Date of publish: 31/10/2020 19:20 CET
Cossacks II: Napoleonic Wars is the latest sequel to the cult classic series, Cossacks: European Wars. It is a real time strategy game set in, you guessed it, Napoleon’s age of conquest! The player can select to play as any of six playable European powers, ranging from France, Egypt, Prussia, England, Austria, and Russia. But even the great conqueror fell to the Russian snows, so how far will this game named after him go?
Cannonball to the face!
There is a depth to Cossacks II: Napoleonic Wars that is great for tactics buffs. If the player wants his troops to be well protected, hide them in the woods, as it provides decent cover from bullets. Swamps absorb cannonball blasts, holding one’s ground gives a bonus to their melee ability, and higher ground gives a bonus to shooting. I felt sorry for the game as I opened it, because I love strategy games—and I’m not easy to impress (unless something is shiny, then you have me won).
The missions themselves revolve around the capturing of villages. Each village contains its own natural resource that the player wants to control for their war machine. Villages are protected by their own militiamen, who need to be subdued before the village falls under your control. Should you garrison a unit in the village, any losses they take will be replaced by the local militia, effectively healing your legions.
The game does have incredibly long load times. I would have to launch the game, and go do something productive until it loaded—I timed it at ten to fifteen minutes on the 2 gigahertz computer I was reviewing it on. And forgive me for the people I offended who were close by when the game quit on me. I can scream some vulgar sayings when I am forced to wait for it to load twice in one afternoon.
Quick keys are a must in this game. They’re easy to remember, and make it so your mouse isn’t indisposed in a moment of need. Checking musket ranges, affixing bayonets, and shouting the order to fire are all at your fingertips.
The game interface is simple and easy for anyone who has played a real time strategy game before, with a large picture of the unit and all its statistics visible. The Age of Empires-style of building construction that has become the mainstay system in real time strategy games is apparent in Cossacks II.
If anyone says anything about Dynamite, I’m going to sic the dogs of war on them.
The graphics of Cossacks II receive stars in some areas, but coal for Christmas in other areas. I was impressed by the actual building size relative to the troops. This may be the first real time strategy game that I have seen where the troops are not oversized when compared to the structures. This in itself provides a feel that is unmatched by most other games— an accurate immersion into the world. The troops themselves are simple sprite animations, however, they are intricate ones. Peasants fan themselves with their hats, and soldiers whip out rags to clean their guns when you aren’t ordering them around. For video and opening cut scenes, Cossacks II seems to have employed a troupe of reenactors to operate the old muskets and perform melee action for your viewing pleasure.
I didn’t know Egyptian peasants said, “In a Jiffy!”
The sound of Cossacks II is mediocre at best. I am thankful for the music track playing on top of the game, otherwise I would have nothing to tickle my senses during the long loading sequences. During the training campaign, the player is supposedly an English Lieutenant being instructed in the ways of troop building, movement: all the subtleties of commanding your forces in Cossacks II. Your instructor doesn’t have a lick of an English accent. The voice actor doesn’t even come close to trying to make one either—instead, we get a deep guttural German voice, parading behind the British flag. What he says and what the subtitles say he says, are two totally separate things. The header of this section is relating my exact words of surprise when I played as Egypt in Skirmish to discover that everyone during Napoleon’s time had an English accent (except for my training instructor).
The attention to historical detail in this game is a very nice addition. A button to the lower left of each unit gives the option to display the units historical info, which brings up a box detailing the reasons for English drafting, or Scottish highlander units. They’re humorous if you take the time to read each one. The game is also fun because of the incredible strategy involved. Most real time strategy games out on the market have units that adhere strongly to a paper-beats rock-beats scissors gets trumped by atomic lightsaber grenade battle system. In Cossacks II, its all about taking risks, and should you let that enemy unit walk closer before you shout the order to open fire? Or play the safe route and try and get in a second volley? You almost need a war counsel to help you play the game. I highly praise that feature, as it gives me a more hands on micromanagement factor to the game. Replayability component is offered up to the gamers in the form of the Battle for Europe feature. Think Lords of the Realm II meets Risk, and you’ll be set for several long drawn days. Moral and fatigue are awesome additions to any game. I can’t even begin to relate how large a factor this plays in real warfare, and just adds that much more to it here in the video game.
Ah, my reviewer’s rant section.
There is one thing that I the reviewer would like to touch on in the Plasmafactor bonus category. The first being how society today needs instant gratification. If something cannot be done now or quickly, and heaven forbid we have to wait for it, then it is not worth our time. Life gets hectic, and returning from University to work six days a week prohibits most idle fun time that I would have spent on playing video games. Cossacks II has a brilliant idea for a game, I do not doubt that in the slightest—it is just too big for me to get into. Back during those middle/high school days of summer when work was not a life-consuming factor, video games were the saving grace to keep me from losing my sanity—I would play games for days at a time because they were a challenge. The loading times for this game set me back, but perhaps it is just the computer that play the game on. This game is challenging, all the gamer needs to do is take a look at the Battle for Europe feature for that, not to mention the possible multiplayer fun that the game has to offer.
The enemy has broken, pursue!
Cossacks II: Napoleonic Wars is one of the niftiest ideas for a strategy game I have seen in a while. The ranged weapon system and the dynamic terrain bits truly trump most old real time strategy games. No longer is the game about sending a unit who takes off X amount of hit points from the enemy unit, now there is the question and uncertainty about distance, external modifiers, so on and so forth. It leads to a more enjoying game experience, and after all my complaining, it may just outweigh the loading times. Affix bayonets!
Written by Erik Pearsall
Original date of publish: 19.06.2005