It has been a year late. But hey, what can I say? I am a gaming "straggler", with the habit of stockpiling old games I want to play but never really got down to commit time. If you have ever been procrastinating a book or novel, you know exactly what I mean. I have been procrastinating on heck a lot of games too, some as old as 10 years (1997). But today I am sharing this praised-to-death game - Relic Entertainment's Company of Heroes - that had completely overriden my desire to play games in chronological order. Yes, I completed this masterpiece before I even got down to work on their 1999 classic Homeworld. This game is that compelling.
Like anime, I like games that are not only entertaining, but also transcends lessons. While we may initially and superficially watch or play purely for entertainment purposes, the titles that remain memorable for years to come are those that caused us to reflect introspectively and ponder on what had been presented to not just our senses, but our minds and hearts. Very few games have broken that visual fluff barrier to transcend with messages profound and real to our lives. Aces of the Deep, Final Fantasy VII, and Starcraft come to my mind, and now Company of Heroes can join that list.
I was actually disappointed on first installation. I thought Company of Heroes was a real-time tacitcal simulator, but turned out to be "blatantly" a real-time strategy. What I never liked about RTS games is the amount of action-oriented hectic micromanagement, and not enough of realistic strategising and tactician activities. To some extent these annoying elements still exist in Company of Heroes, but it was almost as though Relic heard my personal complaints about the plateau of the current state of RTS games; they put in just enough to elevate gameplay to a refreshing new level that restores my faith in the future of the RTS genre.
Perhaps the most important factor of the game is in rendering a complete 3D and totally destructible warzone. That means nothing is a mere backdrop; everything in the battlefield is subject to be blown apart and levelled to the ground. Heck, even the ground can be portholed with barrages of artillery. This technical and artistical achievement is visually amazing. But it brings about a very crucial and cruel overtone - nothing is spared the ravages of war. In the irony of the brilliance and beauty of graphical prowess to picture this, it is simply ugly and horrific to witness man and machine deliver blows at the opposing factions. The outcome of battles, no matter who the winner is, is plain bloodshed and destruction. Only broken bodies await collection and and burial, and buildings and landscapes that used to be beautiful in utter runis.
Another amazing feature of the fighting units is not exactly a feature itself. This is a clear case of "more than the sum of its parts". Maybe because they are based on real-world WWW2 units. Or maybe it is the yelling and screaming of the men as they encounter threat and danger. But the urgency of fighting was not a feeling of "heck, i am getting owned!", I was fighting to keep my men alive.
That was when it hit me.
In war, there is no way you can expect everybody to survive with full limbs and skin.
That is when one has to think really hard to determine how many losses are acceptable for the greater cause. Gritting teeth and going through with it is necessary at times.
The wise lesson for humanity, "Do unto others what you wish others do unto you." is also reflected in an old Jackie Chan movie, "If you want to beat others, you must accept getting beaten yourself." But humans are hypocrites. We only want what's good coming our way. And such is the ugly side of yourself revealed when you smirk and guffaw with merciless glee and joy, on sight of the enemy blown to smithereens amidst all that gorgeously-rendered dirt kicked up from the pouring artillery. The same effect on one's men brings about a dark reversal of death and despair. Again, it is not about losing the fight. It is a matter of losing lives. In war, hurt is inevitable. Better to hurt the enemy first before letting him hurt me.
War is getting realer in games thanks to technology. Hopefully, with technology, we can keep war within games only. (hey, I can hope can't I?) Kudos to Relic Entertainment for delivering a great vision.