Tales of Valor Review (PC)

By Zott820Zott820


I purchased this game from the Direct2Drive store for $7.50. I had heard average reviews from other sources and so did not immediately pioneer myself a copy. Seeing as I would have likely had to pay more than $7.50 if the games were bundled, about $30 at the time of this writing, I decided to splurge and see how the game was first-hand. I have completed all the new mini-campaigns on expert, and played the new gametypes in multiplayer.

There are three included campaigns and a couple extra multiplayer missions plugged into this mix. First, let me talk about the single player experience.

Single Player

Tiger Ace: In this mode, the player takes control of a single tank and drives it around wiping out the enemy. While initially one has to be careful not to die with all the anti-tank guns and PIATs, the commander upgrades slowly make the Tiger an unstoppable ace.


This campaign was only slightly challenging on Expert. As long as the player was careful around the anti-tank guns than his tank had no problem clearing out everything. It also helped that the computer on the third mission would repair your tank if you stood still, whether intentional programming or not. This made the difficulty on that one portion decrease by quite a lot. Without computer assistance, the Tiger crew has no means in which to repair itself; this is where the caution comes in. While the tank becomes nearly unstoppable in the late campaign due to the turrets great rate of fire, the tank still has to be careful of the enemy getting their shots off first. The damage by them is low, but their small irreversible input adds up over the course of the mission.

A cool difference between Tales of Valor and the main campaigns of the past is that the commander upgrades transfer over to the next mission, and more importantly, are almost completely new. For the Tiger Ace campaign, the special weapons were useful in that they increased the speed of attack or movement and imparted special bonus powers. Besides the natural abilities, such as firepower and speed though, the rest of the available upgrades were generally not as useful nor utilized as much as I wanted. IE, the anti-personal mine launcher required close range to be effective, but it was better to switch to explosive rounds than move close to short-range attacking position. Another more useful example is the smoke screen which has an appealing pop, pop, pop sound as smoke canister are launched to cover the tiger’s movement. Still, I appreciate their inclusion as they give slight replayability, since the player can choose to use different tactics on the next play through using those special powers. There were also some innate special powers that appeared to either become available after a set time or set damage. These include being able to deploy a tank commander (For some reason he can un-deploy, but he doesn’t seem to die, so I’m not sure why that is needed at all), as well as tank awareness. I wasn’t sure what most of these innate powers did except they appeared in the notification window the left side. I wish there was a better indication or help dialogue to explain their addition to the strategy of the command.

Since the three new campaigns each has three missions each, the CPs are capped at a certain amount per mission. This unfortunately tips the player off that there are more missions, and is a psydo-spoiler, but also prevents the units from becoming super powered at the beginning, and the rest of the missions being boring with nothing new to unlock.


With the use of the command trees and the upgrades for your Tiger Ace tank it soon become a powerhouse. Even on the expert difficulty it is easy to destroy tanks with one shot with the Tiger Ace. While this is actually quite realistic, the gun soon becomes an 88 machine gun, dropping everything around it at probably 2 shots per second. Ultimately, it made this campaign feel more like an arcade game than the more realistic approach the campaigns in the original game had going for them.

Two of the three missions are tank based. One of the three Tiger Ace missions had the five members of the tank crew navigating enemy territory to escape. I much enjoyed this mission. It was one of the harder missions in the campaign, mainly because it wasn’t a run and gun mission; it was perhaps the only mission in COH that seemed to advocate stealth over brute force. Furthermore, since the tank crew was on their own, they were given the ability to revive their fallen squad mates. This was a necessity for when fighting was no other option. It didn’t make the squads invincible, but did prevent squads from dying nearly instantaneously under heavy fire. As an added element of avoidance of, British sappers build sandbag defenses and the like during this mission, forcing the player through new directions of movement lest they wish to be brutally slaughtered. These sandbags and traps also appear in the later mission through mission persistence, adding nice continuality.

