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Free-To-Play Company of Heroes Unveiled

Homeworld fans are not amused.

THQ and Relic announced today that the next installment of the much-loved RTS, Company of Heroes, will be a free-to-play online game. Company of Heroes Online, according to the developers, will feature many of the same mechanics as the previous game--scouting the map for strategic points, building squads, destroying buildings, and calling in battle-changing bombing runs and artillery barrages--only this time, instead of buying the game in a dumb ol' box, you'll download the game for free and support it with  microtransactions (or, at least, that's what THQ and Relic hope you'll do). The game is currently in open beta in Korea, but that will extend to China and the US later this year.
 
The most drastic departure from the retail Company of Heroes is that now, when a match is over, your upgrades are coming with you. Company of Heroes Online will let you choose a commander path that will allow your army to specialize in various roles on the battlefield. There will be six of these different paths available, each with a unique set of units, upgrades, and commander abilities. As you play online, you'll earn "improvement points" that can be spent on a wide selection of upgrades that can improve a unit's statistics, provide them with new abilities, and unlock more powerful soldiers and equipment.  
 
 A look at one of the game's upgrade paths.
As you might have guessed, that persistent leveling system will be supplemented with a paid unlock system. While Relic hasn't revealed all of the specifics of the transaction system, the company says that you'll be able to purchase various infantry, vehicles, unit bonuses, and commander powers. The most substantial of the proposed paid unlocks are hero units. Just like in Warcraft III, these powered up soldiers are tougher and faster than the other troops in your army, and come into battle with an additional set of unique combat abilities. 
 
Now before you start shouting at your computer screen, "But wait a minute! You have to pay to have access powerful hero units? That's the craziest thing I've ever heard! The only way I'll be able to stay competitive is to buy these unlocks! What is the point of playing that game for free? I'm going to toss my Company of Heroes disc out the window! And the Dawn of War/Homeworld discs are next!", don't worry. All of the paid upgrades can still be earned just by leveling and ranking up in the game. You're only allowed a finite number of paid unlocks in a multiplayer match, so players who fork out the cash aren't necessarily able to take every upgrade and lay low-level opponents to waste. Finally, Relic says that the game's matchmaking system will help to keep players away from games against players who have an unlock advantage.   
 
 The game still looks pretty good. That's a plus.
 
So, you'll still get those upgrades and hero units. You'll just get them... later. Or you could get them now! And it would make your battles so much easier. And you got the game for free, right? An unlock is only a few dollars. It's so cheap! You're still getting so much value from the game! You need to stay competitive, right? Go ahead... buy a hero. You're worth it.
  
And that, folks, is how free-to-play games happen.
 
Here's the debut trailer that accompanied the announcement:
   
 
And some screenshots of the game in action:  
 
 
What do you guys think? Company of Heroes Online sounds like it's borrowing the most interesting aspects of Command & Conquer 4 (its persistent online army). The game looks very similar to the 2006 release, but the changes to the multiplayer structure seem more substantial than what you might find in a re-release. The unlock system sounds like a good way to make multiplayer matches more meaningful as well. And it's free, and comes with the entire Company of Heroes single player campaign. That's pretty good too.
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Posted by MattBodega
THQ and Relic announced today that the next installment of the much-loved RTS, Company of Heroes, will be a free-to-play online game. Company of Heroes Online, according to the developers, will feature many of the same mechanics as the previous game--scouting the map for strategic points, building squads, destroying buildings, and calling in battle-changing bombing runs and artillery barrages--only this time, instead of buying the game in a dumb ol' box, you'll download the game for free and support it with  microtransactions (or, at least, that's what THQ and Relic hope you'll do). The game is currently in open beta in Korea, but that will extend to China and the US later this year.
 
The most drastic departure from the retail Company of Heroes is that now, when a match is over, your upgrades are coming with you. Company of Heroes Online will let you choose a commander path that will allow your army to specialize in various roles on the battlefield. There will be six of these different paths available, each with a unique set of units, upgrades, and commander abilities. As you play online, you'll earn "improvement points" that can be spent on a wide selection of upgrades that can improve a unit's statistics, provide them with new abilities, and unlock more powerful soldiers and equipment.  
 
 A look at one of the game's upgrade paths.
As you might have guessed, that persistent leveling system will be supplemented with a paid unlock system. While Relic hasn't revealed all of the specifics of the transaction system, the company says that you'll be able to purchase various infantry, vehicles, unit bonuses, and commander powers. The most substantial of the proposed paid unlocks are hero units. Just like in Warcraft III, these powered up soldiers are tougher and faster than the other troops in your army, and come into battle with an additional set of unique combat abilities. 
 
