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Free-To-Play Company of Heroes Unveiled
by Matt Kessler on
Homeworld fans are not amused.
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.
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.
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.