Causeway: My least favorite campaign of the three new campaigns. Here the player takes control of two nearly indestructible squads. Even on expert the only way I lost one an entire squad was when a building containing one of these superhuman squads collapsed, killing all inside, but I digress. With these super powered squads, the player mows down infantry and tanks without even a wink.


Able squad is a machine gun squad, and it does a fine job at spraying an endless supply of bullets. It apparently only takes one bullet to kill the German infantry of all varieties and so volksgrenadiers do not even have a chance to move into position before they are lying on their backs. Baker squad is the anti-tank division. While it takes longer for Baker to kill tanks than it does for Able to kill infantry, they are also still extremely over powered.

The combination of these two squads is what makes the campaign boring.

I’ll post a walkthrough now, since it really is too simple a formula.

The first mission is all about attacking the enemy. Simply rush these units in, and kill anything till they reach the final point.

Mission two has the squads defending a point from a counterattack. This is even more boring than the first mission, since by now the player has likely gotten enough CP points to spend on upgrades for the squads to make them somehow more destructive. Just let them sit in the square and they’ll be fine for the most part. There is too much delay between the attacks too, causing situations of idle boredom. Furthermore, it is better to not explore the countryside with the units, since apparently it slows down the spawning phase of the enemy for reasons I cannot understand, making the lengthy wait for pathetic units to kill lengthier. If one is bored, they can lay mines in fun shapes.

Mission 3 changes the formula a bit, but the squads are still juiced up like Bane. You also get another super unit, who I’m not sure is a mission necessary unit, or expendable. Besides the new unit the super-squads are not even worth managing except occasionally to heal using the new unit, and to revive the rarely fallen squad members. The real challenge in this mission comes from the tension building “timed” encounters between allies and the enemy. Your allies don’t stand a chance, but by using the super-squads, you need to work quickly enough to wipe out the passive resistance.
As far as storytelling for this campaign, it is up to standards in both narrative and design as the original company of heroes, it is simply the gameplay that fails due to its simplicity. It loses all the strategic nature that makes Company of Heroes a great RTS.

Falaise Pocket: This third Campaign is the second best in terms of design. It consists of three missions that are more of less the same. They are all "defend the base" missions. There isn’t any base building, in fact, none of these new campaigns had base building, but you have to occupy outposts where you can build units. Unlike the traditional build method, the units are called in from off the map, so that has to be carefully coordinated. Units will not just appear outside the building, and immediately help you defend, if that was one of your goals.


What makes this campaign superior to Causeway is due to the conventional Company of Heroes strategy. Despite this, it still isn’t the most fulfilling gameplay. The computer is content just wasting its almost limitless supply of units, rushing them in, with the chance of breaking through the players lines. Sadly, this is very effective.

The first mission has the player wake up troopers, by occupying buildings, and defending a panzer legion stationed around the map. The panzers are relatively useless and will not help the player. In addition, it is better they don’t since once the enemy reach your panzers an air raid will bomb them out of commission. This is a sad since it dances with that rushing mechanic of the enemy. Once the enemy reaches your panzers, they don’t have a chance of surviving, since the planes make short work of them. In this way, the attacking units don’t even care about their own lives as long as they get past you and to those helpless tanks. On expert this is quite difficult too, as the enemy will not keel over instantaneously, unlike Causeway. The Germans are not granted any super-soldiers.

The second mission is more or less a repeat of the first mission except, instead of defending tanks the player has to defend outposts. Once more, the enemy does a lot of rushing.

Lastly, the final mission has the player defending a retreating convoy. The enemy doesn’t do as much pushing on this map as the previous ones. Also, it was a bit misleading what was meant when the objectives stated to retreat my units. Do I press T for retreat? No, I have to manually walk them over to the exit marker. The same for tanks. Also what sucks, is that every time I build a new unit, I would have to walk them over to be evacuated also, only stationary defensive structures do not count towards the evacuation pool.

