Rejoice, RTS fans and/or people who like good things. Relic's WWII real-time strategy has finally emerged from its bullet-time-like stasis. Well, OK, mostly. THQ hasn't mentioned the heavily rumored Company of Heroes 2 specifically, but a recent investor announcement saw it name-drop the franchise as one of its upcoming heavy hitters. On the downside, however, THQ continues to struggle with financial issues in much the same way someone who's spontaneously combusted in a desert searches for a body of water. The Company of Heroes focus, then, comes as part of a realignment to hone in on proven moneymakers like Saints Row and Warhammer. Which is fine by us, assuming they actually, you know, make money. Otherwise, Company of Heroes' triumphant return looks to be crushingly short-lived.
Pour one out, have a moment of silence, or box something in coffin and shoot it out into space, because Company of Heroes Online is, unfortunately, dead. The free-to-play iteration of Relic's beloved WWII strategy will soon shed its beta safety net and, well, ker-splat.
“CoHO is closing. Shutting down. This isn't some kind of weird trick or marketing ploy where in three months we announce that it's back. This isn't New Coke,” a Relic developer said on the Gamerplays forums.
As of March 31, Company of Heroes Online will cease to be. As such, Relic's encouraged players to spend all their CoHO Cash as soon as possible, so as to avoid flushing their money down the gigantic, failure-encrusted toilet that is history.
On the upside, beta participants will receive a code that'll nab them the Company of Heroes Gold Edition for only $4.99. Also, the Company of Heroes franchise isn't down for the count just yet, with Relic explaining that “we are still working on our plans for the Company of Heroes franchise and are not ready to discuss details yet.”
Still though, it's a damn shame that this one will never see the light of day. RIP, COH. May flights of microtransactions sing you to your rest.
We're pretty sure Dawn of War II is the only RTS in existence that requires more micromanagement before you're able to play the game than while you're clickity-clicking through the thick of battle. See, in order to even view the sci-fi strategy title's start screen, you have to first negotiate your way past two login menus – one for Steam and one for Games For Windows Live. In addition to that relatively minor annoyance, most of you probably know GFWL by its true acronym: SATAN.
Fortunately, THQ's decided that it's high-time Microsoft's online games “service”/dark lord of the underworld be kicked to the curb. From here on out, it's full Steam ahead.
"The move to Steamworks will also allow us to provide features like guest passes, free multiplayer weekends, pre-loading and the ability to provide fast turn-around on future patches and updates,” said THQ in a statement.
"This new back end will allow players to invite friends into matches from their Steam friends lists and take advantage of the full set of Steam community features including groups, achievements, and Steam overlay chat channels.”
Dawn of War II: Retribution, which is scheduled to launch in March 2011, will be among THQ's first to finally tell GFWL that “no means 'no'” and declare that its one true love has always been Steam. Warhammer 40k: Space Marine, to continue the metaphor, will be singing its best rendition of 'N Sync's “Bye, Bye, Bye” to GFWL as well. Good riddance, eh? This makes us almost as happy as when we heard 'N Sync broke up.
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.
“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.
Big-name sequels charting well in their first month of sales? No way. Also clown-in-your-cake surprising is Fallout 3’s staying power (the game first launched in October!), for which we use the only portion of Left 4 Dead that didn’t also claw its way into the top 20 to give a hearty thumb-up.
Check out the full list:
World Of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King / Blizzard / $38 (Average)
The Sims 2 Double Deluxe / EA Maxis / $19 (Average)
Warhammer 40K: Dawn of War II / Relic / $49 (Average)
World Of Warcraft: Battle Chest / Blizzard / $37 (Average)
Not only that – it’s also over-taken World of Warcraft on the PC sales charts! (Anyone? Anyone?) In fact, according to NPD, Dawn of War II has quietly commandeered a place atop most every PC sales chart in existence: US, UK, France, Germany, Spain, Australia – you name it.
Naturally, publisher THQ – who’s definitely feeling the heat emanating from the economic laser slowly inching toward its region (wink, wink) – is pleased as punch, whatever that actually means.
“We have built ‘Dawn of War’ into a premier PC gaming franchise based on the Warhammer 40,000 universe,” said Brian Farrell, THQ president and CEO.
“We are pleased with consumers’ strong response to Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War II across many of our key markets and believe the game’s success clearly demonstrates our primary objective of delivering high quality games with strong global appeal.”
We, for, er, a few, welcome our new RTS overlords. How about you?
PC gaming’s anti-piracy measures seem to be proceeding along a path not unlike the one the games they’re sworn to protect once traveled. First, games (and anti-piracy) were merciless and cruel – prone to punishing players whether they succeeded or tattooed the underside of a tire with their pixilated frog’s surprisingly red guts. But now, times are a changin’. Today’s games are nice and gentle, giving players a gentle pat on the shoulder if they fail, and a big ol’ lie cake if they finish the fight.
