Company of Heroes Online (or CoHO for short) is a MMO real-time strategy game produced jointly by Relic and Shanda, a Chinese online gaming company. In essence, it’s a combination of an MMO-like lobby area and the gameplay of the original Company of Heroes (or CoH for short). This guide will explain the differences between the two games and hopefully inspire you to give it a try.
When you first log into the game, you are asked to choose a commander name, an avatar, and a doctrine. This doctrine is limited to the six found in vanilla Company of Heroes. Whichever doctrine you pick, you are limited to using only that doctrine when you are playing with that commander.
What CoHO lacks in flexibility, it makes up for in breadth. The game boasts different doctrinal abilities than that found in regular Company of Heroes, which you unlock and improve as you fight more battles.
In contrast to normal CoH, Company of Heroes Online allows players to rank up even if they lose a given battle, by giving experience points based on the number of kills and deaths you inflict and receive in each game. Because it is not possible to receive negative points, you will always get closer to ranking up, similar to a MMO.
You also receive items and heroes to use in battle. These can be awarded after a battle, or bought using a combination of “supply” (given as a reward after battles) or “points” (bought using real currency).
Items can increase every unit of a specific type for a certain number of battles (for example, increasing the accuracy of all riflemen you build by 10% in the next ten matches you play) or improve your rewards after each battle.
Heroes are specialised units that gain experience across battles and become more powerful. For example, as a level five allied commander, you are given Skilled Riflemen. These Riflemen can be built from the barracks like regular Riflemen, but are 10% more accurate than normal and cost 40 less manpower. Over the course of many battles, they gain experience, level up, and are granted additional buffs and abilities.
Instead of chat channels as in regular Company of Heroes, CoHO has multiple game rooms. These are divided by level, so you can always find a game with players around your skill level. There is a ranked automatch system, but it isn’t accessible until you’ve reached higher levels, and seems worse at matching appropriate players together.
Beyond these changes, Company of Heroes Online is very much CoH as we know and love it. Shanda’s MMO trappings ultimately enhance Relic’s solid core gameplay, providing a lot of interesting options and strategies to explore that aren’t found in normal Company of Heroes. If you’re willing to invest a little time into familiarising yourself with the new lobby system, trying CoHO is definitely worthwhile for players of Company of Heroes. Instructions on how to download and install CoHO are available here.