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My blogs are made of shattered dreams and disappointment.
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Remember World of Warcraft? Remember how it used to be a thing? Well, of course it's still a 'thing' with 8 million subscribers, but it's rare we ever hear about it anymore. At its peak, World of Warcraft had attained 13 million subscribers but has since steadily declined since the release the Cataclysm expansion. So why has the World of Warcraft fervor passed quietly into obscurity?  Like any other MMO, the hype around a game dies down once it stops growing. When a game stops growing, people naturally stop talking about it and, unfortunately for World of Warcraft, barely anyone has talked about it in recent years.

But WoW can be saved, it can return to growth only if Blizzard retraces the steps they took to reach stardom in the first place.

Changing philosophy
I remember in an old interview, Blizzard had said WoW became a sensation somewhat overnight and that, at the start, they would have considered it lucky if they even got 500,000 subscriber. Fast forward 6 years and this colossus has 13 million. If you can't tell why by now, I'll put it in simpler terms; no game company ever made a massively popular game by trying to make a massively popular game, and those who have  (SWTOR, Warhammer, ETC) have failed spectacularly to meet expectation.

There was once a time when Blizzard made games because they thought they would be fun, games like Diablo 2 and even as late as Starcraft 2, all of which were good games. Only after reaching a massive following did Blizzard become more concerned about statistics and data points than they were about making a solid, fun game. Now whenever someone mentions the declining  subscriber number they talk about how they're going to start releasing content at a quicker rate, but it that really the problem? Blizzard should be releasing content they feel people will enjoy playing for a long time, not making content that will be fun for a week and then releasing more mediocre content to fill in the gap between expansions.

And this is the change in philosophy that Blizzard has adopted. Nothing is about making a challenging, worthwhile experience anymore, it now about making content for subscription retention. Blizzard must remember that they never became popular because they wanted to be popular and instead realize that they became so by simply making good games

Remembering where you came from.

The population of WoW reached its highest in the early stages of Wrath of The Lich King, but the largest amount of growth was seen during the Burning Crusade era. Burning Crusade was the perfect balance of hardcore and being able to easily enjoy something. Karazhan was the first 25 man dungeon, allowing casual players to more easily assemble a group of friends and join in but was also challenging enough to make it worthwhile for hardcore players. And if you weren't interested in Karazhan, you still have 40-man dungeons for hardcore raiding guilds, Tempest Keep, Vashj and Black Temple all required attentiveness and coordination. 

Burning Crusade was the perfect example of what WoW should be at it's height:

-40 man raids
-10 and 25 man raids
-Fun leveling
-World PvP objectives
-Dungeons gear sets
-High tier gear was rare and meant something

But something began to change near the end of Burning Crusade, we started seeing the introduction of the token system, gear was easier to get and people started looking oddly similar. But that was OK, there was still the high tier gear that the rare few had. These players had to work hard to get in the position they were in and the newer players could look up to them and admire that, one day, maybe they would be in their position. But more and more, it began to look like the situation that WoW is in today.

Fix it.

So what does Blizzard have to do to stop the leaking? I'm under no impression that these issues will be fixed before the next expansion, Mists of Pandara has already made its mark and this is how it will be until the next iteration. As a long time vanilla WoW player and an avid MMO player, I've seen MMOs come and go, rise and fall, die with a whimper and explode in popularity. I've seen the marks of great MMOs and Blizzard has a chance to save the last bastion of MMOs.

Bring back 40 mans. WoW desperately needs to write a love letter to it's hardcore audience. For the last 5 years, Blizzard has tried harder and harder to make their game easier to access. Whether it's getting rid a attunements or making gear ridiculously easy to get, Blizzard has systematically driven away their hardcore audience. What better way to say 'we still care' than giving them back what made them join in the first place? 40 mans in Vanilla and BC were something special, it wasn't something you could just throw together, it was an actual event, it was challenging and as such made it all the more satisfying to conquer. Satisfaction is something modern WoW raids severely lack.

