Date of publish: 24/10/2020 12:35 CET
“Cossacks II is more than just throwing units on the battlefield and hoping for the best outcome by massing them in a random fashion like most RTS titles.”
When I first heard about Cossacks II: Napoleonic Wars, I knew it was time to start my training. Within a month I was enlisted at the AFNW (Academy For Napoleonic Wars). There I learned how to be a skilled warrior, honing my fighting and leadership skills, both of which I’ll need if I expect to win the war.
Shortly after my training ended, I learned that Cossacks II also expects players to be a trusted diplomat. I hadn’t planned on becoming a civil servant, but if that’s what’s required of me, then I’m sure the School of Diplomatic Destiny can help.
Halfway through my first semester, it came to my attention that Cossacks II isn’t just about fighting and making diplomatic decisions. It’s also about money. If I wanted to succeed, I’m going to have to play the role of the economist, too.
Before enrolling at the Institute of Statistical Confusion, one of my colleagues reminded me that Cossacks II is only a video game.
“But I want to be fully prepared!” I said. He didn’t seem to understand though.
In preparation for the game’s release, GameZone Online hooked up with Associate Producer Mario Kroll for a strategic interview.
For our readers who have not played the original, what is the story of the Cossacks series and when/where does the new game begin?
Mario Kroll: The Cossacks games (both the original, its expansions and Cossacks II: Napoleonic Wars) all take place against the backdrop of Europe during various time periods. The original game focused on the battles that occurred between the 16th and 18th centuries. Cossacks II is set during the early 19th century, when a certain diminutive French General was sweeping through Europe.
Is the story based on real events?
MK: The missions and battles in Cossacks II are inspired by events of the time period. As with most historical RTS titles, we have abstracted some battles and elements to enhance game balance and playability. So, some missions are very close to historical events, while others just use the time period, the most significant adversaries, and the units and tactics of the time as inspiration.
Tell us about the new game engine and how it allows 64,000 units to be on-screen simultaneously.
MK: The engine in Cossacks II: Napoleonic Wars is an entirely new creation by GSC Gameworld. Given the era where massive, formation-based battles shook Europe, the new engine now accommodates thousands of units on the map at one time. From a practical gameplay perspective, however, each screen will focus on a subset of the battles on the overall map, which keeps control to a more sensible level even in massive battles.
In Cossacks II, you must become a skilled warrior, diplomat and economist. Which of those three has the most realistic presentation, and which one is the most important to your success in the game?
MK: In all honesty, I think they are all very well presented. Being an RTS, however, the combat elements are probably the most important, particularly with the fantastic morale and experience system. Armies in Cossacks II consist of a variety of units; each is detailed right down to weapons range, firepower, reload speed, movement speed, morale and defensive strength (which is also influenced by experience, the formation selected, and surrounding terrain). In the Battle for Europe campaign the player will need to consider the overall strategic goals on an ongoing basis, balance these against threats and defensive needs, and pick the army composition that best balances these.
Although diplomacy and economics might seem trivial things to some players, in Cossacks II they should not be overlooked. Good diplomacy keeps you from being surrounded by diverse enemies with forces that will quickly overwhelm you. Being a good economist ensures your empire has the funds to keep those footsoldiers fed and fighting. While diplomacy and economy are perhaps more abstracted than the fighting action, they are no less important and provide alternate avenues to win the upper hand and can significantly tilt the advantage once battles ensue.
How long are the battles? With so many units battling at the same time, you can imagine it’d take a long time to win.
MK: The battles run a very reasonable amount of time, as the results are determined by not just your choice of units or quantity of troops, but by the quality of troops. For example, I’ve seen battles where hundreds of green troops scattered after a much smaller force of skilled veteran troops attacked them.
Certainly some of the larger battles between seasoned troops will last for some time, but it won’t be one of those moments where you walk away to get some lunch, come back an hour later and the fight’s still going on. Cossacks II has been designed for the player to have a very hands-on role in conducting movements, attempting to flank and encircle the enemy and even fire only when the moment is just right.
In fact, I’d argue that once the fighting starts, the action moves very quickly and the player will be more likely to lick his wounded pride from defeat, wondering where the time went, rather than complain about the game’s “too slow” pace.
What are the six European nations featured in the game? How does it decide which one you’ll lead?
MK: The nations included are the French, Russians, British, Prussians, Austrians and Egyptians. The game includes a profile that the player creates (and modifies when desired). In it, the player selects the nationality and a historical figure that acts as the player’s alter ego in the Battle for Europe campaign.
How does Cossacks II measure troop morale?
MK: Combat experience, leadership, and supply availability all impact troop morale. Green troops are obviously a general’s worst enemy. Units learn from defeating enemies, so “seasoning” them in smaller engagements against less experienced enemies is very helpful. Forcing troops to march long distances will exhaust them and weaken their will to fight. Therefore long distance “death marches” are generally a bad idea except in the most extreme situations.
There are even units included that have earned such a fierce reputation, they frighten enemy units by merely showing up on the field of battle. Once morale drops to a critical level, entire formations can falter, just as surely as having been felled by musket balls.
If troop morale drops, is there a way to bring it back up?
MK: The best way to manage morale in the first place is to combine individual units into armies and ensure they are accompanied by officers, flag bearers and drummers, all of which create an increased base morale level for a unit. Rest, away from enemy harassment, particularly after marching a long way, improves a unit’s morale by eliminating exhaustion (which also decreases morale). There are also priests that can bless and encourage units and thus boost their morale, at least temporarily. Lastly, units gain experience by defeating enemy troops successfully, which bolsters a unit’s overall morale.
Is there a reason why there are more than 1,000 types of flora and fauna? Is it strictly a visual enhancer?
MK: The huge variety of flora and fauna strengthens the visual realism of the game. Rather than just make a generic “tree” model, for example, we have several varieties of trees, each matching the real-world environment it would be found in. We’ve also included a wide range of unique buildings and architectural styles. Altogether these serve to make each encounter in Cossacks II a new experience.
Of the 150 unit types, how many are new?
MK: Given that the action in Cossacks II is set in the 19th century, it could be said that all of the units are new. While some are continuation of their counterparts in earlier historical periods featured in the prequels to this title, all have been tweaked and enhanced to reflect both the new period and also the new combat system.
Which units are the best? Which are the most effective in combat?
MK: There’s really no “best” general unit; combat in Cossacks II is more than just throwing units on the battlefield and hoping for the best outcome by massing them in a random fashion like most RTS titles. Instead, players will have a huge variety of units available to them that perform best as cohesive and well-disciplined armies.
Infantry works best as the grunts of the battlefield, providing the backbone around which engagements are framed and handling the brunt of the heavy lifting. Artillery provides support, fells enemy structures and strongholds, and devastates enemy morale if employed properly, softening them for the coup de gras. Specialized troops like grenadiers work as shock infantry, while cavalry can be best employed as extremely quick scout and interdiction troops, performing best in action that is quick and violent in nature. Cavalry does, however, lose steam and advantage in drawn out hand-to-hand battles.
Depending on the battle, the difficulty level selected and the opponent, varying strategies, approaches and unit compositions are required to prevail. We believe this will keep both novice and seasoned armchair emperors on their toes and encourage them to experiment with a wide range of approaches to achieving victory.
Thank you for your time.
Written by Louis Bedigian
Original date of publish: 16.03.2005