If historical strategy games are beardy, then Cossacks (please forgive the pathetically vague analogy) is the Will Riker of strategy games. It’s still a beard, it’s still got biscuit crumbs and coffee stains nestling in it, but it’s sharp, it’s dynamic and… it’s real-time. Cossacks featured all the depth of the traditionally turn-based historical strategy game and gave you control over everything as it happened. No ‘end of turn’ buttons and no endless waiting while the enemy slaughtered your peasants.
Now we have the Art of War add-on pack and it follows the standard expansion design philosophy of more, bigger, better. Or at least, for the most part it does. But AoW also adds some interesting new features that, if you missed it the first time round, might make you want to take another look at this real-time heavyweight.
Bloody mayhem is everywhere.
It’s with the idea that ‘bigger is better’ that AoW developer GSC Gameworld decided to implement maps no less than four times the size of the originals, which, in case you were wondering, is big. Very, very big. Although you couldn’t call any maps in the original “small,” some in AoW are absolute whoppers and will very likely take some serious thought and planning to get your head around. They look just the job for a four- or five-way slugfest with still enough elbow room to amass some serious firepower. There is a drawback in that they really need 256Mb RAM in order to run properly, but hey, if you’ve got it, flaunt it.
Another groovy little feature they’ve thrown in is the addition of a map and mission editor. Both are an absolute piece of cake to use: land is raised and lowered Populous style and resources, troops and scenery can simply be plonked down on the landscape where required. It’s not difficult to come up with some halfway decent looking maps and, when you combine it with the new larger sizes available, there should be some really interesting fan-made stuff available when this hits the streets. So who fancies a fight across Europe playable in real-time?
Multiplayer warlords will also be able to find out if they really are as good as they think they are with the new multiplayer rating system. Internet players get ranked according to how they carry out various political or military activities, and can gain different coats of arms and even new titles, ranging from esquire right through to king.
Chill out, Nasty-type Person
There’s also a new peacetime mode whereby the use of your troops can be limited – you can define an amount of time at the start of each game dedicated to a ceasefire. There’s also the option to stop your peasants and artillery being captured whenever an enemy unit wanders by – something that could be annoying at times in the original. Troops also have slightly more flexibility. They can now be assigned to guard specific buildings or other units, and they can also be sent out onto patrol. To be honest, though, the patrol is restricted to just two waypoints and therefore is somewhat limited in application.
Naturally, there are also more units available to take advantage of this. AoW will include six new ships, two new unique Prussian units (18th Century infantrymen and the Hussar), six new buildings and new types of formation. Fortunately, you’ve now got the ability to issue orders while the game is paused, which makes the whole thing much more manageable and will probably give you chance to actually use those new formations rather than frantically clicking everywhere every time the enemy so much as looks like invading.
Before and after.
Of course, there’s also the usual kind of additions you get with expansion packs: five new campaigns, six new single-player missions and six new historical battles will give fans much opportunity to stroke their beard. Bavaria and Denmark are also available as two new playable nations, which I’m sure is very exciting for a lot of people. Okay, maybe just some people. All right, maybe two people, both called Jeff.
Cynicism aside, Cossacks: Art of War looks set to add some seriously useful features to the original. It probably isn’t going to make any non-strategy fans embrace the game in wonder at its magnificence, but if you weren’t too keen on Cossacks, it could very well be worth checking out AoW to see if the problem’s been dealt with. Due out early next year, this could prove a genuinely worthwhile add-on pack. Whatever next?
INFORMATION ABOUT THIS CONTENT:
Date of publish: around 17.12.2001
Author: James Kay
Language of publish: english