"sh*t kicked out of them" for the first year and half, as the Germans crushed the Russians.
They had the difficult task of creating "victory without winning" as the player could only 'hold them off'. Even when the tide turned the Germans were "always dangerous" - it was no steamroll to Berlin.
There are no good guys versus the bad guys here, notes Quinn Duffy from Relic. At the end of the war the Soviets weren't exactly saviours - it didn't happen like that.
"That’s an interesting question, and it’s an interesting challenge," Principle Designer Duffy, when asked by us if the Russian forces were still the 'good guys' of the tale by the end. "To describe that arch in gameplay is hard… you need the player to lose. They have to have the shit kicked out of them for the first year and half of the war."
"I think they came as close as they ever got to losing in 1942 than they did in 1941… you need to give them a feeling of victory without winning. It’s all about holding them off etc… so the mission design is interesting when trying to deliver that." Company of Heroes 2 only features a Russian campaign for the player to follow.
He continued: "But you look at the research, and the Germans were always dangerous, even though Soviets made their inexorable push pack, it took them almost four years to push them back to where they started, and there were counter-attacks etc… the Germans were ALWAYS dangerous,"
"We didn’t want to deliver that ‘steamroll’ feel, where you were just sacking German cities, rolling over Prussia etc…"
Duffy points out that the Soviets had something of a problem when they started pushing into Germany. Suddenly the oppressed and desperate Russian troops were in serious danger of becoming everything they had fought and pushed back from the Motherland. The team had to show these problems.
"There were these orgies of looting and raping that nobody ever wants to talk about, and the Soviet leaders had to rein that in and say “you’re just stiffening their resolve. They will never surrender this way”. There’s a lot of horror in that war, and I think there are ways to make sure that the players understand the moral implications of what they’re doing," he said.
Company of Heroes 2 also employs the force of weather to help or hinder strategy and tactics, but the system itself has been kept as generic as possible. This means, "with some tweaking," their SnowCheck feature could very well "accommodate desert and sand." It would certainly make an interesting North African campaign.
Check out ourwith Quinn Duffy as we discuss Company of Heroes 2, which releases on PC in 2013.