Date of publish: 01/11/2020 12:42 CET
Volley! Cossacks II: Napoleonic Wars fires gamers back to the Napoleonic era, offering a smartly-paced real time strategy experience for history lovers. Cossacks offers a grand amount of entertaining playtime while sharpening the brain’s tactical prowess. The graphics and sound at times feel a bit lacking and the gameplay does have its frustrating moments, but overall CDV’s latest shines.
Cossacks features three main modes of play: a story-driven campaign, an imperialistic “Battle for Europe,” a plethora of random skirmish and battle challenges. The latter two modes can be taken online for a limitless and time consuming multiplayer experience after you’ve perfected your skills in the 1P mode. While the single-player campaign puts you in control of the English, you can play as any of six world powers in the other modes.
Gameplay puts you in charge of not only historically accurate armies, but town peasants used for constructing buildings and gathering resources. The latter adds some extra depth, but really CDV has focused on the tactics and strategies of battle. Since the game takes place in the Napoleonic era, this fighting aspect is very refreshing and more Chess-like in nature than RTS’s taking place in more modern times. Cossacks II puts you in control of more “civilized” soldiers, who march to the beat of a drum and line up in various tactical formations to face their enemies head-on in open fields.
Roads and bridges are very strategically important, and so it’s cool assigning troops to hold them down for defense rather than being constantly on the offensive. There are no guerilla tactics or sniping, perhaps mainly due to the rather rudimentary guns of the period. Since these rifles cannot be reloaded quickly, players must time their strikes and retreats carefully. It is not always to a battalion’s benefit to strike first, and trees and land elevation can be used to the player’s advantage.
There’s also a large variety of battalions at your disposal. Besides foot soldiers, you have a cavalry, cannons, defense specialists who double as bombers, and more. Cossacks forces you to pick which troops to use when and where, since each has its tactical strengths and weaknesses.
Also cool is the institution of morale for the troops. Work them too hard or put them up against too tough a foe, and their morale is sure to drop. Keep your officers and drummers alive, win battles and make sure you have enough resources to keep them fed and morale will be high. Many times you can win (or lose for that matter) a battle not because all of the enemy is dead, but because they’re too scared to fight and instead decide to scatter.
The play can be a bit frustrating at times and although there are three difficulty settings, the lowest one is called “Normal.” Fortunately, you can save at any time, and keep playing until you get through each challenge that comes your way.
Like the first Cossacks, Napoleonic Wars uses a 2D graphics engine. This makes the game feel a bit dated. I often felt a little too separated from the action at the default zoom and there’s no way to move in closer. While the gameplay behind battles is really quite deep, the graphics often make you feel like you’re battling with a bunch of red and blue ants, instead of human soldiers. The graphics by no means look terrible, the landscapes and towns are well detailed and it almost feels like looking at a painting (think Baldur’s Gate) it’s just that there’s no real awe factor.
Cossacks features a bunch of orchestrated tunes befitting of the era, exuding that classic “glory on the battlefield” feel. Sound effects fit into the game well enough too. The main audio problem comes from the voice work, which is overall very bland. It’s usually acceptable but there are some irksome things specifically their accents. In campaign mode, there’s a guy who doesn’t sound English at all. In fact, he sounds like an American soldier from World War II! But this is a minor qualm really.
While not the most visually or aurally stunning, Napoleonic Wars has fun gameplay and a lot of lasting appeal and replay value. If the era intrigues you and you’re hankering for some strategy, Cossacks II is definitely a good bet.
Written by Adam “Nightwing” Bender
Original date of publish: 10.06.2005