Make me work for it. Anyone will tell you that WoW has gotten easier and easier and that is bad news in the long run for any MMO. What was once a long term goal became a grind for tokens. Everyone was wearing the best gear, everyone had the best weapons, everyone could join in the latest raid, everyone is a winner! And that's why everyone loses. Look at EvE Online. EvE Online has been steadily growing since 2003, it has seen nothing but slow and steady growth. Why? Because it's hard, you have to work for your loot. Just recently someone lost a ship worth over $9000 minutes after he bought it. That is what keeps people playing, the idea that not only can you lose everything in an instant but you can also make someone lose everything. I'm not saying when you die in WoW you should lose all your gear, but not everyone is entitled to the best of the best. Logically, making everyone win also means everyone loses.

Ditch Looking-for-raid. Looking for raid may sound good on paper, but really all it does is burn people out on a raid before they ever see it in proper context. What motive is there for a casual player to join a long-term guild if he's just going to be doing the same thing he's been doing for the past year?

Stop trying to appeal to casuals. There has been a shift in gaming recently and Blizzard has not adapted well. While trying to mold their game to the casual audience, Blizzard has forgotten that MMOs have never appealed to casual players. Hardcore players dedicate themselves to a single MMO for years on ends, they stay in the same genre, the same setting and the same game because it's fun for them. Blizzard hasn't gotten the memo that the casual audience has moved on from MMOs. They started with handhelds, went to MMOs then to Facebook and now they have transitioned to Smartphone and iPad games. Blizzard, there are no more casuals in the MMO market, there are only the hardcore MMO players left, you need to get this through your head.

That should be what Blizzard remembers most about the current MMO market, there are no more casual players left, they have gone onto other platforms. Blizzards biggest problem is that they're chasing a non-existent ethereal audience while driving away the only people left playing their game. Show us that there is something to come back to that will keep us playing for years, not just something to dive in for a few weeks and leave after we beat all the current content. More importantly, there is a reason Blizzard must save WoW. WoW is the last truly large MMO in the west, if WoW dies, there will be very little in the MMO market left for western gamers. Companies will implode, games will collapse and an entire genre will die.

Unfortunately, the only company that can stop this from happening is under the clutches of Activision. God help us.
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Before I begin, I would like to clarify what I mean when I say 'overrated'. Overrated does not mean the game in question is bad or does not deserve to be played;  all it means is that it has received an undeserved amount of praised or has some how eluded the clutches of criticism for thing that need to be criticized. In the Elder Scroll's case, the latter applies.

Recently, I had a sudden urge to download some mods and hop back into Skyrim. During my stay in Tamriel, it really hit me how many things that Bethesda did not do right with Skyrim and how -in so many cases- the series has regressed. That is not to say Skyrim does not do some things right, but the sheer amount of praise it receives with no mention of it's foibles baffles me. So I've assigned myself with the burden of knocking The Elder Scrolls down a few pegs and highlight some of the ways it has fallen in quality since it's predecessors. 

Click mouse to kill enemy. Hold mouse to kill bigger enemy.

Hands down the worst aspect of Skyrim has been the overly simplistic gameplay. Block mechanic aside, the combat in Skyrim can be melted down to a series of mouse clicks with the odd power attack mashed in. To try and spice it up, Bethesda made some of the power attacks directional; unfortunately, there is no difference between a directional and direct power attack in Skyrim. The magic and archery system is not much better either, just click for basic attack and hold down for power attack

I always thought The Elder Scrolls could have learned from a game like Mount and Blade or War of The Roses, where all the attack are directional and the blocking mechanic is reactive. In Mount and Blade, you have to decide what direction to swing your weapon in based on what side the enemy has left exposed. The combat is fast, requires skill and  amounts to more that just a rapid succession of clicks until the enemy falls over.

And the combat in The Elder Scrolls has only gotten worse. With the removal of things like spears, creating your own spells and classes, the game-play continues to nose dive in quality and unfortunately no amount of mods can fix these issues.

Put bluntly, I've never met a person who play Skyrim because of the awesome combat.

