Relic are meanies! Meanies! They go and make an exciting-sounding MMO-esque follow-up to Company of Heroes, complete with persistent online characters and ranks, and then they only go and restrict it to China. Meanies!
Oh, wait. They've just revealed a way for us Western-types to have a crack at it, and for free too. Cuddlies!
Seeing as the sign-up process and game itself is in Chinese, there's some faffery necessary to get most of it running in English, and even then you'll be dealing with the lag inherent with connecting to servers on the other side of the world. It's currently in open beta, and free to all comers, but is supported by boo! hiss! micropayment units, upgrades et al. This is because COHO:C is Relic's attempt to overcome the piracy problems that afflict a lot of Western games in China: the double-whammy of a login to a persistent server and the sporadic cash-trickle of folk buying new in-game gizmos. Not sure yet how mandatory those are to success in battle, or if they're largely aesthetic items. Sez the slim English-language page about the game: "Players gain levels, acquire special Army Items, unlock Hero Units, and new Commander Abilities. With new maps, new game types, and added levels of strategic depth, Company of Heroes Online greatly expands the multiplayer experience for the franchise!"
I'm not entirely sure what to take from Relic encouraging Western players to try this out: is it simply to sate curiousity, to sample the waters for a possible Western-specific release, or a noble attempt to finally get Americans/Europeans playing games with Chinese folks? Whichever, it'll be an interesting circumstance to watch from afar.
Relic's CoH Community site has the fairly lengthy guide to achieving this cross-continental subterfuge - anyone care to give it a shot and report back?
Here's a trailer for it, cunningly obtained by my clicking desperately on all the incomprehensible links on the game's Chinese homepage until I happened to stumble across the embed code: