Which is my weird and obtuse way of saying that Relic Entertainment's new re-imagining of classic RTS Company of Heroes has entered open beta. Which as far as free-to-play micropayment-maintained projects means it has just been released.
Company of Heroes Online, as it has so originally been titled, is essentially the hit 2006 World War 2 strategy game sans the pile of expansion packs it has enjoyed over the intervening years with extra tasty MMO features like earnable unit upgrades, hero units and ongoing experience levels. For those of us who fear the roulette of multiplayer matchmaking services, it even involves the entire singleplayer campaign from that original game. For free! Which is nice.
To get to the meat of the game, you first create your commander's allegiance - Allies and Axis, naturally - and appearance in a character designer which comprises of three skin tones (I was disappointed not to be able to create a black Nazi commander but what are the chances), ten variations on strong-jawed poster-boy and an equal number of clean-cut hairstyles. Except for one. Curiously there is the option of giving your character some manner of short mohawk which I just could not turn down.
More importantly, here you are given the option of three doctrines (a different set for each faction) which are superficially the same as those in the original game. Now, instead of the two branches of super-powerful abilities, you work your way up a Diablo- or WoW-esque net powers. And then there's a whole other layer where you earn Supply - ingame currency - and use that to purchase hero units and unit upgrades.
Look, in short it's a free-to-play RTS with persistent stats and a deep level of customisation. Just go DOWNLOAD the bloody thing already. Big orange button on the top-right, 9GB and you will of course require an account.