Date of publish: 04/11/2020 18:54 CET
Why can’t war be as nice and civilised as it was back in the 1800s? It was a time when generals would greet each other with mutual respect, before blasting each other’s armies into smithereens and leaving the once lush green countryside a few different shades of blue, white and red, a time where armies were polite enough to line themselves up and take it in turns to shoot at each other.
Actually, that last line seems to have answered my question for me. Massing into large groups of up to a hundred men and then standing still as they each traded bullets with the enemy possibly wasn’t the wisest of strategies open to the commanders of the Napoleonic era, but it probably did make for some truly spectacular battles, and battles is primarily what Cossacks II: Battle for Europe is all about. This stand-alone expansion to last year’s Cossacks II: Napoleonic Wars builds on the success of its predecessors and adds a little more meat onto the bone that historical RTS buffs like to knaw on, if never quite enough to fully satisfy their appetite.
Still set during the reign of Napoleon Bonaparte and his quest to conquer the whole of known Europe, little has changed since last year’s outing, but plenty had been added. Three new armies enter the fray, with Spain, Poland and the Confederation of the Rhein providing an additional 180 new unit types, as well as four new campaigns within which to use them. New skirmish battles have been added (including the previously absent battles of the Battle of Nations and Waterloo) while ten new conquerable sectors have been included to the Battle for Europe mode.
The game once again concentrates on the tactical planning of large scale formation fighting, with a strict emphasis on the command of troops and the supplies needed to sustain them. The resource management, while still as fiddly as every other RTS game, does play as much as an important part in the outcome of each battle as the men sent in to fight. Once again, in order to successfully become triumphant in battle you must learn to master your resources. An army marches on its stomach and its weapons, so without capturing the settlements that provide these two vital resources, you’d better get used to seeing your once lovingly organised multi-coloured formations of troops scattered across the land in defeat. It can still become needlessly fiddly at times, with settlements spread so thinly throughout the maps and spaced between so many enemy soldiers that just attempting to acquire the resources to win the game takes more effort than defeating the enemy.
But Battle for Europe still manages to impress where it counts – the battles are every bit as huge and as chaotic as they were in The Napolionic Wars, and this time the AI actually manages to adapt itself well enough to counter your progression, pulling back when it accidentally wanders into your line of sight, attempting to force you into its firing range and occasionally exploiting weak spots in your flank. It’s far from perfect though, and on more than a couple of occasions I’ve been hindered by some poor pathfinding issues and the enemy’s occasional, and rather suicidal, attempts to break through my formation’s line by sending its previously well positioned artillery right through it. While normally I’d find little to complain about when the AI decides to help me out thanks to its own stupidity, this is a game that should make you feel like you’re up against some of the greatest Generals of their age and not their half whit younger cousin.
Troubles aside, the Battle for Europe mode still provides a dose of light Total War inspired goodness, with a campaign map that sees you and the other European nations battling it out for supremacy. It may lack the depth of Creative Assemblies’ own games, but it’s a nice feature that’s expanded upon slightly with the addition of new territories and armies to come to blows with. Still, it’s the battles that make Cossacks II and they’re every bit as enjoyable in Battle for Europe as they have been in the past. Despite still looking several years out of date, the ageing graphics allow for a staggering amount of units to appear on screen at any one time, which leads to some impressive large scale battles as hundreds, sometimes thousands, of soldiers duke it out.
Given that few historical RTS games have exploited the Napoleonic era, Cossacks II: Battle for Europe still has something of an edge on its competitors in that it’s the only game that manages to pull large scale formation battles off with relative ease. Despite some AI issues, dated graphics, cheesy music and roughly translated voiceovers, its still a challenging, but most importantly different, RTS game, and while this expansion doesn’t really expand in many new areas, it does manage to provide a good few hours of additional enjoyment over The Napoleonic Wars. It’s a bit like Sharpe, only not quite as Yorkshire and great deal more macho.
Written by Kieron Giacopazzi
Original date of publish: 02.08.2006