In the days of old there were no tanks, no stealth fighters, no long-range artillery weapons, and no 60ft mechanised killing machines with doomsday weapons. No, in the days of old it was all about spiking the enemy on long pointy sticks while the rear guard sprayed the oncoming foe with arrows and cannon fire. Yes, troop formations did mean something back then and Cossacks hopes to recreate the true meaning of close combat. Don’t fire till you see the whites of their eyes!
Developed by Ukraine-based GSC Game World and published by CDV, the people who brought us Sudden Strike, now bring us Cossacks: European Wars. Unlike Sudden Strike, Cossacks doesn’t cover a war that has been recreated in various Hollywood films, but covers the war that rampaged over Europe during the 16th – 18th century period. No multi-Oscar winning performances from Tom Hanks this time. I also believe this is a period barely even touched upon in the games world, except maybe in Civilisations and Age or Empires, but never as the main time frame.
Being the master of complex, resource management real-time strategies (in our office anyway) I was assigned the task of checking out the preview CD of Cossacks. But before I got down to playing my latest acquisition, I decided to do a little research to see what I was getting myself in to. Things began to look promising, as the more preview articles I read, the more Cossacks got the thumbs up. Goodness in hand, I thought I would give it a go and give you my perspective on this Age of Empires style RTS title.
Only having a preview CD, I only thought I would get to play a few basic levels, but fortunately for me this one offered a tutorial, four different campaigns and a whole load of single missions. There was also a multiplayer option but I never got the chance to try it out.
After briefly looking at the tutorial, I realised it was basically the same control and play structure as Age of Empires, such that you must construct a central building (in this case a town hall) to create peasants which do all the usual tasks. What makes Cossacks unique is not the fact that you must harvest six different resources – food, wood, stone, coal, iron, and gold – but that you must create a balanced economy. This means that you must have enough of an income to support your population while leaving enough for construction, repairs and maintenance. Yes, you require food to feed your troops, gold to fund your mercenaries, and others to maintain buildings, weapons and fortifications. This complex resource management is just a step further on than Age of Empires, so veterans will adapt to this system quickly, while those new to this may get a little overwhelmed.
Although I didn’t try the multiplayer option in this game, I would assume it is similar to Age of Empires, in that you fight against or with each other while trying to keep hold of a successful economy. If it is anything like Age of Empires, then Cossacks should be a lot of fun.
Graphically, Cossacks doesn’t really break any new ground, but still looks very impressive. The 3D terrain is better modelled than most and is rich in colour and detail, with hills actually having an effect on your units’ range and effectiveness. But it doesn’t end there either, as both units and buildings are in full techni-colour detail-o-vision. As with most games of this style, the units are sprite based, but they don’t have the appearance of jerky 2D creations because every unit has over 64 individual frames of animation.
Atmospheric sounds have been added so you can hear the waves breaking on the shoreline and the like, but very few unit sounds have been added at this time. It all seemed a bit quiet until fighting broke out or construction began, but as this is only a preview of the game, you can’t expect everything to be included.
Cossacks has so far been very impressive, with little to disappoint. As I said, it’s only a preview so hopefully more is to come and things can only get better. Immensely diverse game play, lush graphics and traditional warfare could see European Wars challenge Age of Empires for the top spot. Cossacks: European Wars is set for release in the UK on the 30th of March, so look out for our review then.