The expansion pack Cossacks: The Art of War is bound to leave some players of Cossacks: European Wars a bit conflicted. The add-on addresses some game issues that plagued the original, adds more units and campaigns, includes a competent scenario-editing program, and cleans up both single and multiplayer games. Conversely, many gamers familiar with this historical RTS may feel they’re paying for features that should have been included in the original, or at least been made available for free download in the form of a patch. Cossacks: The Art of War rewards the faithful fan with a refined RTS experience, but at a price.
Cossacks: The Art of War continues down the warpath established by its predecessor. The battles rage across the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries, leaving a bloody swath across Europe when the continent was crossing over from man to mechanical warfare. It was a period of Renaissance for most countries and the rebirth of scientific exploration found its way to the battlefield in the form of better cannons, reliable muskets, and improved navies. The expansion pack reflects these changes to the study of war in the form of new challenges and refinements to gameplay.
While Cossacks: European Wars had a plethora of land units to lead into battle, the seagoing vessels stole the show; thus, it comes as no surprise that six new units are ships, including Nelson’s Victory, a mammoth of a boat ready for battle. Once again, the frays between flotillas are a sight to behold. Several campaigns force you to defend coastal waters or escort units on transports to safe ports. Players expecting more units might want to take time to review the original lineup of forces; there are dozens at the ready, but since the series has a historical flavor, don’t expect much in the way of innovation in units.
Seasoned veterans will appreciate the addition of five new campaigns with over 30 missions. Generals can command armies across Prussia, Austria, Saxony, Algeria and Poland. Gamers wanting more information about the challenges can search the in-game encyclopedia, a mainstay from the first game that was wisely retained in this title. After completing the missions, six new single scenarios await, as well as the skirmish mode. If that isn’t enough, new multiplayer game mode “Territory Capture” will have fans returning to the ramparts to maintain control of the land for as long as possible. Finally, the game welcomes two new nations, Bavaria and Denmark, to the action with unique buildings and advantages.
All the above items mark the beginning of a decent expansion pack, and the slew of scenarios and campaigns nearly compensates for the lack of several new units. Extra marks are awarded for the scenario editor for creative players seeking to rewrite history. Yet, Cossacks: The Art of War touts many features that were notably absent from the original, such as extra difficulty levels in campaigns. Another selling point listed on the packaging is that worker AI actually sends units inside mines, a simple matter that hardly warrants mentioning. Alliances can now be struck with AI opponents, something that has been the RTS norm for several years, and even worse, special orders, such as guard, patrol, and attack for artillery units is labeled a new “feature.” Granted, the inclusion of these items helps improve the game immensely, but expansion packs should instill fresh life into gameplay, not merely install what should have been initially provided.
Cossacks: The Art of War still uses the lackluster sounds of the original, with no soundtrack and only marginal sound effects. Emphasis continues to focus on the graphics, with special attention paid to large battles between scores of units. Although the terrain still holds up under scrutiny, due in part to the minimal requirement of 1024×768 resolution, the miniature militias are beginning to look dated and are not particularly well animated. Missing motions, however, are less noticeable in large melees, especially at sea with the new ships and spectacular water fights. Unit control remains intuitive but slightly improved, and sorting out similar units from a crowd is simple, with formations fairly easy to manage.
Whether the expansion pack is a result of ill-planned game development or a well planned marketing strategy is unclear — perhaps it’s both. The add-on is a must for fans of the series that unfortunately had to deal with several inadequacies overlooked in the original. The scenario editor is a nice addition and the new challenges are impressive, but that accounts for nearly half the package. Cossacks: The Art of War is part patch and part expansion, and players will begrudgingly shell out for the experience. Gamers can only hope that the next title in the series will establish a solid foundation of action and features, leaving future expansion packs to focus on tweaking the fun, not adding the final touches.
The graphics engine is beginning to look dated, especially the infantry units. Landscapes are still impressive, as are the massive battles.
The sound department has gone AWOL. There is still no soundtrack and no noticeable upgrades in sound effects.
Paying for “features” like difficulty levels and generic unit orders detracts from product. Quality of new content almost makes up for it.
The expansion piles on additional scenarios and campaigns, and offers a decent scenario editor. Fans should find plenty to do for quite some time.
Continued support of the in-game encyclopedia is a smart move, since playing through historic battles may spark players’ interest to learn more.
INFORMATION ABOUT THIS CONTENT:
Date of publish: 24.04.2006
Author: Christopher Allen
Language of publish: english