Date of publish: 19/10/2020 18:26 CET
Since its initial release in March 2001, Cossacks has sold somewhere just over a million copies, pulling itself up among the big players of the RTS genre, not quite at the levels of C&C; or the recent WarCraft III sold one million copies within its first week of release but still storming the majority of titles.
Cossacks has already received an expansion pack in the form of ‘The Art of War’, but on this fine month of November 2002 it’s due for another, brought to us in the form of the standalone ‘Back To War’.
I’ll start by explaining Cossacks’ gameplay: The game allows you to have up to 8,000 units, the most seen in any base build RTS game, it’s glorious to march your men towards the enemy, in knowledge that it’s an almost certainty the front ranks will fall and likely more will be slaughtered. The initial introduction FMV when you load Back To War up really sums up the combat; an army of cavalry are charging at ranks upon ranks of cannons and of course the inevitable cannon balls that are firing back at them, the front of the cavalry charge literally falls to pieces as explosions occur, then finally the cavalry makes its move upon the cannon crews and topped with some heroic music and a view of the many people that died that day they force the enemy away from their position. You’ll lose a lot of men in most battles, minimal doubt about that. Just watch out you don’t explode your own men with your cannons.
Units can be formed with the aid of a drummer and sergeant, this gives the men extra fighting bonuses and allows you to direct where they’re going to end up at the end of their movement more easily, which while a minor thing, directing which way your troops can stand is nice – admittedly it does not make a difference as the majority of the time you’ll have your men set to automatically counter charge the enemy when they get close enough so they’ll turn round. But what these positioning abilities do give you is the ability to form the grand, picturesque army layouts that almost every official Cossacks screenshot shows.
While on the topic of the battles, the cannons and towers really do deserve a separate mention; they’re simply outstanding. After building and using my first cannon I must say that I was disappointed, on their own the cannons are horribly inaccurate and slow. But once I’d built a group of five; things started to heat up. Cannons have a quality that the structures also have and that is you can assign men to defend them so that they can’t be stolen by the opposition. Five cannons guarded by a mass of groupies can really storm the place apart, that is – storm the place apart for 2,500 shots as they lose a health point every ball that’s fired, a beautiful detail that put a smile to my face when it was noticed.
With six resources, management can get tedious if your mines are attacked regularly or there’s not every type of resource available so you have to use the market to buy them in so make sure you’ve got a steady flow of resource income before going to war. On top of needing those resources for creating structures and training units, gold and coal are needed to fire a gun, tower, or cannon so running out of these during a battle really isn’t too hot – it happened to me once or twice, I mostly use Musketeers to defend buildings and when a unit of spearmen came charging through they overtook half of my town before I could get my cavalry back to cut them down. Make note of that too, buildings and peasants can be taken over if you or your enemy doesn’t have men guarding them, which really gives purpose to having guards unlike in the majority of games where a tower or two does fine.
The amount of structures and research options available really does put shame to other RTS games, there are a variety of different researches that are achievable so that in future you’ll yield more from your wheat fields, and many more alike, unit upgrades galore and more.
The game’s graphics are average with the aging isometric views being employed, but there’s nothing really too shabby about them, they suit Cossacks fine. Sound is, as I mentioned in last month’s preview — still where it takes a fall, death sounds are plain, repetitive and simplistic. Music is almost non existent and occasionally sounds won’t even happen, they’ll just be silence while ten cannon balls smash the side of a building apart. Don’t let that put you off too much though it’s still a lot of fun.
So, being an expansion pack; is this purely extension of the brand, or extension to the game? Unfortunately, I’d have to say for the most part it’s the former; Back To War fails to add anything greatly new to the game. There’s 20 new buildings, a couple of nations and 8 units. For those of you that already own Cossacks, think that over before buying it. Back To War deserves the 4 that it gets because it’s standalone so there’ll be a lot of newcomers purchasing this, but as I said, it’s probably not too hot looking for existing players.
Written by Garcon Biftek
Original date of publish: 14.10.2002* – exact date is not known – date inferred from BluesNews [source link]