Dumb AI

How many stories to you have about killing an enemy from stealth, and then when his friend comes to investigate, they see the body, look around for a few second and proclaim "I guess it was nothing" or better yet, shooting THAT NPC in the head and having him ignore the arrow sticking out of his face? How many times have you gotten stuck in a doorway because your follower is too dumb to move out of the way, and, my personal favorite, saving the entire world and still having the guards remark about your sweet roll. 

Where, in any other game, is this kind of abysmal AI acceptable? I'm able to wear full Legion armor and walk freely around the Stormcloaks main city without being hassled. Why? Why hasn't Bethesda incorporated some more of the advanced AI systems like equipment effecting what NPCs say to you?

For a game that emphasizes roleplaying, I've found myself having to ignore the massive amount of dumb shit that NPCs do.

Expansive, but repetitive, world.

Skyrim's largest attraction is the exploration, but even then there are numerous issues, the largest of which is repeated art assets. After exploring countless caves, you start to notice that almost all of them look eerily similar. The same textures, the same architecture and, worse yet, the same enemies; how many draugr do you think you've killed in your explorations? And a lot of them aren't even well placed, why am I fighting draugr in the Dragonborn expansion if it takes place in Morrowind? It gets to the point where enemies start feeling like filler with the odd boss battle thrown in.

The quests are even worse when it comes to repetition. Ever since you had to close those 6 oblivion gates in a row during Elder Scrolls 4, Bethesda seems to be keen on keeping quests as straightforward and uninteresting as possible. The civil war quests are a prime example. Having to invade enemy forts over and over was infuriating and felt like a choir.

And, of course, if you get attacked by an assassin there is a 100% chance they will have a letter in their inventory telling you who they are, where they came from and who sent them. Every. Single. Time. For the love of god, Bethesda, at least make an effort.

Those are the big three issues that keep The Elder Scrolls from becoming great for me. With games like The Witcher 3 and Medal Gear: The Phantom Pain claiming their games will feature full open world exploration, Bethesda needs to step their game up in the combat and AI department if they want to remain the kind of exploration. For a very long time The Elder Scrolls have been the go-to place for open world games, but in today's world, where some game series are looking more into exploration, Bethesda won't be able to hold their crown for long if they don't fix these issues.

I mean for the love of god, Skyrim have raised over half a billion dollars alone. Bethesda needs to put forth some effort in addressing these problems.

In fairness

So what make Skyrim good? We know what made Morrowind good, the huge amount of customization, open cities, exploration and tons of factions to join, but what about Skyrim?

Skyrim primarily does two thing right, a large amount of story lines and community content.

With a large array of story lines, you are able to play your character how you want their life to play out. Want to be a mage? You can join the college. Want to be a hunter? Just hang out in the woods, hunt deer and sell their hide so you can save up for a humble house in Whiterun. Skyrim lets you play your characters life how you want.

On the other side of the coin is community content. Skyrim is legendary for the sheer magnitude of modifications available, everything from player houses, dismemberment, graphical improvements, you name it. This is what keeps people playing the game, making a solid game to begin with is important enough, but giving players the ability to shape that game to how they want it is what keeps people hanging around for the next game. And to Bethesda's credit, they have continued to foster a developer/modder relationship that continues to grow stronger. With the release of the creation kit, Bethesda has told the community that they will continue to support user generated content far into the future. 

All in all, I hope Bethesda looks at some of the community content and sees what direction players want the series to take rather than use it as a crutch, knowing that modders will fix their shortcomings. 

The Elder Scrolls is still good, but every game it seems to slip further and further down from where games like Daggerfall and Morrowind started.
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I troll. You troll. She trolls. He trolls. We all troll. And anyone who says they don't troll is trolling. But what happens when trolling is filtered through the modern day strainers of counter terrorism and concentrated censorship efforts of today's society? You get someone like Justin Cartar, a League of Legends player who now faces up to eight years in prison and a $200,000 fine with a $500,000 bail.

