Date of publish: 01/11/2020 13:05 CET
The Cossacks range of games (and there are a fair few of them) has always held a special place in the armchair strategists heart. Taking a more serious RTS approach from the likes of Red Alert, and Act of War, Cossacks II: The Napoleonic Wars from developers GSC Gameworld and publishers CDV has the realism and strategic planning to blow all similar titles apart, but is this one franchise to many?
The menu system gives off some good vibes from the outset with many different modes of play available to play straight off the bat. The skirmish mode is excellent if you want to get in some practice for multiplayer matches as it doesn’t bog you down with objectives. Of course you also have the full campaign mode (which starts off with a decent tutorial) and a side campaign featuring a battle for Europe.
In a move that is certainly a step up from the previous mix of the hunter/gatherer/warrior styles of Real Time Strategy Cossacks II certainly looks like the armchair strategists dream. Using diplomacy as the first line for your empire expansion adds a nice twist to the usual RTS. There is also the resource demands of an army in the field, as Napoleon himself said “An Army marches on its stomach” well, not only do you have food to supply, but ammunition and other resources as well. These will usually have to be ‘acquired’ from the enemy; this is done by eliminating the auxiliary troops nearby.
The morale system certainly offers up some interesting twists to the gameplay. Shoot and destroy nearby enemy units and your responsible units morale will rise, but likewise if you find your units getting ambushed your units morale will decline. Morale can also be increased by having certain unit types close by. For example having a drummer lead a unit into battle will rouse the troops and make the whole unit a more formidable force. It’s a lot to take in at times but once you get to grip with what effects the units and why a lot of the games strategy goes become second nature. You also have further units that improve the morale of your troops, namely the standard bearer (flag carrier) and of course the officer (unit leader).
The battles though are still there, especially if you take the campaign route, after some in-game training (a simple introduction to unit tactics and unit cohesion) you go through set missions keeping the units you have already used in the previous mission. Now reinforcements are available usually at set points although the foot soldiers can be replenished if you control a village and station the unit nearby. Another point to take heed of is morale, the lower your units experience along with the morale will determine if that unit breaks under combat. If they find themselves under attack from unexpected areas etc they may just turn tail on you. Another factor is in the fatigue rating, moving a unit tires them out, keep them moving too much and the fatigue drops to a point that slows them down and starts eating into their morale too. If they were then to be sent into combat they’d be at real risk from any concerted attack or defence from your opponent. These are just some points that you have to take into consideration in this game.
And the armchair general doesn’t just have to worry about the 140 units available in the game but also has access to over 170 building types. Due to the fact that the Napoleonic area was relatively short period in time the actual tech tree might not be as complicated as some may like (in actual fact everything is available from the outset) but realistically that shouldn’t be a problem. The eight races available all offer up enough different styles of play to make sure this one stays on your hard drive for some time to come.
Graphically Cossacks II Napoleonic Wars is a step up from the previous games in the Cossacks series. It does use the same engine as was seen in the Alexander game (also from developers Gameworld) but everything seems far more polished. You can still zoom in and out for a better look at proceedings but unfortunately the maps are set in a fixed position so actually rotating the map is not possible. This didn’t detract from the gameplay in the slightest but some players used to full cameral control may be slightly disappointed. The soundtrack was especially enjoyable with some rousing classical music playing throughout. It was also pleasing to see that the voice acting has improved substantially in the preview version we received a few months ago.
Cossacks will certainly appeal to armchair strategists with or without a keen interest in the Napoleonic era. This is in large parts to the wonderful presentation and keen attention to detail that over the years the Cossacks series has become known for. Some people may not like the at times annoying menu system but with a little perseverance there is simply no reason why you shouldnt add the Napoleonic Wars to your Cossacks collection.
- Morale system
- Multiple modes of play
- In game menus
- Slightly dated
Written by James Collins
Original date of publish: 22.04.2005