For a strategy without merit, I suggest the following; the convoy that is retreating can be manually commanded. HOWEVER, this does not count into the medal for retreating the convoy. What this does allow is a nearly limitless supply of units. The tanks have the engines crippled and their health low, but the convoy also includes engineers. By holding back vehicular units a bit and repairing them, or building repair bunkers, a defensive rush team can be made.

Sadly, the retreating convoy seems to think it is best to engage the enemy in their weakened condition. This is bad since once the British enemy begins to nearly timelessly build up a defense in your base, gob-smack in the center of the retreat line, none of the convoy will make it through without your help. They will simply fight and die. They will not just keep running by to get to the exit marker. Why must I do everything around here? It doesn’t help that the enemy can build their trenches and MG nests much faster than normal, and the units on expert are extremely overpowered, but I suppose this is part of the challenge.

None of the three missions are impossible, but with the amount of units the enemy rushes with, some strategy is lost for chaos.

All three missions reminded me of World in Conflict, and a couple spammy points I did not like about that game. Unlike World in Conflict, resources/points are not unlimited, but similar to that game the player’s units are against such overwhelming attacking forces that they die quickly if not ideally played, and are therefore expendable. The player gets extra munitions and resources for killing the enemy, this being important for the next point.
The command tree is a mix of all the Wehrmacht powers. As such, artillery and V1 rockets are available. By utilizing these effectively (especially on the second and third missions where they are unlockable) the player has a better chance against the odds. What this does though is make the player’s ground units bait; get the enemy together to fight your units, and the bomb them all to a charred mass. Once more, strategy is thrown out for just using your special powers. Feels like World in Conflict to me.


There are a couple of new gametypes in multiplayer. Honestly, the maps and gametypes are a novelty that will be played a couple times before returning to the normal victory point and annihilation gameplay.
For those that get tired of the new gametypes there are a couple of new units for use in multiplayer. These new units are strictly replacements, with one unit being a skin/voice pack, and so players must choose between the newly added ones and the vanilla versions. The new units can certainly throw off the enemy if properly utilized. These units are appreciated additions and if players find absolutely nothing in the expansion that they like, they can at least gain an advantage with more units to choose from to decimate the enemy.

Panzerkrieg has the player command a tank, of the 3 available for his allegiance, and try to dominate the map by capturing map victory points. Of the three tanks per side there was usually a light, medium, and heavy variety. With all but the best strategists, the medium tank was usually the best deal. The light tank died too easily for its own good, and the heavy tank, while powerful, was too slow to action.
Each tank has its own command points and upgrade structure. These powerups are what make the gameplay more than the average and offer a mild chance of replayability. I say mild since in most games it is possible to upgrade to the last unlock and so only six games are needed to experience them all. It doesn’t help that there are only 2-3 maps in which Panzerkrieg is usable on. If the gametype was compatible with existing and future maps, it would have been appreciated and increased its life span.

Tales of Valor seems to be leaking strategy. While Panzerkrieg is fun, I found that a lot of the time it was just a tank rush to a spot, where there was a duel, and then one of the teams had to respawn, repeat ad fin. The upgrades then made one of the two teams more powerful until they dominated the map. The best games were the ones where careful placement of defending infantry kept the enemy distracted long enough to come and engage them, but then they had a plan of their own, having their ally rush around back to support.


Assault lines: Of the new multiplayer gametypes, I enjoyed Assault lines the best, though found it to be played less than ideally. In it, the player chooses a class and similar to DOTA or HoN, for which it is based, they will attempt to assault an enemy base, killing bunkers, eliminating respawn points, until the enemy refinery is reached and blown to bits. While some people would choose the gunner classes for their pure power, those that stacked the defensive bonuses such as the medic’s healing and the officer’s speed and heroic boost often came out above. The best games had the teamwork that this gametype required.

Sadly, I found few games that emphasized strategy over brute force. I would have liked to see more team action going on with all the stacked bonuses I mentioned. Instead I find there to be a high level hero doing all the work and enemy team having no chance to defend against it due to all working independently. Sort of like DOTA, the team that loses the edge initially, loses the game in the end. In addition, I found there would be lots of gunner classes, and both teams would rush, leaving nobody but the weak computer to defend.

