2006's Company of Heroes changed what people have come to expect from real-time strategy by focusing on explosive, small-scale battles featuring squads of soldiers behind enemy lines in World War II--soldiers with the ability to drive tanks through walls and blow up buildings. The game expanded in 2007 with the stand-alone game Opposing Fronts, and later this year, developer Relic Entertainment is getting ready to finish its next follow-up, Tales of Valor, which will be a stand-alone game that won't require the original game. It'll also have plenty more smashing tanks through walls and exploding buildings. Senior producer Tim Holman explains.
GameSpot: Give us an update on Tales of Valor. What aspects of the game is the team working on at this point?
Tim Holman: We're closing bugs at the moment and about to finish--close enough that we started thinking about the wrap party!
GS: We understand that Tales of Valor will be a stand-alone product rather than an expansion that requires the original game. Why go in this direction for the product? What exactly will players get out of the box?
TH: We'd rather make our content accessible to any new players rather than having them fork out cash for the original, and we don't want to split our multiplayer community. You will get three short campaigns (instead of one long campaign), three new multiplayer games modes, new units for multiplayer, new skirmish maps, and more.
GS: We understand that the campaigns will have an even stronger focus on small-scale tactical battles, including the Tiger Ace campaign, in which you basically play as a single tank crew rather than controlling an army. Why the even smaller-scale focus? What does this add to the experience?
TH: We've done big campaigns focused on telling long stories, and this time we wanted to do more intimate stories of small groups of soldiers fighting against overwhelming odds. It's hard to create that when you have a huge army behind you, but when you've got only a small number of troops, it's easier to create that tension.
GS: Tales of Valor will also have an arcade-style "direct fire" mode for the King Tiger tank in the Tiger Ace campaign. What does this new mode add to the game? Will we see it anywhere else other than in Tiger Ace?
TH: Players can play units in the regular way, but direct fire gives even more intimacy. In the hedgerow-and-city terrain of [the] Tiger Ace [campaign], it makes for some fun tactical maneuvering and fire control. And yes, [it's used for] other units. Defend against a rush of infantry with an HMG, funnel tanks toward your direct-fire-controlled 88, and my personal favorite, painting the landscape with fire, with my direct fire flamethrower (and that's just a few). We only use it in the single-player missions and one of the operations modes--original multiplayer stays the same.
GS: We understand the expansion will include a new set of multiplayer vehicles. Give us a rundown of them, how they work, and what they add to the game.
TH: I can only reveal some right now, so I'll do [a few of my] favorites. The first is the Schwimmwagon--this amphibious vehicle was used as a scout car--which acts as a great early-game harassment and capture vehicle. The second would be the Hellcat, a mean little tank destroyer used by the Allies. And then there is the Kangaroo, which the British used. It acts as a troop carrier and, while slower than others, is much more [heavily] armored. These new units are swapped for existing units and fill the role of the unit they are replacing in multiplayer, but people can also play with the "classic" units.
GS: What other additions and tweaks to Company of Heroes' multiplayer will Tales of Valor add?
TH: While there are some adjustments to multiplayer balance based off community feedback, the biggest multiplayer addition are the game modes. Invasion is a cooperative mode where players defend a town against waves of attackers--a very fun comp-stomp mode. In Assault, players choose a hero unit and join a larger battle to push back the front lines of their enemy and destroy their base. And finally we have Panzerkrieg. Multiplayer tank destruction using direct fire is a recipe for mayhem.
GS: Finally, is there anything else you'd like to add about Tales of Valor, or about Company of Heroes in general?
TH: Tales of Valor has allowed us to create a more-intimate single-player experience while greatly expanding multiplayer. We think we've struck a good balance that meets the needs of both audiences.
GS: Thanks, Tim. Looking forward to it.