The story is that Cartar got in an argument during a round of League of Legends when he said the following after an exchange with a fellow LoL player: "I'm going to go shoot up a school full of kids and eat their still beating hearts. jk lol". I believed this case would end in the most logical way possible, where authorities arrest Justin for a few nights and, after a short investigation, release him in light of the complete lack of evidence that these threats were malicious or had any truth to them. Unfortunately, the story takes a much darker turn. Justin has been in jail for 5 months as he awaits his trial and he sits on a $500,000 dollar bail, a bail that is higher than many actual murder cases. Not only has Justin been in jail for 5 months, he has also been stripped naked and set in solitary confinement after being put on suicide watch because of severe depression following multiple altercations with fellow inmates of who verbally and physically abused him.  

So what does this mean for you? Well it means that video gamers will no longer enjoy the anonymity of being "just gamers" and instead means that players everywhere will have to think long and hard about what they say, even in chat boxes during LoL matches. It means that even trolling or harassing someone in a video game can turn you into a felon over night. It means that even when your "lol jk", the next knock you hear on the door could be the police getting ready to throw you in a cell, slap a felony on your record and destroy any chance of you ever having a stable career for the rest of your life. 

Was the joke in bad taste? Sure. Should he be fined? I don't think so, but you can make the argument that he should be, you can even make the argument that he should face a few nights or maybe a month in jail. But making a comment in a video game, no matter how offensive it was, should never be met with almost a decade in prison and solitary conditions that are tenement to torture. It is clear from this draconian punishment that the state of Texas wants to make an example of Justin in the hopes that crucifying a child will scare people into. .  . what exactly? Not threatening to do something? Prosecutors seem to forget that the vast majority of actual criminals don't announce their plans to their own parents never mind to the world in a League of Legends match. I guess this could just be a quick way to make $200,000 off a suicidal teenager whose life was just ruined. All this is teaching people is that you shouldn't announce your crimes before you actually commit them; nice one, prosecutors.

Regardless, this is the world we live in, and if you feel like giving someone a hard time over the internet, no matter how empty your comments are, you could face a 'Terroristic Threat' felony with 8 years in prison and hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines. If you want to fight back and stand up against this kind of system than you're a braver and better person than I am. But for the rest of us who just want to be left alone and play some video games than we will have to do hard examinations of what we say at all times, because no matter where you are or what you're doing, they are listening.

. . . Oh yeah, and uh, happy 4th of July.
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The average gamer has probably only heard of ARMA through the wildly popular mod 'DayZ'. While DayZ is certainly worth picking up, there are plenty of other features in the core ARMA 2 game that many DayZ players or gamers in general either do not appreciate or know about. There are plenty of other reason to get your hands on a copy of ARMA 2 and even more reason to dive into ARMA 3.

As an ARMA veteran who believes the ARMA series can offer the most authentic FPS experience, I feel like it is my duty to share the uncovered potential and enjoyment that these  games can offer.

Intensely dedicated mod support.

This is probably the most obvious upside to the ARMA series, seeing as how ARMA 2 is most well known by the mod 'DayZ'. But don't be mistaken, DayZ merely scratches the surface of what ARMA modifications are capable of. New skins, weapons, events, entire overhauls just to name a few. Take my favorite ARMA 2 mods, for example:

You're taking on the role of corpsman in an intense battle for a small insurgent controlled town when over your radio you hear a Fireteam leader call for corpsman. You rush over to the injured soldiers, examining their wounds; you use bandages to stop the heavy bleeding but your work isn't done yet. You inject epinephrine to revive the soldier and morpheme to stop the pain, but his right leg is broken and he will need a medkit. Shit, you're out and the only ones left are in the MRAP. You pick up the soldier, carrying him on your shoulders through thick fighting over to the MRAP before grabbing a medkit, patching him up and sending him back into the fight.