Stonewall: I played this gametype before in Company of Heroes Online Beta that is available in Chinese only. It remains relatively unchanged for the American release included in Tales of Valor. In this mode, up to four players defend against waves of enemies. There is an unlock tree for units, but no commander tree. For example, the player might spend manpower to unlock the sniper, or they might spend it on an upgrade that speeds up the building times.

The player can choose to either play as the Americans and defend against attacking German forces or vice versa. As a disappointment, there are no British or Panzer Elite units, despite being available in Tales of Valor, but not in COHO. I would have appreciated more strategic options in what is almost a cut and paste between COHO and TOV. Also, I feel that the enemy is strong enough to fight against a collection of both race choices together. The British want their appearance, they are a defense-oriented race, and this is a defense-oriented map! I suppose I will have to rely on third party solutions like Joint Operations to fulfill this market.


For those that wonder, the only differences that I seemed to see between the COHO and TOV renditions was the inclusion of the American narrator for actions on the map and a possible increase in difficulty. “Possible” only because it seemed as though there were more units thrown out per wave. Also, a couple of strategies were foiled. One being that as playing as the Germans one would build many bunkers and have them be repair depots to continuously heal the player’s tanks. In TOV, the bunker can only be a MG nest.

The gameplay is hectic, and the attacking waves are quite difficult. Sadly, I find that this mode pushes a niche strategy of buying only certain types of units, such as snipers. While one could unlock the latest and greatest tanks, it is probably a more wise to invest in the cheaper varieties and use the money to buy more of them. Weirdly the bunker is the same cost as in the normal game, which is outrageous considering that prices for everything else is adjusted to be lower and more in tune with the gameplay. IE a sniper costs about 10ManPower. A German bunker costs 100 MP. In addition, the bunker can only be a MG nest, not a more beneficial medic or repair center. When the bunker has a high chance of dying in late game when tanks roll in, its construction is a serious waste of funds. I could understand the significant cost if I still had the choice of its other two functions but as it is, the bunker is a wasteful investment.

After the player beats Stonewall, they won’t be back. There is only one map, and one difficulty setting. The player could choose between the races they want, but out of the two, that makes a minimum of two times beating the gametype. I found that since I nearly had to use a limited selection of units to win that there was little reason to play it again if I would have to use the same method. However, your mileage may vary. I could see someone trying different novelty methods to try to win, such as all mortars, or all snipers, while the rest do anti-tanks.

Direct Fire: Direct-fire is a new addition to Tales of Valor. It applies to all the new campaigns, but does not transfer over to multiplayer or any of the old campaigns. Frankly, I do not miss it. Tiger Ace is the only campaign where direct fire had any usable purpose. When trying to juggle multiple units with direct-fire it just becomes too much of multi-tasking. The gimmick is that you get to choose what to fire at. This works acceptable for a tank that has a long reload, and requires a precise and powerful one-shot-kill. The turret of the tank could then be primed in the direction of approaching tanks, something the game would not do automatically if the enemy is out of shooting range. However, when direct-fire is given and used with infantry, it is a little confusing, and seemed less effective than just letting the computer do it. Am I really that much better in control of a MG machine gun than the computer? The icon for direct-fire tells the amount of firing left, and shows a cool-down meter as well when all the shot power has been spent. As I mentioned though, my reflexes and microing skills are not as effective as the computer at finding that exact moment to choose when to fire. I was fine clicking on a squad with the right mouse button to issue an attack order and letting the squad do the rest, having to hold down the left button on the target to spray with machine guns seems a little bit a waste of my time. Sadly, even in the Tiger Ace campaign lining up the turret early was a waste since the turret becomes super-fast at firing and turning by the campaign’s end, negating the need to do a lot of microing.


