Company of Heroes gets a big single player campaign update in the form of Ardennes Assault. Does it do justice to one of our all-time favorite real-time strategy games?
Unlike the previous expansion (Western Front Armies), Ardennes Assault focuses firmly on the game’s single player mode. As the name suggests, the battlefield of choice is the Belgian countryside during World War II. Perhaps not one of the best-known areas of battle, but a strategically crucial one.
The element of strategy plays out on roughly three fronts in Ardennes Assault. Of course, there are plenty of missions that play out in detailed 3D maps with excellent character models and the gameplay we’ve come to love. Relic has a standard of excellence that is rarely matched in RTS games, and they haven’t changed their winning formula too much.
Instead, the game presents additional strategic challenges in other ways. RPG influences can be seen in how your soldiers gain experience that carries over to other missions – making the loss of life much more than just a simple statistic. This element isn’t new, but plays an important role in Ardennes Assault as battles carry over into one another even when your men don’t survive them.
This is the third way in which strategy unfolds – individual battles are all part of a larger map in which the outcome of one battle can influence the start of another. Send the Germans on the run and they might regroup with another platoon to make your life much harder the next day. Or block off their escape route before engaging them, at the expense of having fewer men to send into battle.
It’s these kinds of dynamics that make Ardennes Assault the type of game where your experience amounts to more than the sum of its parts. The individual missions are fun to play, but the grander scale of the events taking place all around you adds an extra layer of quality to the game. Being able to plan the war differently even if you play your missions the same way also ensures greater replayability, making this a highly recommended title for fans of the RTS genre.