Date of publish: 17/10/2020 14:07 CET
PC Format gets historical with Cossacks, and discovers that the Russian evolution still has some way to go.
There was little surprise when last year’s Black & White claimed the PC games’ number one spot. What was surprising is that the game it replaced was Cossacks: European Wars. CDV’s title stuck rigidly to the Age of Empires A-Z, only wavering from its route when it reached the junction marked ‘large-scale battles’. And yet it seemed this was enough to seduce a legion of fans across Europe.
With a loyal following under its belt, the expansion pack was an inevitable arrival. It’s clear from playing Art of War, however, that the developer – GSC Game World – wanted this pack to be far more than a collection of additional goodies. This was an opportunity to correct some of the imbalances and omissions of the original title. It’s just a shame that its good intentions were not totally successful…
Two new nations (Bavaria and Denmark), a couple of new units and 36 fresh single-player missions spread across five campaigns will be a dream come true for many a fan of the original. But for the discerning gamer, those perturbed by the over-reliance on mercenaries, frustrated by the fragility of formations in battle, and irritated by the macro-management of the original, Art of War still falls short of the wish list.
While the battlefield dominance of artillery has been muted by a limit on the number produced at each depot, the dragoon mercenary still upsets the balance, rendering almost every other unit cannon fodder. Formations are now easier to construct and replenish, but still break down with annoying regularity in combat. Back at your base, meanwhile, your peasants have worked out that they should go to work in the mine they’ve just built, but remain oblivious to what goes on around them and are in constant need of attention.
At least the AI displays a marked improvement, scouting for defences before assembling a sizeable force for attack rather than sending in the pitiful suicide squads we saw in Cossacks. Additional AI difficulty settings mean that you won’t be abandoning the skirmish mode for multiplayer as quickly as before, but when you do, you find a wealth of new options. These include a new territory capture game mode based upon occupying mines, plus an internet global ratings system that gauges your progress against the world’s top players.
Art of War reinforces Cossacks as a strong multiplayer RTS, and this, along with an official version of the mission editor (Cossacks included a hidden version written in Russian), will preserve its standing as one of the most played and most enjoyed strategy experiences around for a some time to come. But Cossacks remains a flawed best-seller, and Art of War doesn’t do quite enough to change that.
Overall Score : 71%
by PC Format
Original date of publish: 20.03.2002