Remember Company of Heroes? For those in need of a refresher, it's an absolutely fantastic World War II-based RTS from the genre-geniuses over at Relic. Unlike before, though, when the game took a few potshots at the company of ones and zeroes known as your bank account, it's now gone completely free with
Company of Heroes Online
! Well, mostly completely free, anyway.
See, as you outwit and outfight opponents, you'll earn upgrades for your army – kind of like experience points in an MMO. However, if you'd like to make your band of brothers harder and better a little bit faster, you can spend a few real-world dollars to get a leg up on the competition.
We know what you're thinking: “How in StarCraft's name will they balance this?” Well, we're still pretty skeptical about it ourselves, but from the sound of things, upgrades are tailored less toward giving you better armor and firepower and more toward opening up new options and playstyles. In other words, so long as you know what you're doing, even if you live in a cardboard box house and model the latest sackcloth chic for a living, you could still dominate Richie Rich in Company of Heroes Online.
On top of that, Relic's taking special measures to balance the game both within and without according to an FAQ on
Company of Heroes Online's website
“Maintaining play balance is extremely important and is a key focus for the team. We aren’t ready to speak in-depth about specifics just yet, but we are looking to maintain fun and fair competition through a variety of methods including free upgrades, earned in-game 'currency', and intelligent matchmaking,” the developer wrote.
So that's the plan, anyway. Execution, obviously, may turn out to be an entirely different story. Still though, we'll certainly be keeping an eye on this one, and hopefully we'll have a chance to play it sooner rather than later, though no specific release date beyond “fall 2010” has been given just yet.