The end all be all of the RTS genres, yet to be surpassed a decade and a half later. Right at the end of the World War 2 fad that permeated the gaming industry in the late nineties and early two-thousands, Company of Heroes not only innovated the genre but absolutely revolutionized it. Getting rid of all the fat and zooming in the combat mechanics, it did its best to transpose the tactical conundrums of small-scale engagements. The four Fs (Fire; Fix; Flank; Finish) of infantry combat were perfectly implemented. The cover system was expertly implemented, lending the combat s new layer of depth and realism games never had until then. It was (and still is) a glorious display, watching US paratroopers taking pot shots while ducking under walls and ditches while German MG 42s pinned them in place. A flanking element would chug grenades into the enemy position and a picturesque image of Saving Private Ryan and HBO series, Band of Brothers would take hold over your imagination. Contributing, without a shadow of a doubt, to the wider appeal of the series. Something that other RTS titles were failing to reach. For more than a decade, Company of Heroes remained the strongest beacon of hope that one day, the genre it revolutionized, would make a triumphant return. CoH is not only one of the best world war 2 games of all time but one of the most influential games to ever go gold. The second entry got a lot of flak during its first months of release but several DLC’s later it got better, and with Ardennes Assault it peaked. Right now, the third game in the series is being developed, and it’s going to take place in the Mediterranean theatre and it’s going to feature a fully dynamic campaign alongside its classical tactical scuffles. There’s no release date yet but Relic Entertainment already put forth two open alphas in the last three months and development appears to be traveling at cruise speed.
An entry for the ones wanting to test their mettle in multiplayer! Men of War has a long, convoluted but successful history. The first games of the series focused solely on single-player content to find moderate success and get a foothold in a genre dominated by Company of Heroes but it was with the first Assault Squad that the series truly solidified itself in the minds of tactical aficionados, temporarily supplanting the popularity of its closest rival. Assault Squad 2 doubled down on what made the first one great. More maps and more units while keeping the base gameplay mechanics intact, it also has a thriving modding community. Men of War distances itself from CoH by focusing more on realism, allowing players a greater degree of control about its units (each soldier loadout can change on the fly), tanks have armor values instead of HP bars and every single bullet fired is an actual projectile, not only an equation masquerading as such. It’s a great game but Men of War’s engine is starting to show its age and hopefully, the new recently announced Men of War II will breathe new life into the franchise.
Other similar games: Gates of Hell – Ostfront
There’s a small chance you remember me slamming Sudden Strike 4 when it came out, however, when you’re put in the position of having to choose between SS4 and the Blitzkrieg franchise latest entry, the award bestows upon the fourth installation of the first- and it’s mainly because the latest Blitzkrieg is a poor attempt at creating another “games as service, uh!”. Fast forward to 2021 and Sudden Strike 4 actually did a good job of expanding the game with its latest DLCs. That, coupled with the usual cheap price the full edition goes on sale, it suddenly doesn’t look so bad. It’s also helped by the fact that has a tremendous variety of missions all across the war, from the very beginning to the final stages. SS4 is a simple, fun experience to indulge in less complicated affairs.
Other similar games: Blitzkrieg (read below).
There’s just something fascinating about the honest brutality in which the Blitzkrieg franchise depicts warfare. Tanks and arty reign supreme, infantry is just meat for the grinder. Both the first and second entries might be old, but they still stand as a nugget of nostalgia gold and are worthy of your time. The brutal nature of its design and an absolute distaste for infantry combat can make it a hard pill to swallow for those who fancy the good old human with legs, arms, and a gun instead of mechanical, slug-sizzling apparatus.
Other similar games: Blitzkrieg 2 Anthology, Sudden Strike (read above).
Steel Division is a strange melting pot of other well-known and lesser know strategy games. The fast-paced action, infantry-focused combat, and clean UI of Company of Heroes. The morale system a la Close Combat and the accurate historical use of WW2 hedgerow tactics that you can find in Combat Mission: Normandy. The unit variety, deck building, air support, and logistics systems are imported directly from their previous Wargame series. Eugen Systems’ second attempt at Second World War has panned out better than their landings at Normandy. Their second iteration brings a slower pace, a dynamic campaign mode called Army General, and takes all their Second World War hardware to the eastern front. Eugen has been expanding it ever since with new divisions, new campaigns, and maps. Also, it is going on sale constantly, so there’s a high chance you might get it for cheap.
Other similar games: Its older sibling, Steel Division is a must-have RTS for anyone that enjoys a good fight at the tactical challenge hedgerow hell that was the Normandy countryside.