Date of publish: 16/11/2020 17:18 CET
Imitation is often the best form of flattery, but at times it can cross the line and become annoying. The Cossacks series, on the other hand, was an exception to the rule. Here was a game that was similar to the Age of Empires franchise but actually filled the void in history where Age of Empires II: Age of Kings left off. GSC Game World continued that timeline with the positively received American Conquest, but the new standalone expansion — American Conquest: Fight Back — strays off the track a bit.
The basic formula of commanding hundreds of troops on the digital battlefield remains intact with Fight Back, which focuses on the upheavals and conflicts in the New World from around 1500 through the end of the 18th century. Five new nations are being added to the mix, including Germany, Russia, Portugal, the native Haida and the Dutch — with the action taking place from Alaskan tundra to the Amazon jungles. Additional new features include a couple dozen new unit types, larger maps, and even a new mode of gameplay called “battlefield” that lets you command thousands of units in real-time battles.
This mission mode that includes ten different battles is about the only real addition worth playing, and even this is somewhat disappointing because of the missed potential. While the engagements are epic and grand, missing are real-world engagements. Here would have been an excellent way for the developers to let players experience the massive battles like the English siege at Quebec or relive Yorktown with tons of little details. Instead, what’s presented is far too generic and simplistic. The opportunity for a Total War-type of gameplay is lost in favor of throwing a red army against a blue army over and over.
The newly added powers are equally wasted and seem simply out of place. No doubt this was done to give more international appeal (and also to increase the number of playable nations), but the inclusion of these second-rate forces offers nothing. None of these nations played that crucial of a role in the New World; Germany wasn’t even a serious power during much of this era. The biggest benefit is a few different unit types to command, but from countries that you’d probably not care to play in the first place.
The biggest disappointment with Fight Back is that the simplest of improvements could have made for a much better expansion. Other add-on packs, like Age of Empires: Rise of Rome and Age of Kings: The Conquerors offered much beyond a few new nations. These expansions fixed simple problems, offered better play balance, and tweaked what wasn’t working. This isn’t the case with Fight Back; the graphics are still flat, the unit animation remains poor (especially with the death sequences where men continue to topple like dominos), and the scale inconsistent. GSC could be forgiven for these errors with Cossacks, but after several games — not to mention years of development time — we expect and deserve more.
All is not completely lost. The new campaigns remain interesting and challenging. The game really does try to focus on historical accuracy in terms of uniform details, unit types, and the use of formations on the battlefield. There also have been few games that allow you to command literally thousands of units in battle, and for that this series still continues to shine. Fans of the American Conquest and history buffs can look forward to more grand battles on a truly epic scale. For everyone else, there are plenty of better RTS games to play.
Pros: Some new campaigns and nations; tons of new units; new “battlefield” mode.
Cons: Everything else feels the same; gameplay engine remains dated.
Written by Peter Suciu
Original date of publish: 28.11.2003