Now before you start shouting at your computer screen, "But wait a minute! You have to pay to have access powerful hero units? That's the craziest thing I've ever heard! The only way I'll be able to stay competitive is to buy these unlocks! What is the point of playing that game for free? I'm going to toss my Company of Heroes disc out the window! And the Dawn of War/Homeworld discs are next!", don't worry. All of the paid upgrades can still be earned just by leveling and ranking up in the game. You're only allowed a finite number of paid unlocks in a multiplayer match, so players who fork out the cash aren't necessarily able to take every upgrade and lay low-level opponents to waste. Finally, Relic says that the game's matchmaking system will help to keep players away from games against players who have an unlock advantage.   
 
 The game still looks pretty good. That's a plus.
 
So, you'll still get those upgrades and hero units. You'll just get them... later. Or you could get them now! And it would make your battles so much easier. And you got the game for free, right? An unlock is only a few dollars. It's so cheap! You're still getting so much value from the game! You need to stay competitive, right? Go ahead... buy a hero. You're worth it.
  
And that, folks, is how free-to-play games happen.
 
Here's the debut trailer that accompanied the announcement:
   
 
And some screenshots of the game in action:  
 
 
What do you guys think? Company of Heroes Online sounds like it's borrowing the most interesting aspects of Command & Conquer 4 (its persistent online army). The game looks very similar to the 2006 release, but the changes to the multiplayer structure seem more substantial than what you might find in a re-release. The unlock system sounds like a good way to make multiplayer matches more meaningful as well. And it's free, and comes with the entire Company of Heroes single player campaign. That's pretty good too.
Posted by Venatio

Awesome

Posted by Colin

Fuck yes I love COH
Posted by DudeFromJersey

EPIC!!!

Posted by stephengotlost

great way to get back into it
not to mention, it's free!!!

Posted by raiz265

i have coh and all addons... so whatever 
 
microtransactions, pah :E

Edited by Vod_Crack

This RTS single-handedly makes all other RTS games look terrible in comparison.

Posted by TheChaos

I dunno about this.

Posted by Marz

sounds good.  If it does have micro transactions then lets hope it's not game balance breaking.

Posted by Milkman

Awesome stuff. At the time, Company of Heroes was one of the best RTS games I've ever played, though I don't know how well it holds up now. Nonetheless, you can't argue with free.

Posted by Kefkaesque

I like the business model.
 
If the game is good, I'll play it enough so that I'll get the bonuses by playing the game.

Posted by Meteora

Hmm, sounds cool. I mean, its free, so it can't be all that bad. We might bitch about the microtransition thing, but hey its free.

Posted by Mariorules85

The free to play model has been popular with a lot of devs lately. It's not surprising that Company of Heroes would get the F2P treatment. Who here doesn't like this? I don't think this is bad at all.

Posted by ZeroCast

Considering the quality of the previous games I am totally willing to pay money for this. 
 
This is awesome news.

Posted by Contra

Sounds fun.  Always up for a good RTS.  Especially online

Posted by EthanielRain

I approve of free-to-play-but-with-microtransactions (that aren't 100% required to be competitive).  Never played this before, will be sure to check it out :O)

Posted by Claude

Does this mean no single player campaign?

Posted by Agent_Eli

Wow, I just reinstalled CoH like last week. this is a great way to get all my friends into it!

Posted by slyspider

i still play this all the fucking time!!!!! HELL YES!!!!

Posted by jmrwacko

omg whhhhat?
 
Haha I'm playing through Dawn of War II right now and loving it. Relic is the bomb!

Posted by Flaime

If you have to compare it to anything, it would be Dawn of War 2 because of the commander unit, army items (loot), and so forth. Basically, it sounds like they are taking everything that is awesome about Dawn of War 2 and insert them into Company of Heroes, which is awesome!
 
Also, CAN'T WAIT!

Edited by DrSwank

You can see some footage of the game being played here: 
http://v.game.sohu.com/v/1/10721/60/NjAwNjMx  
 
And if you use chrome, then you'll be able to translate the language on COH:O Korean home page and even download the open beta full game LOL 
 http://coho.sdo.com/homepage/index.html 
 
Have fun :)  
 
For the most part, the game is identical to the original COH, it's just that you can bring in special stuff... I'm not sure it's enough to bring me back in...

Posted by GozerTC

LOL the guys over at MMORPG would be all up in arms over a F2P game like this.  Some of those guys just can't stand the idea of microtransactions.   
 