During this exchange a few mods were utilized. ACRE allowed the use of authentic sounding in game radios, complete with range settings and channels but it also does more; ACRE is a Teamspeak modification as well as an ARMA mod, implementing a talk system that uses realistic draw distances when a player speaks. For instance, with ACRE each player must be within close proximity to speak with each other without a radio, but to speak hundreds of meters or even across the map, each player will need a specialized radio depending on what their battlefield role is. Fireteam members use a small 5000 meter radio, team leaders use a more robust 30,000 meter radio and radio operators are given the massive AN/PRC-119 backpack radio with huge range capabilities. Everyone has a role in sending information up and down the chain of command.

The second element is the ACE mod, allowing an in-depth medical system that requires special equipment to revive team members, unlike other games where you can throw on a medkit and you're magically healthy again. But ACE is so much more than that; towing howitzers, range finders, realistic damage modifiers, the amount of features to ACE are too numerous to list.

And those are just two ARMA modifications out of hundreds of thousands. The modders are dedicated and the community that supports them is hands-down the most dedicated user content base in gaming. No contest.

Unparalleled realism and depth.

Picture this scene:

Two platoons ride single file, in convoy, down a long, barren road toward the town of Nagara. Two MRAP troop transports, a single MK47 HMMWV followed by two HMG HMMWVs trek through the desolate road with gunner and passenger alike scanning for road-side IEDs. As the convoy approaches the town, an RPG rocket slams into the lead MRAP; thankfully, the MRAPs thick, sloping armor was built for such an impact and the crew can safety pull off the road and take cover behind a group of large rocks. All passengers exit the convoy vehicles as the gunners rain down a hot metallic hell on the town. As you take cover behind the rock your radio sounds off with the voice of your Fireteam leader.

"Bravo, we'll be moving bearing 227 with Haymaker 1-1 covering us from the rocks after mortar smoke."

"Copy" you reply, moving toward the far end of the rock cluster as you get ready to run like hell toward the town.

A deep, rolling noise crashes through the sky as 60mm smoke rounds plummet toward the ground. In a massive plume of smoke, the rounds make contact, covering the towns approach in white fog.

"Let's move!"

Your Fireteam breaks into a dead sprint toward the towns nearest building. Gunfire streams into the city block as your fellow platoon members cover your approach. With heaving breath you finally reach the building, cursing the three, heavy 200rnd M249 ammo boxes in your backpack.

As you catch your breath the team leader radios back to the rest of the platoons Fireteam leaders on his VH249 radio.

"Haymaker 1-1 this is Bravo Actual, Bravo is set."

Now it's time to return the favor, your M249 pours out tracer rounds into nearby windows and doorways as you suppress fire for your team members to the cross into the town. The invasion of Nagara was underway.

Every element in that story was directly related to player involvement. Players drove the vehicles, players mounted the HMMWV guns and players relied coordinates to player controlled mortar teams. Obviously this is not every story you hear about the core ARMA game. Like myself, many people may be left with the first impression that ARMA is too hardcore and difficult to get into. But when you abandon the notion that ARMA can be played as a run-and-gun FPS, then you can truly appreciate ARMA for what it is.

ARMA can easily be mistaken for a boring game that focuses too much on realism, but the first time you and 59 of your friends assault a town in true-to-life military fashion that's when you see ARMA for the potential it has. No other FPS can comes close to the amount of satisfaction you feel when your squad mate gives you coordinates and range to an enemy right before you adjust sights on a .50 caliber heavy machine gun and light them up.

Realism Units.

This is where you will get the thrill that I have been talking about. If you want the authentic military FPS experience. If you don't want any of that bullshit, any of that no-scope, rocket launchers everywhere, knife kill bullshit, than your only option is a realism unit. Don't get me wrong, you can find friends and communities that screw around and have fun just playing multiplayer and shooting the shit out of a few scrubs. But if you want the real deal, you need to join a realism unit.

That video offers just a small taste of what a standard operation in a realism unit is like. Realism units stress authentic military .

The future is bright.

The ARMA train doesn't stop there, with a newly released beta of ARMA 3, players can pay just $45 for both instant Beta access and the full game at launch. Buyers will enjoy all the things that make ARMA great along with a plethora of new features including better graphics and lighting, improved editor, more firing stances, more weapons, full gear customization system including the ability to mix and match clothing and armor, and best of all the same mod support you would expect from an ARMA game. In fact, ACRE has recently launched their ARMA 3 version and ACE is working on ACE 3 for players to sink their teeth into.

