Company of Heroes is one of those RTS games that love or hate World War 2, you definitely need to try. It is a superb blend of story and clever tactical action that combines minimal base building and unit control with a gritty World War 2 setting. It's also made by Relic and they used Essence 2.0 in Dawn of War II recently proving yet again they are capable of taking the RTS crown from the established market leaders.Story
There are three main campaigns that augment the Company of Heroes, Company of Heroes Opposing Fronts campaigns. They are told in a different way to the previous game and expansion pack. Using a mix of in-game engine and static-scenes akin to Thief and Thief 2 it tells the story of these brave souls and their struggles.Gameplay
Tales of Valor comes with some enhancements to the Essence engine, two new swappable units for the Wermacht, Panzer Elite, US and British forces in the game and new maps and game-modes. These new Operations are multiplayer game types that serve to extend the CoH experience and add to it. Then you have the three large campaigns that put you in command of squads of heroes, similar in a way to Dawn of War II.
These squads can be configured/upgraded with special abilities gained by in-battle experience points, applied in-game with a quick click on a GUI button. There are no annoying menus to search through here since the CoH GUI is slick and elegant. The three new campaigns will test your mettle and they are harder than previous instalments, based on true life events in World War 2 you will be tasked to take a causeway, battle US troops and ride around in a Tiger Tank decimating armoured forces.
Tales of Valor differs in single player since it allows you to take Direct Control of the gun, shooting by using the mouse to aim and the button to fire. This setting can be toggled on and off and you still use regular RTS controls to manipulate your units on the battlefield. By making this small change the tank battles of the Tiger Ace campaign take on an even more visceral thrill and are so much more tactical.Graphics
The Essence engine has always been capable of levels of detail that other RTS games don't have, or can't be bothered with. CoH: ToV brings a few subtle graphical enhancements and a few fixes along with it, since Relic are committed to supporting the games they develop even with expansions, just look at Dawn of War: Winter Assault and Dark Crusade for that and to a lesser extent, Soulstorm. Largely it remains unchanged and still delivers the same great graphical atmosphere and punch that Company of Heroes delivered.Animations
Having far more detail in the animations than is needed in an RTS CoH: ToV stands heads and shoulders above the others. You only have to look at the way the soldiers move through enemy territory, take cover, fight and die to realise that this is how RTS should have been done prior to Dawn of War II. The animations are superb and they are largely unchanged from the previous game and expansion.Physics
Having Havok powering your physics means that you can do a great deal with destruction. Company of Heroes:ToV accomplishes some gratifying destruction physics and allows you to decimate buildings, blow or smash through walls with a truck or tank and basically deforms the battlefield as the war rages on. Again it is largely unchanged from the previous game and expansion, tweaked a little for Tales of Valor and still as effective as ever for providing a new layer of tactical choice.