Mission persistence: Tales of Valor overdoes the mission persistence. This feature was heavily emphasized as a selling point for Opposing Fronts, but also appeared in two levels in the original Company of Heroes campaign. It now makes an appearance in Tales of Valor. To put it in simple terms, the terrain keeps the damage from the last mission on the map. This has its pros and cons. For one, if you destroy everything on the map, then for the next mission you will have no buildings to position your men in. What sucks about mission persistence in Tales of Valor, is that each campaign’s 3-4 missions take place on the same map and you cannot proceed to complete mission objectives that appear on the next mission, even though you can reach them on the current map. This same disappointment struck me when I found out many of Opposing Front’s missions took place on the same maps. The freedom of choice and the interest of a new setting are dimmed. I will say that at least being able to navigate the full map in TOV beats the sort of “invisible boundary” that Opposing Fronts created with artillery lines, but not by much. Furthermore, the positioning of units is reset at the start of each new mission, lowering strategic interest. While I understand this was done for compatibility, it makes setting everything back the way it was a bore. The units are stashed in a safe spot when the next mission begins on that map.

Graphics: There are no extra additions to graphics that are worthy of mention. The same things that continued to amaze in the first game are still good. The graphics are beginning to look a little outdated in Direct X 9 mode, but I don’t have the horsepower to switch to the more intensive but artful Dx10 mode. The addition of ambient occlusion with Nvidia cards is nice, but I too didn’t have the horsepower for the slight increase in realism it provides.

Sound & Music: There are a couple more musical interludes for the cinematics but I did not notice any new in-game soundtrack. This was fine though, the game had excellent war music anyways.

There were new voice actors for some of the new campaign characters. They did as good of a job as on previous games. This almost sounds insulting by how little time I spend writing about it here, but it is good enough that there are really no glaring faults except for what is included in the glitches section. The writing for the voices also continues to be intact, with lines delivered naturally while still including those all-encompassing anecdotal statements that make the player feel they know all about the war philosophy.

I do have one complaint for the voices. In the Stonewall gametype the American voiceover artist sounds like he is gruffier, in a way that makes me want to clear my throat in empathy each time I hear it. It sounded natural in the first game, but in this most recent expansion, it just sounds off. I’m not sure if these lines are newly recorded or if all were recorded at the same time as the original game. Whatever the reason, I found the VO for this particular section to be distracting and not to my liking.

Glitches: I’m sad to say, that for a fully up to date game, this expansion still had its share of bugs. For one, mission selecting the third deployment of the Tiger Commander campaign left me unable to use the HE rounds, clicking on the icon started the switching timer, but there was no ultimate change in weaponry. This command tree power was also already unlocked too, so I am not sure what the problem was.

I know this isn’t a glitch per-say but bothersome to me. In the Causeway mission, Bravo squad loses its voice halfway through the second mission and for the rest of the campaign. It makes sense for the storyline, but they should have thrown a generic airborne sound in then because it is very awkward to be selecting units and not have that audio feedback telling me I am doing actions like attacking and moving.

Conclusion: Tales of Valor started out as a collection of downloadable content. I don’t have an objection for it being packaged together and sold, but the price for what is at heart a collection of novelty is a bit steep at the $30ish dollars at the time of this writing. Instead, I feel the pack would better suit a $10 dollar range. The campaigns introduce some new features, such as reviving squads, as well as some new methods of controlling them, but many of these features are either underused or novelties. Those gamers seeking an expanded Company of Heroes experience, akin to Opposing Fronts or the original game in design, should look to third party modifications. Tales of Valor seems like an expansion for people who might like to see what an arcade-like touch to the game engine may be like. The new multiplayer modes are mixed in their fun-ness, some have deepness and I could see myself playing those for a long while, but the rest will likely be a once through and then ignored. There isn’t anything especially notable in the sound department. The game retains its excellent sound, with some minor additions, one sadly gruff voice actor, and no new mission music. The same goes for graphics; they retain the look and feel of the original game, which is good, though nothing knocks our socks off. If you see this game on the cheap, go out and buy it for a change of stride.

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