The potential for the ARMA series is only limited by what you want out of it, and at only $25 for the entire ARMA 2 collection and $45 for ARMA 3, there is no better time to jump into this colossus of an FPS.
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Quick Time events have an extensive history, dating back to the 1970s, first featured in Kansai Seiki Seisakusho Co's The Driver where the player is tasked with matching the movements of the steering wheel, gas pedal, and brakes to the indicators shown on the screen. But in modern gaming our idea of 'Quick Time Event' is pressing Space to execute an enemy or the infamous 'Press X to Jason'. So when did QTEs simply turn into Pressing X to Win for so many people and do they still have a place in video games?

Do QTEs serve a purpose?

The core argument against QTEs is that they reduce the difficulty to such a degree that it cheapens the game play, it also becomes repetitive to see the same QTE appear throughout the game. It isn't fun to mash the A button until you rip an enemies head off in an execution style mechanics, in fact execution style mechanics as a whole are getting over played with video games trying harder and harder to be more 'visceral' while ignoring the core aspects of game play and instead just giving players something to gawk at. But it is understandable why game companies would want to implement QTEs, they are by far one of the easiest game play mechanics to program, simply have the player go through an animation if they hit a button at the correct time or another animation if he doesn't. But with games like Ryze being released in the near future and reports that not only can you not fail the QTEs, you can actually shut them off. Is that a developers idea of a game play mechanic? How much does a developer lack confidence in how fun their game is if you can turn off an entire sections of game play?

So the question remains, 'Do QTEs have a place in video games?' and the answer is, 'Kinda'. Games like Dance Dance Revolution and Guitar Hero are exclusively QTE and they were immensely popular, but unlike FPS or Strategy games, no one really plays them anymore. People got bored with matching their feet and fingers to symbols on the screen and the genre slowly died out until the point no one makes those games any more. What happened to Guitar Hero, guys? I don't know, you don't know, nobody knows, nobody cares.

QTEs have a place, but only within their our genres. If we're playing an FPS, we want everything that is expected with an FPS, the ability to aim and shoot as the core mechanic. If we're playing an RPG like The Witcher or Elder Scrolls, we expect all the game play mechanics respective to that series. Point being, QTEs should remain in their own separate genre like they do with DDR or Guitar Hero, but when you try to shoehorn them into games like Bioshock then QTEs become nothing more than 'Press X to not die', and no self respecting gamer thinks that's fun. Of all the QTEs I've been tasked with, none have offered significant challenge or entertainment and all of them become repetitive after very few completions. As far as I can tell, QTEs only serve as an easy way for developers create boss battles. I mean, what would be easier, having the player fight an extensive battle with multiple phases and mechanics or just having them press a button and going through a death animation? They're detracting and they take you out of the experience. How am I supposed to think I'm playing an actual character or enjoy the scene in progress with giant symbols slapping me in the face?

So. Do you think QTEs belong in video games? And how would you like them implemented, if at all?

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The original Company of Heroes is among my favorite RTS games if not my favorite overall. It has great combat, plenty of vehicles and weapons, good graphics and the campaign is diverse and interesting. So imagine my excitement with the release of Company of Heroes 2. The hype train came to a screeching halt when during my Steam purchase of this game, I was disappointed to find out the shear amount of day-one DLC; so disappointed in fact that I wrote a separate post about it. Huge amounts of Day-One DLC is one of the first omens of a crap-for-cash video game. Nonetheless, I would be remised if I didn't take the time to play through it at least once.

But I can't say I'm too pleased with the results.

