing that I never see touched upon enough in CoH/OF reviews is that just about everything in the world imparts varying degrees of cover – that actually change as things get blown apart – there’s something entirely amazing about a lone sniper huddling behind a piano only to see it broken apart by explosives, forcing a hasty retreat to a bush, box or broken-down banger. If a first person shooter had CoH’s physics engine, battles would be TERRIFYING. DoW by comparison has the occasional hole to jump into, or ridge to leap over. CoH’s maps feel like places, DoW’s feel like RTS battlegrounds.

    Then there’s also the supply chain system of CoH, which creates fragile charges for huge fuel supplies, tugs-of-war over important defensive positions and occasional sneaky rushes deep behind enemy lines in an effort to isolate units and starve your opponent of supplies. By comparison, DoW just feels like sporadic battles over various inexplicably important locations, with no real sense of battle lines or fronts. The same feeling is reinforced by, heh, the reinforcement system of both games. In DoW, your units mystically teleport in from god knows where. By contrast, CoH makes you fight for reinforcement opportunities. The easiest way to do it is from your HQ, but that requires taking your men well out of the fight and possibly forfeiting a position. Instead, you have halftracks, lightly armoured vehicles that you find yourself hiding behind trees, zipping from front to front as the situation requires, and crying over when some bastard kraut rends it asunder with a lucky shot from a panzerschreck.

    I’m rambling, but I don’t think it’s fair to say CoH is just a graphical/physical improvement over DoW. Plus, don’t forget there are some people who actually don’t like Warhammer! I’m not sure if there is anyone who’ll admit to liking World War II though, so maybe it’s a moot point.

    oh also those Gold Editions aren’t great if you paid £55 for the games only to see them at £17 :( and bloody Titan Quest!

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