Date of publish: 30/10/2020 21:11 CET
The Napoleonic War era, where armies fought like civilized gentlemen and stood just yards away while taking turns shooting each other until one army came out victorious. Cossacks II, the latest real-time strategy game by GSC Game World, will put you in command of one of six great powers of the era to dominate the entire European continent. The new game adds a much upgraded graphical look to the series and a significant number of new features, but the core gameplay still remains the same, which is good news to the fans of the Cossacks series.
The single-player portion of the game features a short campaign, Battle for Europe, and skirmish modes. The campaign is rather loose in facts which will disappoint many history buffs. You’ll be put in control of a British officer trying to save his country from rebels initiating a civil war that is supported by the French. Mission difficulty ranges from easy to frustrating and between them, you’ll be treated with static cutscenes and poor but amusing voice-acting. The campaign feels like an extended tutorial and will introduce you to new game concepts and strategies along the way.
Battle for Europe is one of the newest features seen in the Cossacks series. Here you’ll fight your way through entire European continent in turn-based mode. Very similar to that of Total War series as you manage your army movement and can upgrade defenses in your provinces. Each turn your provinces produce certain amount of resources, so capturing key provinces is crucial towards your conquest of Europe. The more your general fights, the more experience he will gain. With each new promotion, the game will allow you to add more units and different unit types into your main army to help take on the heaviest defenses. Unfortunately that is all you can actually do on the campaign map. You’re only allowed to control one army and that army can only move one space per turn. The European map is also very small as it only contains 24 provinces shared between England, France, Egypt, Russia, Prussia, and Austria. There is also no naval combat which played a vital role during the Napoleonic Wars.
The battles in Battle for Europe take you into real-time skirmish mode. Each province is depicted with its own skirmish map and victory conditions. There are usually two ways to win the battle, you either have to rout the opposing army or complete the main objectives on the map. Capturing villages is crucial since they replenish resources, add morale bonuses, and help replace lost troops from combat.
The last single player mode is the skirmish. Here you can choose one of ten maps to wage your war on and select one of the six nations to lead. At the start of game, you’ll be granted some peasants to begin constructing your standard buildings like town hall, barracks, store houses, and so on. With only a limited number of structures at your disposal, you’ll primarily focus on building and managing your army. Resource gathering is simplified by capturing villages. Each village has an icon representing the type of resource it produces. Once captured, the village will automatically recruit peasants to start extracting the resource. Villages can also be upgraded to gather resources at higher rate. The other skirmish options are the historical battles. There are ten to choose from with pre-designed army formations and victory conditions. There is no base building or resource gathering in the historical battles.
The multiplayer has several interesting options including Land War, which lets players fight for pieces of national territory on a map of Europe. The idea behind this mode is to select the nation to attack and it will automatically match you up with an opponent similar to your rank. The more you win the more territory you can grab for your country. The other option is to play a traditional skirmish battle playing head-to-head or in teams. Just like in single player, you are limited to only two nations to battle it out. So playing on a team means that two people will run the same nation. This can offload some micromanagement and lead to fun matches. Since there is no Battle for Europe in multiplayer mode, you’re restricted to skirmish, battles, and Land War.
The game does suffer from ingame bugs and missing key features. When playing with the latest patch, some of your buildings will disappear and reappear from time to time. Also the enemy formations will sometimes decide to become rebels and start fighting each other. The game can also crash and freeze especially during multiplayer. Some save-games can become corrupted so it’s best to keep several save-game files, otherwise you’ll have to restart campaign or skirmish from scratch. The lack of bigger maps, a random map generator, and no ability to play against several different opponents at the same time greatly reduces the game’s replay ability. With a buggy and difficult to use map editor, the mod community will have a hard time prolonging the life of this game.
But overall, the game does offer nice improvements with the presentation and strategic level. This time your troops stay within formation. In previous Cossacks games, your troops had a tendency to move out of formation to take shot at enemy troops. In Cossacks II, you now have the ability to set first, second or third rank to fire, or you could just let all your troops take a volley shot. Distance plays a key factor in the damage your shots do, but thankfully it can easily be determined by pressing the ALT key which will display a color-coded range to help you do the maximum damage. Each shot you make better count as it can take upwards of a minute for your men to reload. Morale is also extremely important because it will help you win battles against far greater numbers. Roads play an important factor as they are your only means to travel long distances. When troops march without using a road, they’ll quickly become exhausted and loose morale. Thus it’s possible to create chokepoints to prevent easy entry to your villages.
The artificial intelligence is relentless when it comes to resource management. Even when you completely capture all the resource-producing villages and surround the AI with your armies, it will still survive for quite some time and produce more soldiers by selling off stocks of its resources on the market. Unfortunately the AI does some silly things with its armies. It tends to push cannons right at your army only to get shot up by your men. It will also continue sending wave after wave of troops to their deaths. However, the AI is good at exposing and taking advantage of your flanks and will also try to draw you into combat to remove any defensive bonuses you have.
Once again GSC employs some of the best artistic talent in the field. Still using the same 2D engine, the artistry is nothing short of spectacular as the game is a lot more colorful and richer in appearance than before. Each structure contains a huge amount of detail that just couldn’t be accomplished using a 3D engine. You’ll also be presented with ingame video clips of Napoleonic War reenactments which play in a small window that is not obtrusive. Although there is not much variety in the video clips, they can easily be turned off in the options when you get tired of watching them.
Unfortunately same thing can’t be said about the music. The heavy synthesized orchestral music can get quite tiresome, and as time goes by, you’ll want nothing more than to turn it off completely. The sound effects on the other hand are fantastically done and are true to the time period. With a good sound system, you’ll be able to hear the power of muskets and cannons with each shot. Background ambient sounds are also well done with winds flowing, birds chirping, and armies chit-chatting like in a crowded place.
Cossacks II makes for a very enjoyable experience with a much slower pace than of those other real-time strategy games that are basically click-fests. If you’re a fan of Cossacks or like the time period, it’s definitely worth checking out Cossacks II.
Verdict : Cossacks II is a great game that will appeal to anyone interested in the Napoleonic time period.
Pro’s : Visually impressive, easy army controls and management, simplified resource management, nice sound effects, and in-game video clips of war reenactments.
Con’s : Poor music, somewhat buggy game, patch 1.1 makes things even worse, lack of historical campaign, lack of depth in Battle for Europe mode, lack of random map generator, and sluggish AI.
Rating : 77 %
Written by Rafael Dudek
Original date of publish: 13.06.2005