Review from GamesDomain

#CossacksArtofWarReview

Date of publish: 16/10/2020 18:42 CET



The scariest thing on earth is a historical strategy game. They are such nightmares that people are reportedly using them to rob banks. They’d burst in, wave the instruction manual around and yell, “NOBODY MOVE! I’VE GOT A HISTORICAL STRATEGY GAME AND I’M NOT AFRAID TO USE IT!” So when Cossacks: European Wars fell on my desk last year, I was about to report it to the police, until the editor explained it was supposed to be reviewed.

Turns out this was a good thing too, because, a few niggles aside, Cossacks was a pretty decent title. It has a more or less standard RTS interface, was easy to get into and yet contained so much depth, you’d need a snorkel when playing. Now with The Art of War expansion soon releasing, I wasted no time in sticking it on the hard drive and getting stuck right in. And once again, I’m glad I did.

 

Dirty great armies. That’s what Cossacks is all about, really.

 

More, Bigger, Better
The developers followed exactly what the fans wanted when creating this add-on, and one of the inclusions a lot of the hardcore Cossacks players will get into is the map and mission editor. It’s an absolute piece of cake to use, all you have to do is select what you want from the menu and plonk it down on the map. Land is raised and lowered Populous-style, so there are no difficulties there and if you haven’t got any particular theme in mind, you can just tinker around with a randomly generated map.

What goes well with this is the new larger map sizes available. Sources differ as to exactly how much bigger they are (from four to 16 times larger!), but whatever the increase, they really are a heck of a lot bigger and allow for battles so epic they would put Lord of the Rings to shame. You’ll need a not quite inconsiderable 256MB of the finest RAM to take advantage of this but the engine seems to handle everything in its stride. Apparently up to 8,000 units can be drawn on the screen at any one time, so if you’ve got the system to handle it, you can amass some truly magnificent legions.

 

There are some fiendish little nuts for you to crack, too.

 

There’s also more for the multiplayer addicts out there. The Art of War introduces a new global ranking system whereby every player gets a coat of arms they can improve upon piece by piece, and titles ranging from squire right through to king, depending on how you carry out various political and military activities. Multiplayer has also been made more flexible, as it now lets you ally yourself with various AI-controlled nations. It also lets the host remove any players from the game, something that was surprisingly missing from the original.

 

Going Solo
Most people, however, will be playing through the new single-player campaigns that The Art of War has to offer. Six new campaigns of five missions each make for a rather impressive 30 total. They’re all based upon the historic events at the time, so for instance, the Algerian campaign deals with the piracy in the Mediterranean, whereas the Prussian campaign focuses on the wars of King Frederick.

Veterans of Cossacks will find the difficulty has been suitably increased, and if you haven’t played before, it might be something of an idea to finish at least a few of the original campaigns before getting stuck into these, or you might be left wailing and gnashing your teeth. Or at least a bit ruffled, anyhow.

The scripted events in the campaigns do seem to be implemented a little better. Many of the original maps had events that seemed obviously engineered and detracted from the gameplay somewhat. And if that’s not enough for you, there are also six new single-player missions and six historical battles, half of which are from the English Civil war.

 

 

{left} I love the smell of mercenaries in the morning…
{right} An early preview of the Two Towers. Well, sort of.

 

And that’s not all, either. You can now play as Bavaria and Denmark, should you be so inclined, build any one of the six new ships or the new building available. There are new formations to use in battle, something that Cossacks omitted altogether. Guard and patrol options have also been added; guarding buildings means that an enemy can’t take them over just by wandering past, which is very useful. Patrol is somewhat more limited, only allowing one waypoint.

The level of difficulty is also highly customisable. Each campaign has four difficulty settings, you can choose to play in the 17th Century only, start with troops already generated, capture the territory of your choosing and even set it so peasants can’t be captured (which puts half my strategies right up the spout). What does aid the situation — and aids it quite a bit — is the ability to issue orders while the game is paused. The problem in Cossacks was that things could get very messy very quickly and you had to rush madly around trying to organise your troops and keep them in anything resembling a formation.

Issuing orders while the game is paused eliminates much of this aggravation, though it doesn’t seem to give the usual amount of feedback; for example, boxes aren’t drawn around your guys when you select them, and this can make it a little confusing at times. It would also have been easier to use without a big ‘pause’ sign plonked in the middle of the screen.

 

There’s gold in them thar hills.

 

Some features are next to pointless. You’re able to record and replay your games, but unless you find the idea of watching someone else playing Civilization as being a great spectator hobby, you’ll probably give it a miss.

The biggest letdown has to be the fact that the unit AI remains untouched. You can still bombard the crap out of them and they won’t bat an eyelid if you stay out of range. Large numbers of units (common on these huge maps) can sometimes find it difficult to negotiate the terrain and the tactics used by troops in battle can occasionally verge on the monumentally stupid.

Still, all things considered, the developers have done a top notch job in making an already good game even better. If they had done something about the AI and given more feedback during pausing, there’s a fair old chance that The Art of War would have upped its score to win our Highly Recommended accolade. AOW is a cracking add-on pack that’s able to please the hardcore whilst encouraging those who didn’t play the original to take another look.

 

Score:

Graphics: Nothing spectacular, but runs very smoothly at high resolutions.
Audio: Above par, decent gunshots and cannon shots.
Longevity: Weeks if not months.
Originality: Hard to evaluate – it’s historical after all.
Appeal: Cossacks fans and those who missed it the first time around.
Bugs: None encountered.
Packaging: N/A.
Interface: Easy enough to use.
Controls: Keyboard and mouse.
Multiplayer: 7 max (no CD needed) via modem to modem and TCP/IP.

 

Pros:

  • New campaigns.
  • New multiplayer ranking system.
  • Easy to use map editor.
  • Can issue orders while paused.
  • Difficulty can be greatly customised.

 

Cons:

  • Slightly pointless mission replay feature
  • Still dodgy AI.

 

by James Kay

 

Source: GamesDomain [source link | archived site]

Original date of publish: 02.01.2002

Post Author: Peffy

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