Gameplay and Functionality

Close Quarters:
The first level of CoH2 starts you off during the assault of Stalingrad. Beginning with 2 infantry units, one of the first things you notice is that the map is very, very clustered with buildings. This wasn't an issue to start with because it was the first level after all and, of course, it was a city. But continuing throughout the game you notice that this issue does not really get better, in fact on some maps it gets worse. The majority of the time during the campaign is spent fighting in small streets with tight alleyways and considering the game utilizes tanks and tank destroyers, you will grow you despise these clustered cities with every fiber of your being. The problem is alleviated only in the skirmish mode against players and AI but I would have liked to see more varied level design.

Are you dead yet?:
The time it takes to kill infantry in the game is borderline unacceptable. It got so bad during a skirmish at one point that five infantry were able to take my armored car down to quarter health with a flamethrower before they finally fell back. . .with three of them still alive. This problem becomes almost rage-quit worthy when you try to fight enemies stationed in buildings. In the first Company of Heroes, you could throw grenades through windows or use satchel charges to blow them out; this not only gave you an option against enemies in buildings, it also made you measure the risk factor in sending troops into the line of fire, but now you have to either damn-near destroy the building or burn it down with a flame thrower. Worse yet, considering that the majority of the maps you play on are cities with a  lot of buildings, well, you can see where this becomes a huge issue.

Scripted RTS:
Be prepared for scripted events, because there are a metric ton of them in this game.  Whether it's a small in-game event where a tank almost destroys your AT gun or a tank driver losing control, this game piles on scripted events to the point where it feels like you're just watching a play acted out. What's really restrictive, however, is how the campaign spoon feeds you parts of the map. Instead of giving you access to the entire map and then telling you what you're objectives are, you have to unlock areas of the map bit by bit before you can beat the levels. I absolutely hated this, especially given the fact that the maps are linear as it is.

Cheesy mechanics:
The rest of my issues lay with corny little mechanics like having to make sure your troops don't freeze to death on cold levels and Order 227. Oh, Order 227, how useless you were; basically, Order 227 means that if you tell a unit to retreat back to base, they will be shot by the officer stationed there. This would have been interesting if they used it on certain levels, but it persists throughout the entire game; which, again, would have been fine if they hadn't attached a completely artificial mechanic onto it. On the right side of your screen is a bar, when that bar fill up, Order 227 is given and remains active until the bar depletes. I still can't figure out what causes the bar to fill up, but all I know is that throughout the entire level I hear "Order 227 has been given", "Not one step back!", "Order 227 has been withdrawn". It feels incredibly unnatural.

Along with bad AI pathing and  the fact that Relic has done what no one asked for and shifted focus from large armies to  troop and vehicles abilities like they did with their poorly received expansions, Company of Heroes 2, in terms of game play, is a significant step backwards(So they will be executed back at base immediately).

5/10 - 'Average'

Story and plot

Spoiler Alert: The Russians win:
Considering everyone knows how World War 2 played out, I assumed the player would just be taking to part as  a run-of-the-mill Soviet commander on his way to Berlin, so I was surprised by the well written story in this game. It followed a good natured journalist after he was caught trying to defect to the Americans. Each level is accompanied by his stories and the struggles that the Germans and Soviets went through on the Eastern Front. Although the plot of someone telling their story while being interrogated is a bit cliché, it gives a balanced view of Germany and Russia during the war.
7/10 - 'Good'

Dialog and script

Another pleasant surprise, the dialog feels natural, well written and the troop banter is pretty entertaining to listen to. Hearing Soviet troops talk about American mayonnaise on spam sandwiches gave me a pretty good laugh. The main characters talk like you would imagine they would during a war, with the main character lamenting over the horrors he's seen and the commander trying to justify them as being part of the greater good for his country, it offers some convincing dialog I that thoroughly enjoyed.

7/10 - Good

Technical Graphics
(Played on a nVidia 670 / i7 Ivy Bridge, performance may vary)

Company of Heroes has always been about the realism factor and that is reflected in its graphics and Company of Heroes 2 has done a general improvement of the textures and graphical effects. There's nothing like seeing massive amounts of dirt kicked up from giant explosions and bullets shredding through the ground or gun fire from an AA half-track slamming into the side of a building. The models look better, the explosions have been reworked to look more convincing; essentially all aspects of the engine have been improved, although I am hearing about some performance issues on other rigs so I can't speak for everyone. There were some graphical glitches like floating bodies and mounted troops flickering in and out so points will be docked due to those issues.

