Date of publish: 24/10/2020 14:46 CET
As a fan of real time strategy games I, like thousands of others, played the original Cossacks: European Wars. And so I jumped at the opportunity to preview the highly anticipated Cossacks II: Napoleonic Wars. Being inundated with a series of reviews and previews for turn based strategy games didn’t hurt either.
As a genre, real time strategy has not changed overmuch. In most cases the core of real time strategies revolve around the most effective patterns and practices for collecting and managing resources. Resources mean production. Production means units. Units mean armies. And armies are what it’s all about.
That has nothing to do with strategy of course, but it is often the most dominant element in a real time strategy game. The strategy portion of games of this type is centered on the various units that comprise the armies and that makes the strategy all about personal play style. For instance, there are defensive type players who spend the early minutes of a game building up walls and other defensive structures and there are rush type players who crank out massive amounts of the cheapest units as quickly as possible in an attempt to overwhelm another player.
This basic premise and the necessity of certain interface elements to manage and control units have always evoked questions as to the viability of future real time strategy titles, and the genre as a whole. After all, how many Warcraft, Age of Empires or Total Annihilation knock-offs can the industry stomach?
Companies such as GSC Game World, the developer of Cossacks II: Napoleonic Wars, are answering these questions by focusing on particular elements of what a strategy game can provide. In the case of Cossacks II, the focus is on historical accuracy in both the visual elements and the combat capabilities of the units of the age.
The era of the Napoleonic Wars covers all of Europe and parts of Asia from 1792 to 1815. As you might expect, the units from each of the six major nations are represented. Units such as Musketeers, Grenadiers, Dragoons and the various types of artillery have all been accurately recreated in both form and function.
And that is the heart of Cossacks II. You see, the wars of the 19th century were as much about pageantry as they were about victories and politics. The uniforms were brightly colored and lavishly trimmed. Officers rode noble steeds while donning helmets that were burnished to such a shine they would reflect the light of the sun and draw attention to them. This is Europe in the 19th century, the time of Napoleon, where war is a macabre parade of fashion and death.
Not being a historian, or even an enthusiast of military history, I am not intimately familiar with all of the details of this, or any other period. But even with my limited knowledge it is very clear that Napoleonic Wars is about the details. From the types of formations, to the colors of the uniforms, the standards, the drummers, even the plumage of the officers. It’s all there.
Another interesting feature is the use of live action video to represent the particular command the player has set. The footage is of good quality and looks as though it was taken from a major reenactment. If the player issues a movement command to a group of units, a window will show a live action scene of actors in full regalia performing a formation movement action. Set off a barrage of artillery fire and the window will display the re-enactors firing off some artillery as well. It’s a nice touch and historians and re-enactors will probably really enjoy it, however, after I had been through each scene a couple of times it became a distraction.
For me, aside from the attention to historical accuracy, the standout feature of Napoleonic Wars is massive battles that can be waged. The marketing literature states that battles can reach the “real historical scale” of up to sixty four thousand units. While I certainly never got close to building that many units, I was able to easily field an army in excess of one thousand units without the slightest impact to graphics performance. On a related note, I had a really difficult time breaking myself of the habit of trying to create arbitrary squads of units. Napoleonic Wars follow historical military doctrine in the formation of groups of units as well. In order to create a group and issue group commands (like what formation to assume), you must first produce the minimum number of required units. For infantry I believe that is 160 and for cavalry it is 45. Only when you have produced and selected this specific number of units can you form them into a single, cohesive object. I kept trying to combine Musketeers with Grenadiers and hitting ALT+1. Trust me, it doesn’t work.
Thankfully I know this is preview code, and as such I know there will be problem. However, I am concerned about some of the problems that might arise from the language translations. For the most part the improper spelling of words and incorrect grammar will not be an issue. However, there are several circumstances, particularly within the tutorial, where the phrasing of an objective can be ambiguous or misleading. A minor issue to be sure, but one that can be frustrating for players and easily resolved.
Despite some issue with the tutorial and the translation problems with some of the text, this preview code for Cossacks II: Napoleonic Wars was very solid. Based on my experiences with this preview I would say that Napoleonic Wars is at the very least worthy of its predecessor and will hold particular appeal to fans of the Cossacks series and military history enthusiasts.
Written by Will “Rhoam” Lally
Original date of publish: 29.03.2005