Company Of Heroes 2 And The Fog Of War

On my flight to Los Angeles for E3 I watched a documentary called The Fog Of War. The documentary focuses on Robert S. McNamara, the US Secretary of Defense during the Cuban Missile Crisis and the early stages of Vietnam War. One of his quotes stayed with me: "[a]ny military commander who is honest with himself, or with those he's speaking to, will admit that he has made mistakes in the application of military power. He's killed people unnecessarily — his own troops or other troops — through mistakes, through errors of judgment. A hundred, or thousands, or tens of thousands, maybe even a hundred thousand. But, he hasn't destroyed nations."

I am playing Company of Heroes 2. Thank God it's just a video game.

My experiences with RTS games are limited. I've played a few, gotten confused and just moved onto other things. At this point I am playing an RTS in front of one of the human beings who helped build it. It's embarrassing.

I am applying the full weight of military power with wild abandon. Like a dog wearing human pants I have no idea what I am doing. I am pressing buttons, people are dying. They are dying unnecessarily. I am trying to make decisions based on my limited understanding of the controls, and the situation I have found myself in. I guess this is what they call the 'fog of war'.

The Fog of War. There's a mechanic in Company of Heroes 2 named after that phrase. The mechanic is one that allows you see only what you can see in relation to the positioning of your troops. In most RTS games you are given an overhead perspective of the battlefield that demists as you advance, but in Company of Heroes 2 you are limited to what your troops can see.

But the phrase Fog of War really refers to a sense of confusion, or the limitations of knowledge.

"We know we make mistakes," explained MacNamara. "I don't know any military commander, who is honest, who would say he has not made a mistake. There's a wonderful phrase: 'the fog of war.' What "the fog of war" means is: war is so complex it's beyond the ability of the human mind to comprehend all the variables. Our judgment, our understanding, are not adequate. And we kill people unnecessarily.

We kill people unnecessarily. My guide through my Company of Heroes 2 claims it is almost impossible to lose the mission I am playing, but I'm doing a decent enough job of attempting to do the impossible. I scramble through. Only two men survive. The rest are dead. Any military commander worth their salt will admit he has made mistakes. I have made many. Too many. But I haven't destroyed nations, just my own self-esteem.


    I totally didn't realise this game was an RTS and not an FPS.

    Just to be that guy, most RTS games have a fog of war that functions in exactly the same way as you described. You have vision granted by what your units can see (often everything within a certain distance of them). Vision can be obstructed by high ground, bushes or walls and things like flying units can give unobstructed vision.

    Vision is one of the most important things about RTS games. You can't react to what you don't know is coming.

    I think the lack of vision for units in COH2 is a bit more advanced than most RTSs. Most RTSs I've played give vision of everything within a certain distance of a unit, perhaps with some other simple rudimentary mechanic (e.g. Starcraft2 cant see up to higher level of terrain). COH2 blocks vision behind buildings, landscape, or any object tall enough that a soldier couldn't see over it. So you can hide behind walls, behind sheds, behind tank wrecks etc. Apparently. :-)

    edit: Fog of War is a great doco, one of my favourites.

    Last edited 19/06/13 11:57 am

    So pumped for this....

    CoH and World in Conflict are awesome!!!!

    By "demists as you advance", what advancement is the author referring to? If the RTS has fog-of-war, it's almost always cleared by the player's or allied units. I'm not sure I've ever seen a top-down perspective where the fog of war is demisted by the player's camera or something akin to that. It either has unit-based fog of war or it doesn't and the map is revealed.

    And even in the first Starcraft things like terrain blockages and higher ground had effects on what your units could and couldn't see.

    Last edited 19/06/13 1:08 pm

      "In most RTS games in the Command and Conquer series, you are given an overhead perspective of the battlefield that demists as you advance,"

      There, fixed that line up a bit.

    You know what's worse than playing an RTS in front of the people who made it, when you're not very good at RTS games?

    Being one of the people involved in making an RTS, and sucking at it so badly that you've never actually won a game.

    Last edited 19/06/13 1:54 pm

    Articles like this make me wonder what the mission statement of Kotaku is. I guess I subscribe mainly for video game news, so when I see an article called 'Company of Heroes 2 and the Fog of War' I click in to see what I can learn about the sequel to one of my favourite games. That was probably a mistake.

    I very much appreciate Mark's contribution to the Australian gaming scene, but if I didn't know better I'd say this was written by someone who had nothing to say about the game in question and was struggling to come up with some content, so related it to some other non-game material in order to pad out the article. If Mark wasn't the editor, would this even have been published?

      Mark Serrels contributes more to Kotaku and gaming journalism as a whole than most other gaming websites do in their entirety.

        I agree with that statement, completely. Didn't write the comment to be a mindless slam on Serrels, or to be a dick. I am referring to my opinion on this article, specifically.

        (and it's his site and he can write whatever he likes. I'm not the editor. But honestly: What is the function of this article?)

        Last edited 19/06/13 3:02 pm

          Articles like these are the ones that keep me coming back to Kotaku. I appreciate them trying to make me think a little bit from time to time. I need all the regular gaming news like yourself, but nothing wrong with offering something a little more.

          At least it's gaming related - I've often had the same thoughts Mark has in this article. Particularly with a game like Company of Heroes, which is based on real world, historically significant events. It should inspire some thought.

          Gaming should be about more than just the games. For me it is anyway.

            That's fair enough. I'm not trying to shut down discussion. I wish there was a way to distinguish between the news articles and the pure editorials (many of which I do enjoy as well) without having to click through.

    The thing that always made me stop and think is FPS games like BF3 or CoD, when in hardcore mode you can team kill. Even the best of players have accidentally shot team mates on more than one occasion, whether by team mate being partially obscured by something, or being surprised by a team mate and shooting them as a knee-jerk reaction.

    Scares the shit out of me to wonder how many times that's happened in real life. I bet it's a lot.

      It's hard to find any real statistics, but reading through wiki's entry on "friendly fire" should be enough to scare you.

    So the creative directors name is Quinn Duffy.... that's one of the bad guys from Justified. Awesome

    This article is not the best. If your going to have someone review an rts maybe send someone who knows what they are and how to play them. Coh is one of the best rts games ever made. Coh2 beta is great. Try Coh 1 for like 5 bucks on steam before shelling out for 2. If you like it, buy it!

      This isn't a review. Don't know if you noticed that. Just a heads up. And Kotaku Australia only has one writer, and that's me. So pray tell who else we should get to 'review' the game.

      Christ on a bike.

    It's actually called the "True Sight System" and in RTS terms much much more advanced than the old Fog of War systems. SC was the closest to advanced FoW in an RTS with the visibility disappearing on higher ground or areas your your units are not it in..

    TSS expands this by literally cloaking any area your units do not have valid LoS making tactical positioning, kiting and ambushes in RTS on a new level.

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