8/10 - 'Great'

Art style and direction

As I said, Company of Heroes stresses realism and the art style is no exception. The art design fits this type of game perfectly, there are no cartoonish features and nothing ridiculous that wouldn't belong in a World War 2 drama. I've always loved that about Company of Heroes; the realistic way that NPCs battle and the fact that the game carries a very convincing graphics engine and art style is what makes Company of Heroes the best choice for a realistic WW2 RTS.

10/10 - 'Perfect'

Level design

Again, the cities in this game are cluttered messes that restrict movement and only act to infuriate the player as they try to plunge their way through tiny streets with tanks that are larger than the alleyways. The fact that the maps are cut into sections and unlocked as you progress through the level is also a massive detriment. Overall, the level design just feels bad and I can't think of a logical reason for these type of restrictions, like the developer didn't trust the player and wanted to hold their hand throughout the entire level.

3/10 - 'Bad'  

Sound design

There hasn't been much improvement in the second installment, the machine guns still sound like they're shooting out dull thuds and the small arms still sound a bit too 'Hollywood'; guns don't make clicking sound when you shoot them, well they do, but you can't hear it over the deafening bang. Why can't developers understand this? While the gun sounds could be greatly improved, and probably will be by modders, the explosions and tank shots sound much crisper and are worthy of turning your headphones up for.

6/10 - 'Above Average'

User Interface.

Coming off of the first Company of Heroes, the UI was somewhat recognizable to me. The unit cards have been moved to the center and they give you a pretty neat overview of the currently selected unit, the unit list was moved from the center right to the top right and some of the building options have been slightly rearranged. I won't go as far as to say the user interface was drastically improved(Since there were not many issues with the first games UI to begin with) but there were a few improvements made that I hope they keep around.

I would, however, like a better way to keep track of currently selected units, this is a problem that has persisted since the first game, especially on skirmish and multiplayer maps.

8/10 - 'Great'

Production value

As far as aspects like Q & A are concerned, Company of Heroes 2 is certainly a well-built game. Throughout the entire campaign and the few skirmish matches I played, I had not encountered a single non-graphical bug.  Unfortunately, this is one of the few areas that CoH2 excels at.

9/10 - 'Exceptional'

Price value

There are plenty of features in this game, new multi-player modes and skirmish options, plenty of maps and a decent sized campaign. But I cannot forgive the absolute money grab that was the day-one DLC packages. The fact that it will cost you almost an entire game just to receive all the skins and tactics (Which in my opinion is vital to the game play) is absolutely unacceptable. No company should chop up unit skins into 22 different packs and then remove game tactics and charge $40+ dollars for the entire bundle. I would have even been fine with them including the tactics but keep out 4 or 5 skin packs as DLC, but to have twenty six, TWENTY SIX, different DLC items on launch is the completely wrong direction for SEGA to take and in a lot of ways it makes me regret the death of THQ even more.

But this kind of nickel and diming has become standard in the industry. Want a complete game? That will be $90 please.

5/10 - 'Average'.

All in all, it wasn't a 'bad' game, but it definitely stung, I hope this isn't a preview of the direction Relic is taking or what SEGA is pressuring them to do and instead is just a hiccup that will hopefully be resolved by the next installment. The restrictive maps, shifting focusing onto unit abilities, jarring game mechanics all had me asking 'why?'. Who asked for these things? Considering the reviews of the Company of Heroes expansions, this is the exact opposite direction we wanted the series to take. We wanted more open maps and bigger battles but what we got were claustrophobic maps and smaller battles.

I'm happy Company of Heroes has a pretty dedicated mod community because this game needs a lot of work and unfortunately I don't think Relic will be the ones providing the kind of changes we want.

Technical score:
68/100 - 'Good'

Personal score:
5/10 - 'Average'

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