German publisher CDW released this historical RTS a few months back in Europe to rave reviews. Soon, it’s coming to the States in hopes of conquering this land as well.
“As is typical in such a game, peasants are employed (enslaved really) to do most of the grunt work.”
It seems as though the market is utterly saturated with RTS games, so for any one to stand out, it has to be really good. Going by the words of our friends in Europe, Cossacks seems to have the right mix of historical accuracy and realtime strategy. It’s a standard 4X (eXplore, eXpand, eXploit, eXterminate) style game, but unlike some recent RTS games, this one handles all the standard RTS expectations almost flawlessly.
Taking place in 16th- to 18th-century Europe, Cossacks has six major resources to mine and maintain. As is typical in such a game, peasants are employed (enslaved really) to do most of the grunt work. Wood and stone are gathered to make windmills, barracks, walls, homes, markets, etc. Each structure has a cost in one of these resources as well as in food, which is itself another harvestable resource. Gold, coal and iron are used for pretty much everything else, from making gates and weapons to paying armies and buying supplies. It’s all a delicate balance, but it’s automated just enough to not become tedious micro-management.
Of course, it’d be no fun if there weren’t lands to explore and other armies to battle. Cossacks includes huge maps with up to 16 different warring factions. For truly dramatic warfare, up to 8,000 units can be on the map at any given time. It can become a little confusing with so much going on, but the player usually only has to focus in on one or two areas at a time. It’s also possible to see a lot of the map at a time, as the game has scalable resolutions from 640×480 up to 1280×1024. Although that’s becoming more common in RTS games, it’s an impressive feat, considering the possible number of units on the screen.
In addition to the included campaign and instant action/skirmish modes, players can go online with up to eight others to fight it out. Instead of being stuck with just a few maps to play on, the game also includes a map generator so each experience can be a new one. Terrain also plays a role, as having higher ground proves to be a huge tactical advantage. Cannons will shoot further and infantry have a better overall view, giving them better aim. Additionally, troops can be led by captains, who seem to handle orders well; in other words, the AI is good enough that the player doesn’t have to worry about every unit at once.
Will Cossacks: European Wars set the RTS world on fire? Probably not. But it takes the time-tested gameplay of classic RTS games and polishes it to a glossy shine. The historical accuracy should pique the interest of players interested in realistic warfare, while the standard gameplay will appeal to practically all RTS fans. When released in the next month or so, it will definitely be a game to watch.
– Kevin Rice
No, It’s Really A Word
Cossacks isn’t one of those words the Europeans made up to confuse us. In fact, it refers to warlike, pastoral people from various parts of the Russian empire during the time period the game covers. They were also noted horsemen, and they provided help to smaller divisions found throughout Russia. You learn something new every day.