Date of publish: 25/10/2020 17:40 CET
Welcome to 19th Century Europe. Welcome to the century revolving around the Napoleonic wars. This is an age of black powder weapons where you will be in command of various units from Musketeers to Grenadiers and from Cavalry to Cannons. There will be no radio, few supply lines, and many casualties.
Unlike most Tactical RTS games currently available, Cossacks 2 will force you to develop more sophisticated strategic skills. In Medieval period RTS games, you can basically throw your knights against the infantry and let them duke it out. Swords, bows and arrows, lances, and pitchforks are the staple for the period and don’t require a lot of skill to manipulate. This is not to say that Medieval RTS games don’t require skills in strategy and tactics – it definitely helps to know the best units to assault that keep with. In Modern RTS games you can throw your tanks against the defensive positions and let them duke it out. Here you have autoloading rifles, machineguns, tanks, aircraft and artillery. And again, it’s a case of mass your units and assault that hill! And again, it’s not a case of modern combat not requiring strategy and tactics skills; knowing the best types of units to assault that Panzer division will make a difference.
Cossacks 2 will take you to a realm of RTS gaming that is unlike the medieval or modern combat. You will be in an era of history where you will still find men on horseback with sabers charging into battle (though just not in that shiny plate armor of the Crusades) and right next to them will be a mass of men with black powder weapons. It is an era where the battle tactics are still trying to adapt to the advances in the tools with which war is waged. Combat still occurs in relatively close quarters; and unlike ages past where you would have a group of swordsmen leading the charge with a group of archers in the rear to clear the way, everyone is armed with a ranged weapon that can also be used as a spear. You march up to the opposing force, take your shot and then charge into hand-to-hand combat.
This is very unlike modern combat where you have, for instance, an M1 rifle with 8 shots in the clip and can continue to fire at your enemy and once it’s empty it takes you only seconds to reload and resume shooting. In the 19th century with your black powder rifle you get one shot, count ’em, one. And then your choice is to try to reload before your enemy gets too close – which could take you a minute or more to do – or charge into melee range and hope you don’t get shot…or run away. Definitely not an easy choice by any means.
This is the crux of the period of warfare in which Cossacks 2 is based. Yes, it is true that war is never pleasant or neat and tidy. In the 19th century your tactical ability will be the primary determination between victory and defeat. Fire too soon and your enemy may be too far away for the shot to be effective. You’ll then find yourself vulnerable to counter attack. Fire too late and you may give your enemy time to get their shot off first. Flanking a unit with your cavalry will divide its fire and allow you to roll up their line while minimizing their ability to shoot back effectively. So many choices, so many options it will keep you on the edge of your seat.
Combat in Cossacks 2 is not only about rifles and cavalry, it’s also about the men that make up the units at your disposal. And yes, I say disposal because at times that seems to be what your doing with them as you grind them up against that defensive position like a block of cheese on a grater. Cossacks 2 has a detailed and involved system for unit integrity and morale. Units with Officers, Drummers and Banner Carriers attached to them are better organized, have higher morale and greater unit integrity. Units that are without their command structure will tend to break more often and won’t be as effective in combat; they’ll also find themselves at a distinct disadvantage when facing off against enemies that do have officers and drummers with them.
Not only is morale an issue in the game but you will also have to pay attention to your units’ fatigue levels. If you should decide to push your men too hard and force march them into a fight without giving them the chance to rest, their morale levels will be low and they will be susceptible to shock and breaking during the encounter.
Cossacks 2 also has an excellent resource management system for building, managing and maintaining your military and the infrastructure that supports it. There are 6 resources that you have to seek out and harvest: Iron, Wood, Stone, Gold, Food and Coal. The absence of any one of these resources can significantly hinder your war effort. Every unit that you build, every building that you construct and even the simple act of blowing the hell out of the enemy uses resources – some more than others. You will not only have to deal with defending your territory while attempting to annex the enemy’s territory but you will also have to deal with making sure that your troops are fed and that they have the necessary gunpowder and bullets with which to carry on the war effort.
The building of your military requires that you pay attention to the infrastructure of your civilization. For instance, to get officers and drummers out of your barracks you will have to first build an Academy where they can be trained. To begin building your stables so that you can hear the thunder of hundreds of hooves pounding across the field in a charge, you first have to build yourself a blacksmith. The list goes on and on, the manner in which you want to wage war will help to determine what needs to be built during each individual encounter.
When you start the game up you will have the option to play in Campaign mode or in Skirmish mode. Skirmishes are individual battles that have simple victory conditions revolving around capturing the enemy’s territory and are played on a number of different maps. The Campaign mode also deals with capturing the enemy’s territory, but in a much larger scale and over the course of numerous battles. The Campaign mode is also very RISK-like in that Europe is broken into a number of “provinces” that you will be working at taking control of through individual battles.
There are 6 nations that you will have the option of controlling: France, Britain, Austria, Russia, Prussia and Egypt. Each nation has a distinct look and feel; each nation has their own unique units and advantages. And each unit has its own distinct uniform and function on the battlefield. It will behoove you to pay attention to your enemy and become familiar with their units to better serve you when facing them on the field of battle.
The graphics quality in Cossacks 2 is excellent and the attention to detail magnificent, both in the environment and in the individual units that are roaming about the countryside. Cossacks 2 also boasts a great run of special effects that will become evident during gameplay – smoke from the firing of weapons that will obscure the field, burning buildings, cannon shot flying through the air and more. Sound effects and music are right on and help to immerse you into the period for which the game is set.
As for negative points for the game, there are a few but not really significant enough to cause the game any serious grief. Currently, there is no way to adjust game speed, which is not that big of a deal except that there is so much going on in the game that its nearly impossible to manage it all at once. Trying to keep up with the computer as it can manage it all without breaking a sweat can be difficult to say the least. Also, there is no way to search out individual units. Some of them are so small – like a sapper unit for instance that is made up of 15 men – they get lost very easily in the countryside if you should forget where you sent them during the heat of battle.
There is no in-game help function or ability to change the keyboard mapping – again not a huge deal. The last point is that there is no way to change any game settings or to turn off various aspects of the game like reducing the graphics quality so there is no way to compensate for an older system and reduce the processing load.
Overall Cossacks 2 is a great game that has challenged my RTS skills and forced me to adjust the way that I play computer games. It has given me the opportunity to learn a bit more about a period of history that I was not as familiar with before playing the game and in general exposed me to a new arena of RTS gaming. I highly recommend Cossacks 2 to anyone out there that is a history buff for the Napoleonic era and wants a challenge in strategy gaming.
Written by Carl “DermiUrgoss” Pabst, Jr.
Original date of publish: 27.04.2005