Date of publish: 21/10/2020 19:24 CET
Napoleon Bonaparte might not have an item of footwear named after him (unlike his eventual nemesis), but he still managed to become one of the world’s greatest military tacticians (or a jumped-up little megalomaniac, depending on which history books you read). The vertically-challenged vanquisher also claimed that history was “the version of past events that people have decided to agree upon”, so it’s unclear how he would have felt about being the star of his own ‘historical’ computer game. Nevertheless, Bonaparte’s celebrated campaigns are about to be recreated with unprecedented fidelity in GSC Game World’s Cossacks II: Napoleonic Wars.
Like the Tom Jones of computer games, the first Cossacks was one of those titles that came out of nowhere and went on to sell millions. The Ukrainian RTS captivated gamers with its historical zgameplay (depicting real-life battles), a powerful engine that made the individual civilisations come to life, and – the feature that has come to characterise all of GSC’s strategy offerings – the sheer number of troops you could create.
The Emperor’s New Clothes
Now, Cossacks is back, in full 3D no less. The historic setting is still there, this time focusing on Napoleon’s campaigns during the early 19th Century. The population count has been stepped-up, allowing for up to 64,000 units on a map simultaneously, and the engine is a shiny new homegrown model.
“Cossacks II is a logical continuation of the original game,” explains GSC’s Oleg Yavorsky. “The previous installment ended in the 18th Century. That’s why the early 19th-century setting is very fitting for this game. Undeniably, the Napoleonic era is a very popular period in history, so we thought gamers would find it interesting if we explored that epoch.”
The rise of Napoleon also coincided with a new era of more ‘civilised’ warfare, with troop formations becoming an important part of military strategies, something the developers are keen to reflect in the game. The 64,000 potential units available will make for some truly impressive formations, while a powerful zoom feature means you’ll be able to view your battles in their entire splendour. And if direct intervention at this scale becomes too tiring, you can issue military orders through new commander-in-chief units.
Fields Of Battle
Many of the battlefield considerations implemented in the Cossacks original will return in the sequel, including morale and the need to sustain troops with resources from your economy, along with new features like fatigue, which kicks in if you march units too far. Your weary troops will be forced to rest, making you extremely vulnerable to attacks.
The new 3D engine in Cossacks II also means terrain will play an even greater part in your military strategies. Troops will be able to see and shoot further from higher ground (as in the original game), but this time gunnery units won’t be able to fire through forests, while cavalry and artillery units will find muddy ground hard going. GSC is also implementing weather effects such as snow and rain, and knowing how they like everything to be as realistic as possible, we wouldn’t be surprised if these had some bearing on your troop movement and morale as well.
One of the main differences between Cossacks II and its predecessor is that while the original contained 16 nations (with another two in the expansion pack Cossacks: Art of War), the sequel focuses on just six nations. “Though quite short, the Napoleonic period appears to be an important landmark in history,” explains Yavorsky. “The game will feature all the nations that played major roles during that dramatic time: France, Britain, Austria, Russia, Prussia and Egypt. Despite having fewer nations, the overall number of game units will nearly double.”
In fact, the number of unique units in the game totals over 150, with the buildings weighing in at an impressive 180. Although some of the architecture will have similar names to those in Cossacks, Oleg is keen to point out that, in terms of functionality, they will all be very different.
Units too have been updated to match the period, as Yavorsky explains. “We went a step further while working on the units. The Grenadier, for instance, will be able to shoot, thrust and throw grenades, as previously, but the difference now is that he does not have an infinite number of grenades, being limited to just a handful. When exploding, grenades will generate splinters to damage units nearby. We’ve also implemented features like realistic bullet physics and friendly fire.”
One of the really compelling features of the Cossacks world is the way the developers give the economy and military much more of an intrinsic link. If you want to wage an effective war, you need to have the resources to back it up: iron and coal for your artillery, food for your troops and gold to keep paying your mercenaries. A lack of any one of these can turn the tide of a battle against you.
In Cossacks II the economic side has been considerably expanded, adding the ability to set up trade routes between cities and villages under your control. Players will be able to implement loads of economic warfare, such as creating blockades and employing an economy minister. “The models of resource collecting and production are going to get a bit more complex, yet also more spectacular,” reveals Yavorsky. “Manufacturing a cannon, for instance, will take several stages, starting from resource procurement, delivery, moulding the barrel, producing a wooden base and finally assembling all the components into a new gun. Blockading a city to prevent resources from coming into the capital will be another way to win the war, for instance. So, there will be many interesting sides to your economy in the game.”
Clearly this level of micromanagement is not for everyone. But if it’s historic detail and strategic depth – on a truly immense scale – you’re looking for, then you’re clearly going to love Cossacks II. You’ve still got a few months to wait before you can unleash the thousands of Napoleonic hordes onto your PC, but in the meantime we’ll be bringing you regular reports from the battlefield.
Written by PC Zone
Original date of publish: 15.10.2003