Date of publish: 30/10/2020 19:36 CET
It’s difficult to make a strategy game that is both historically realistic and playable. Cossacks II: Napoleonic Wars, the latest RTS from GSC, is just the most recent example of how it shouldn’t be done.
While units don the uniforms and equipment of the Napoleonic era, Cossacks II’s gameplay is full of anachronisms. The single-player campaign, for example, has a silly story line involving a coup and French invasion of central England. Also, units don’t behave like their historical counterparts. Grenadiers actually throw grenades (phased out in the 1700s), musketry is overpowered, and cavalry and artillery are ineffective. These skewed capabilities negate the need for combined arms, and the resulting battles are too quick and arcadey.
Cossacks II errs with regard to playability as well. Rather than focusing on grand battles, you must build your armies of thousands one soldier at a time, manage resources, and build bases, as in every other RTS. Worst of all, each unit has to be given the order to fire individually. The secret to winning a battle isn’t creative maneuvers or inspired tactics. Rather, the unit that fires the first volley at close range will usually rout the enemy.
But it’s not all bad. Cossacks II has a horde of scenarios, multiplayer options for deathmatch and co-op play, and a “battle for Europe” mode that’s probably the best part of the game. Here, you control one of six great European powers trying to dominate the continent, with a heavy focus on battle tactics. When you fight for control of a province, you must fight for certain strategic areas as well as villages that provide your armies with necessary supplies. These battles force you to focus on logistics, roads, and fatigue–factors that too many strategy games ignore.
Cossacks II contains the building blocks for a great game. But it tries too hard to be both playable and realistic and doesn’t get either right.
Written by Di Luo
Original date of publish: 26.07.2005