For me, I'm not a RTS player, let alone a competative one so this is a pass.   Good show though I hope Relic makes some money off of them and comes back to the only RTS I want from them (Even though I do like Dawn of War II),  Homeworld. :)  
Posted by ISuperGamerI
@Milkman said:
" Awesome stuff. At the time, Company of Heroes was one of the best RTS games I've ever played, though I don't know how well it holds up now. Nonetheless, you can't argue with free. "
I agree and this is great news, so I'm happy about it. :)
Posted by Death_Unicorn

I'll wait and see for the extent of the microstransactions.
 
Then I will determine my excited-ness

Posted by crusader8463

We will see, but from what I just read I'm not interested.

Posted by kishan6

wait why did i buy the coh games again 
the important part is free now

Posted by kishan6

wait why did i buy the coh games again 
the important part is free now 
 
and... 
@Vod_Crack said:

" This RTS single-handedly makes all other RTS games look terrible in comparison. "
^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ 
he hasnt played starcraft
Posted by KoolAid

COH is my favorite RTS.  I think it's the best since Starcraft.   
 
And so they turned it into Mafia Wars?  
 
This sounds impossible to balance.   And impossible to enjoy.  I'll have to start asking the question "Do I suck at the game?  Or do I need to spend more time/money?  "

Posted by mikeeegeee

How's the single player campaign? Awesome, I presume? If I went after this, it'd be strictly for that. Not big into getting my ass handed to me in a game where I know I'm terrible.

Edited by mikeeegeee
@Flaime:
 
@MattBodega said:

"And it's free, and comes with the entire Company of Heroes single player campaign. That's pretty good too. "

So is this accurate? Or shoddy reporting?

Posted by MeatSim

Can't beat free to play and it looks good.

Posted by Detrian

Huh giantbomb is the first place where I've heard the unlocks will be actual units and powers instead of "things that help you level up faster". I already have COH and will be there on day one but I want to know what's really up with that.

Edited by Detrian
@mikeeegeee said:

" How's the single player campaign? Awesome, I presume? If I went after this, it'd be strictly for that. Not big into getting my ass handed to me in a game where I know I'm terrible. "

The game is reported as including the full original campaign yes. And yes it is awesome but kinda drags on in a couple missions near the end.
Posted by Jeffk38uk

This just reminds me to actually finish Company of Heroes I bought on steam, pretty decent RTS. Surprised they are making this a f2p title with microtransactions, if it plays exactly the same as the original, I can see it being pretty successful.

Posted by lilburtonboy7489

caliope ftw

Posted by ZmillA

free? and comes with full single player game? and free? yes please

Posted by Karn

What's in it for people who already own CoH?

Posted by Detrian
@Karn said:
" What's in it for people who already own CoH? "
A seriously revamped multiplayer?
Posted by adamfedoruk

holy crap. awesome. also, i should prolly finish CoH and all the expansions. I know what I'm doing tomorrow

Posted by Rapid

As long as the micro-transactions do not break the game

Posted by armaan8014

Good!

Online
Posted by LOZZAT

Hooraaay! ^^

Posted by Vod_Crack
@kishan6 said:
" wait why did i buy the coh games again 
the important part is free now 
 
and... 
@Vod_Crack said:
" This RTS single-handedly makes all other RTS games look terrible in comparison. "
^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ he hasnt played starcraft "
I have, it's just an opinion.
Posted by Shirogane

Nothing should ever be compared to CnC4, EVER. 
 
Hell, that game should never ever be mentioned. Especially if you're trying to say something is good.
Posted by ectoplasma

The Verbosinat0r is back!

Posted by Anund
@Vod_Crack said:
" @kishan6 said:
" wait why did i buy the coh games again 
the important part is free now 
 
and... 
@Vod_Crack said:
" This RTS single-handedly makes all other RTS games look terrible in comparison. "
^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ he hasnt played starcraft "
I have, it's just an opinion. "
I'll second that opinion. Starcraft was good for its time, but recent RTS games like CoH have since advanced the genre and improved upon it.
Posted by Korne

This could work! If League of Legends has shown anything, its that microtransactions can definitely work.

Posted by Eurobum

This will (hopefully) blow the poligonal turd that is Starcraft II out of the water. 

Posted by random_guy23

I played a lot of Company of Heroes, and it was a fantastic game. I could never max it out on my PC tho, which was a shame, but it still was fun. Hopefully they port this to mac, so i can play it for free on there too.

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