Ok, enough with the overwrought metaphor.
See, with companies like Valve – and now Relic – in the picture, anti-piracy measures no longer have to punish gamers. As explained by Dawn of War II lead designer Jonny Ebbert:
“We want to give out steady doses of free downloadable content because we believe in rewarding people who buy the game and the reason we don’t like DRM solutions is because they punish the innocent and they have to jump through all these hoops.”
“We don’t want to do that so we’re going with the approach that Valve pioneered to just reward the people who actually bought the game with cool stuff,” he added. “Free downloadable, regularly accessible stuff that enhances the game and then that’s an incentive for the people who didn’t buy the game to buy it. So we’ve got a really bold, robust strategy for that and we’re going to be revealing more details in about a month, but I think players are going to like it.”
A robust open beta? No DRM? Free goodies on a regular basis? We're only nine days into 2009, and Relic may already have snatched the "Best Developer of 2009" award right out of our hearts. Bravo, guys and gals.
The wait’s nearly over, but it’s not going down without a fight. Today, developer Relic confirmed that Warhammer 40k: Dawn of War II, its long-awaited RTS sequel, will take back the tabletop on February 23. However, should your need to… er, what were we saying? Sorry, we got distracted by some wicked-awesome Dawn of War II screenshots and realized that we’d really like to play the game before its relea...
On January 28, Relic will finally let its armor-clad, gun-toting progeny wander outside its baby-pen for a quick open beta. Even better, those who purchased the final Dawn of War expansion, Soulstorm, can expect beta access on January 21.
The beta will give players a chance to poke and prod all four of the game’s races across five multiplayer maps. Steam and Games for Windows Live are teaming up to put on this peep show, with Steam providing the downloads and GFW the matchmaking.
So then, we’re just going to sleep for the next 456 hours, because we’re not into the whole waiting thing. You, er, probably won’t even notice.
After Relic-owner THQ purchased the Homeworld license from Vivendi, speculation about the next entry in the spacefaring RTS series naturally ran rampant. Now, however, even though the hypothetical game's presumed developers are finally using the words "home" and "world" without at least three sentences of dividing text, Relic's magic eight ball still says "Please ask again later."
"We're really happy the IP has made its way home, and yeah, we're definitely looking at it. We'll see what happens in the future," current Dawn of War II lead designer Jonny Ebbert told Eurogamer.
But beyond that, Relic's stalwart team of stoics only swatted away further questions.
"As it always has - behind closed doors. Blacked off. Homeworld 3, obviously, I'm not at liberty to tell you anything about. So, good try!" replied Company of Heroes: Tales of Valor designer Chris Degnan after a quick "How's Homeworld 3 looking?" -- likely even more enraged than he was after the fifth time Eurogamer tried that little trick.
General manager Tarrnie Williams also noted that Relic has "three or four" titles sizzling on the grill. Or at least, we think he did.
"It depends how you count; whether you use the old math or the new math," he said. He refused to explain the difference.
So, Homeworld 3 might fit in with Dawn of War II, Company of Heroes: Tales of Valor, and Company of Heroes Online (an Asian market-focused title), but Williams just insulted our math and we're pissed we can't really know.
Numerical nonsense aside, what's your take? Are you chomping at the bit for another Homeworld? What improvements would you like to see to the Homeworld formula?
Tim Holman, senior producer on Company of Heroes -- Relic's well-received, bajillion-selling PC-exclusive RTS franchise -- might be a teensy bit biased in favor of PC gaming. But his amorous feelings for the constantly morphing platform only go so far, and that's why it's time for an intervention. PC devs, quit shooting-up your games with prettier-than-real-life textures and nuclear-powered bloom lighting. Take it away, Tim:
"I think one of the things that hurt PC gaming is PC developers," he said. "If you make a game with such high-end requirements that only people with a $6,000 PC can play it at a decent framerate, of course your sales are going to drop."
"And of course people are going to pirate your game more, because they don't want to invest in your game first. They want to try it first for free [to see if it's compatible with their hardware]."
So, who's the excellently postured whiz kid sitting in the front of the classroom, setting an example for all the other miscreants? Why, that'd be Blizzard, says Holman. "It's no big secret. I know when I buy a Blizzard game, I'm not going to have to upgrade anything," he explained.
But Holman's far from stuffing this not-compliment sandwich into a plastic baggy and calling it quits; the thing's all condiments and no meat. His main point, then, is this:
"I laugh hysterically whenever I hear that PC gaming is dead. Every time I hear a person saying, 'PC games are dying,' or 'PC games are dead,' particularly if they're a competitor, I fully agree with them--and I encourage them to get out of the space as soon as possible, just so I don't have to compete with them," Holman said, laughing -- probably in a hysterical manner.
So, are you willing to give your eight GeForce graphics shurikens a break from flexing their potent prowess for the betterment of PC gaming? Or do you think Holman's opinion is a load of crock?