Date of publish: 10/10/2020 15:37 CET
At first glance, Cossacks: European Wars looks like just another Age of Empires clone, and to a point, it is. Of course, being heavily influenced by AoE, as this game obviously is, is nothing to be ashamed of, but it also offers enough new gameplay ideas, a solid base in history, and just enough extras to allow it to stand on its own. Cossacks is set in the 16th-18th centuries, and attempts to tell the epic story of the struggle for domination of Europe and the mighty battles that were waged to accomplish this. Although mobilizing vast armies in bloody warfare for conquest of your enemy is not a new concept, the developer GSC Game World need not be ashamed, for their game is set squarely in the historical past, and they are simply telling an age old story, which has been repeated many times over the course of history.
Cossacks is a fairly simple game to control, with programmable hot keys and the ability to call up desired information on your units at any time, but beneath this simplicity there is enough to keep you playing well into the wee hours of the morning for days at a time, when you should be sleeping. Right out of the box you know you are in for a treat, looking through the 200 page manual you will find everything you need to know about how this game works, including descriptions of the more than 300 upgrades and the many buildings and units you can create, with unique graphics for each of the 16 nations you can choose to command. This game contains over 85 missions, including a very good tutorial, 10 campaigns and multiple single player missions, and a fairly robust random map generator, not to mention numerous multiplayer battles, including historical battles, via the included GameSpy Arcade, LAN or internet. Cossacks even includes an encyclopedia that gives the history of this turbulent time, explains strategy and tactics, and just about anything else you might want to know.
War is waged both on sea and land, with cannon laden battleships firing furiously at swarming yachts as splinters of wood fly through the air and cannonballs splash into the gently rolling ocean, or with mounted cavalry wading into hundreds of pike men as artillery bursts all around, and rows of musketeers fire into the opposing line. And these battles really are a sight to behold, with the ability to have 8000 units total on a battlefield at one time, I found myself watching the demos just to marvel at the thousands of troops tearing each other apart on the field of battle. Which brings me to the first gripe I have with this game, although a minor one. It is rare that you will actually build that many units to launch into battle – usually battles consist of much less troops, and unless you have an officer and a drummer, which enable you to order your troops into formation, it can be frustrating to control your men, especially in the heat of battle.
On the economical side there are 6 different resources, which are continuously being consumed by your population, so make sure you have enough food to feed your peasants or they will starve and die, and if you run out of gold, your hired mercenaries may revolt. In order to avoid this, the market allows you to trade resources, but beware, for this in turn, affects the prices for all the resources. Then again, why destroy your enemies when you could conquer them and use their resources and technology for your own ends?
Of course, this game is not for everyone. Beneath the gorgeously detailed and rendered graphics and engaging sound lurks a monstrously devious AI. In other words, this game is HARD, even on the easy setting. Thankfully you can save your game at anytime, but most gamers will still find themselves frustrated at times, especially if lacking in patience or knowledge of military strategy. Being based on actual historical events, this game includes many units and battles few people will have even heard of, but with the included encyclopedia and the manual, this is not too much of a problem – if you don’t mind doing some reading. And some of the campaigns, which stretch over multiple missions, can last a long time, so prepare to invest a good chunk of your free time into this game. But if you are a fan of Age of Empires, interested in European history, or just have a lot of free time and patience, this is one game that you should look into, and one that you will be playing for a long time to come.
Very simple and easy to install, at about 500m and with the low end system requirements this is a game just about everyone will be able to play right out of the box.
Not the most original, but with enough new ideas and tactics to keep this game interesting for AoE veterans and newbies alike, if they have the patience to discover all this game has to offer.
Beautiful graphics, especially at higher resolutions, with nation specific unit and building graphics, and plenty of animation, although lacking in flashy eye candy, to make this game a sight to behold. From rolling waves to exploding grapeshot, splintered boats and exploding shells, you will not be disappointed.
Great ambient sound, from the birds chirping in the stillness before a battle, to the roar of cannons from all directions, the mighty cries of men and the crack of the musket, the crash of a destroyed ship and the clash of swords, its all there. Not as much going on during times of peace, but hey, peace is boring, right?
Deceptively easy to start playing, it will take a long time to master this game. Even for the veteran real-time strategy gamer, the tactics and strategy necessary to conquer your enemies will take some practice.
Not very original (hey, its based on historical events), but very well done. No major revolutions in gameplay, just the same AoE formula you are used to, with a few new concepts thrown in to make it different enough to stand on its own.
Go to war against your friends or enemies, via included GameSpy Arcade, which is easily installed and simple to use, LAN or internet. Choosing from the historical battles or Deathmatch, you will be online and fighting your first battle for world domination in no time.
Although based on the AoE formula, enough new gameplay ideas to keep the jaded real-time strategy gamer and history buff alike playing for a good long time to come. If you have the patience and time, I suggest you check out this game. History has never been this much fun!
by Joel Stemple
Original date of publish: 14.05.2001