Date of publish: 10/08/2020 19:41 CET
When I received the evaluation copy of Cossacks: European Wars, I thought to myself “Great, another RTS.” In more ways than one, this game is just another RTS.
I have never been an overwhelming fan of RTS games. Sure, I’ve played and occasionally enjoyed the Warcraft / Starcraft series, the Command & Conquer series, and the Age of Empires series, but most RTS games lose my interest after about halfway through the missions. The more the RTS genre evolved, the more they became games of icromanagement of resources and units than games of true strategy.
That being said, I went into Cossacks with some trepidation. A teacher of mine in high school used to always tell us, “Aim low, so that you are never disappointed.” Even aiming low, I still managed to be disappointed with this game.
Lets start with the tutorial of the game. A lot of players do not bother with the tutorials, preferring to jump right into the game itself. I see the tutorials as a way to keep from having to read the entire manual. I expect the tutorial to be a “teach as you go” tool where you can play the game and get the pop up windows telling you “this is what you do next,” showing you the basics in how to play the game, while trying to introduce some of the “new” aspects of the game. It’s also a good evaluation point for a game.
The tutorial of Cossacks is broken into three parts: Game Basics, Tactics & Strategy, and something called War Ruse. Rather than being a “teach as you go” method, the tutorial reminds me of a Power Point slide presentation. A dialog window pops up, tells you how to do something, then you go into the game window, and if you are lucky, you get to actually try out what they just told you to do. However, more often than not, you are subjected to a computer simulation of what they are trying to explain, or worse, no example at all. Then it’s on to the next dialog window, with no chance to actually try the action out yourself. The down side to this way of presenting, is that by the time you have gotten to the last dialog window, what they showed you in the first dialog windows has been buried in a flood of information.
The other thing that the tutorial tries to do, unsuccessfully, is teach basic tactics and strategies. Maybe they think that by doing this, you will actually try them rather than realize what the game is, just another amass-your-armies-and-rush game. And again, all the unit specific information that they try to teach in the tutorial is buried in a flood of dialog windows and computer simulations.
Cossacks’ game play reminds me a lot of Age of Empires II. You build a town hall, create peons to do the collecting and building for you, and then get to build your settlement. There is a tech tree that you need to follow to get to certain units in the game. However, nowhere in the game does it show you this tech tree, or tell you what you need to get to a specific unit. It took me forever to figure out how to get anything more than a fishing boat out of my shipyards.
You can amass your armies and lead them around the map. However to lead them around in any sense of a formation, you need a officer and a drummer combined with them. An officer can lead up to over 100 units at a time, but only if there are the same type of unit. No mixing and matching here.
When sending your units into battle, the units do not have health or damage bars. To check the status of a unit, you have to right click on it, and then a message will flash showing what the health of the unit is. This makes it hard to manage sea battles, as you cannot tell the status of your fleet ships without clicking on every single one. The same thing must be done to check the damage of a building.
The AI in the game ranged from about average to dumb. I was able to destroy a fleet of enemy ships that were stationed to guard a canal by luring one ship away from the fleet at a time. I would attack one, and if the others were not in range, they would not attack. The game states that you can have “grandiose battles of up to 8000 units”. Although I never got anywhere near that high, I can only image what kind of chaos and management nightmare that would be. Sometimes excess is a bad thing.
Lastly, there is the issue of resources. This game has not 2, not 3, but 6 different resources you must collect to run your settlement and army efficiently. They are: Wood, Food, Stone, Gold, Iron, and Coal. Run out of any one of these, and your army will start dying off, deserting, or worse, turn on you. Gold is vital in this game, as it pays all your armies and your peons to keep working. No gold, no work. This many resources to manage, you would think that they would have built in some kind of warning system letting you know when you are running low on any one resource. However, if you are not watching your resources constantly throughout the game, the first time you find out you are low is when you see red messages flashing across your screen saying units are dying from starvation. More than once I lost an entire fleet when I ran out of gold to pay them, and before I could sell resources to get more gold, the battleships I had in the fleet mutinied and turned and destroyed the rest of the fleet. Once a unit turns rogue, there is no getting it back, so I was forced to amass another fleet just to kill the rogue battleships.
So, do I have anything nice to say about the game? Not much. I could say the graphics were nice, but there again, they reminded me of Age of Empires II. There was nothing truly original in this game. Overall, this was a very mediocre, lack luster game. If anything, it managed to reinforce my dislike for RTS games. If you are looking for an RTS to play, go play Age of Empires II or Kohan. Stay away from Cossacks: European Wars.
Windows ME, Pentium III 500, 256 MB Ram, GeForce 2 MX 32 MB, Sound Blaster Live Xgameer, DirectX Version 7a
What’s good: Nice graphics – can handle higher resolutions
What’s bad: Too many resources to manage, AI is dumb, nothing new to the RTS genre.
Original date of publish: 09.05.2001