Certain types of game can be deceptively tricky to review. While the majority of games are likely to appeal more to fans of their specific genre than others, titles like Cossacks 2: Battle for Europe tend to split gamers into three very distinct camps. The most predictable two camps are those who respectively like and don’t like RTS games. It goes without saying that the first camp aren’t going to like C2:BFE but, just to complicate matters, the second camp are going to split between those who like their RTS’ to be action-heavy, and those who like to take their time with the tactics and strategy. The third camp consist of the Cossacks series’ established fan base, who pretty much know already that they’re going to buy this but will jump down our throats at any criticism we make. And you thought us games reviewers had it easy…
Let’s narrow this broad spectrum straight away so we can get down to business with whether C2:BFE is actually any good or not. If you’re in the first camp and don’t like RTS games, then you can move along now. Cossacks 2 is about as RTS as you can get, and doesn’t fall into the same genre-transcending league as Rome: Total War (there, we’ve upset the Cossacks fan-base already). Camp two – the RTS fans – you should stick around, as long as your tolerance of RTS extends beyond action-heavy titles like Act of War. And camp three are going to digest every word regardless, so we’ll just assume you’re still reading.
Right: to business. C2:BFE is the latest instalment in the getting-rather-lengthy-now Cossacks series, and is the second to sport the Cossacks 2 moniker. It’s technically classed as a standalone expansion pack to Napoleonic Wars, although the fact that it’s quite a decent size means that you’re actually getting a refined and involving game for a very decent price. It also means that the engine is virtually untouched from the first game, which we originally looked at just over a year ago.
There are three main ways to play, namely the single player campaign, the tweakable-to-within-an-inch-of-its-life skirmish (which can again be taken online) and the Battle for Europe. We’ve already dismissed the non-RTS fans from reading this review, so the skirmish mode certainly needs no explanation other than to mention that there are six new maps to scrap over. The new campaigns see you participating in a number of battles across several nicely designed levels with the new factions ( Spain, Poland and the Confederation of the Rhein, the last of which we’ve somewhat ignorantly never heard of), and is set in a similar time-frame to its Napoleonic Wars predecessor. Again, the story is told through some slightly unwieldy screens of text, and is occasionally bolstered by footage of dedicated/tragic (depending upon your personal point of view) blokes dressed up in period military garb re-enacting various facets of war. Finally, Battle for Europe sees the return of the turn-based map where you can make tactical decisions on a pan-European basis before jumping into each RTS fight.
The turn-based elements are still flawed and don’t compare well to Rome: Total War but, before the beard-brigade start gnashing their teeth again, the RTS sections in C2:BFE can handle more units on a map. It has to be kept in mind, though, that this is achievable primarily because the graphics engine is still 2D. It’s nicely detailed, but whether the lack of an option to swing that camera around and get right into the action in full 3D will affect your enjoyment is purely down to personal taste.
As far as we’re concerned, the strength of the game engine makes the 2D graphics easy to forgive. Plonking down your buildings for your filthy peasants to construct when they’re not collecting resources is simple enough, as is shifting your units around, but the depth of the options open to you when moving your units is really what makes the game a treat for more thoughtful strategists. When shunting your men around the maps, the fact that they become fatigued and their morale is affected by various factors including how overworked they are means that getting them into a marching formation on a road is crucial when getting them to traverse long distances. Once in position, you can then order your men to line up and load their muskets while a handy-dandy on-screen indicator shows you the effective range of their weapons. It’s then up to you to decide whether to gamble inaccuracy by firing early so you can reload and fire again before the opposition gets to you, or wait until they’re so close you can smell their unwashed hides before shooting your loads all over them, then send your cavalry in to charge them down.
If all of that sounds to you like a rollicking good time, then you’ll get plenty from Cossacks 2: Battle for Europe. It may not be the most technologically advanced RTS on the block as far as aesthetics are concerned but, if you’re new to the series, this is still a good place to start. Long-time fans will already have their bayonets in their hands ready to erect at the mere thought of being able to jump into real-life battles such as the hundred-day war and the Battle of Waterloo – they should add 1.0 to the score, or 1.1 if their beards are flecked with bits of grey. As far as we’re concerned, as much as we love the Cossacks series and the thinking-man’s gameplay behind it, we do think it’s time to move on in terms of technology. Cruel, but kind…
INFORMATION ABOUT THIS CONTENT:
Date of publish: 11.07.2006
Author: Michael “Parallax” Filby
Language of publish: english