XG: What are the major improvements of Cossacks 2: Napoleonic Wars over its predecessor, Cossacks: European Wars?
Mario: Those familiar with the original will immediately notice the significantly improved graphics that Cossacks II: Napoleonic Wars boasts. There’s much more under the hood, however. It truly is a brand new game. The graphics engine now offers a beautiful perspective; with zoom capabilities that allow close-up tactical observation or a more zoomed-out strategic perspective. The original Cossacks already permitted thousands of units to fight on a map at the same time; but this time around, we’ve upped the ante significantly, allowing for truly epic battles.
Heck, we’ve even introduced hundreds of varieties of vegetation, each native to the area you’re battling in. There are numerous terrains (all with differing impact on combat) and unique military units and buildings that define and provide a true feel for the relative differences among the competing nations. But what’s really great about the graphics engine are the little details: the puffs of smoke from cannons, or the musketeers taking time to clean their rifles after they’ve sat still for a bit of time and many other little gems.
Among the most significant changes is the introduction of a brand new strategic element that simply didn’t exist in the original Cossacks. Most RTS titles have you gathering resources, slowly building armies in search for a small set of “champion” units to throw against the enemy, and then waging war in a slugfest fashion where the player really has very little control once combat ensures. In addition to requiring the player to be a military commander that employs realistic era-appropriate tactics, Cossacks II also puts the player in the role of diplomat and economist.
In the Battle for Europe campaign mode, you’ll be presented with a turn-based map of Europe. On this map you can scout out neighboring territories (and those you already own) and plan out your strategy with the ultimate objective of subjugating or rallying to your cause all of the five opposing nations. For example, you can move your general to a neighboring nation to attack. Or, perhaps you’ll take their offer to serve as their guardian, earning gold as you defend them from attack temporarily. You can also establish trade routes with neighbors, strike peace treaties or, if you’re particularly nasty; sabotage their food, water and weapons supplies to weaken them in preparation for an easier military attack. Combat, as was the case in the original, is resolved real-time.
XG: What unique gameplay features will each playable country have?
Mario: There aren’t a finite number of game play mechanical differences for the different countries, but each does have unique buildings and military units that, of course, provide alternate options and make certain tactics more or less sensible.
The Egyptians, for example, have archers that don’t fare well in close-up battles against “more modern” European opponents with rifles and muskets. The archers, however, can use their native terrain and the lack of supplies it provides for invaders to their advantage. Combined with ranged harassment, it won’t take long until the enemy is worn down from over-extended supply lines, lack of food and failed attempts to close with a substantial target on which to unleash their fury. The Egyptians can then close and decimate the formerly “superior” European forces.
XG: How much attention to historical accuracy and detail was put into Cossacks 2: Napoleonic Wars?
Mario: A significant amount of historical detail has been incorporated. While there are certain elements that clearly did not make it into the game and were instead abstracted, many historical details did get included.
We’ve added a number of historical battles that model the terrain, relative strength and starting position of opposing forces, as well as key tactical challenges; we think we’ve done a solid job there. We’ve also included unique units and buildings for each nation that are modeled accurately within the context of the game system. These encompass the representative strengths and weaknesses of their historical counterparts.
Morale and experience is vitally important, as is sound leadership of troops. For example, an able commander can often decimate large but inexperienced and undisciplined forces combined with much smaller veteran units. Weapons trajectories and historically appropriate reload times of weapons have also been modeled very well.
While we have certainly toned down certain aspects in favor of keeping the game enjoyable, I think Cossacks II will be accessible to the needs of casual RTS gamers but will certainly not disappoint those more familiar with the Napoleonic era, expecting a game that realistically responds to tactics from that epoch.
XG: I have read, “formations play a decisive role” in this game. Please explain.
Mario: The Napoleonic era is when corps maneuvers and the effective employment of large, modern formations really came into its own. In Cossacks II then, armies that work together effectively to envelop and outflank the enemy, offer successive layers of offensive capability (frontline units fire, pull back, and reload behind supporting friendly formations), and use the correct configuration for the right tactical situation, will almost always prevail.
In the game, formations hold an army together. For purpose of this discussion, there are three basic formations in the game. One is best for offensive action, spreading units across a greater distance and allowing for the most effective concentrated fire. The next is ideal for movement across longer distances, keeping units from exhausting too soon, but making them less able to respond to a surprise attack. The last is meant to provide a solid defense against enemy attacks, but stripping them of the ability to quickly mobilize and move as a tradeoff. In summary, formations provide defensive and offensive bonuses, balanced with tradeoffs in movement speed and soldier fatigue.
In most traditional RTS games, the player can simply create individual units and throw them at the enemy and still experience a modicum of success. Not so in Cossacks II. Individual soldiers, even in massive numbers, will almost never win against a well disciplined, experienced, well-fed, and well-led army formation.
XG: What types of units will be available?
MK: To maintain historical accuracy, Cossacks II will feature infantry, cavalry, and artillery. For each of these categories there are a number of unit variants that have relative strengths and weaknesses. Each nation also has unique units, representative of their historical availability.
Infantry will range from Egyptian archers and relatively ineffective conscripts with essentially pointed sticks as weapons to highly disciplined forces whose exploits fill the annals of history. Cavalry likewise ranges from light scouts and harassing forces to heavy shock troops that can decimate entire formations with one well-placed assault. Artillery also includes a number of cannons, howitzers, and even rocket artillery.
XG: Will factors such as supply, terrain, morale, experience, and fatigue affect gameplay?
MK: As a matter of fact, all of those factors come into play. Supplies keep an army going. An army cut off from foodstuff is as likely to die from starvation as it is from running into concentrated enemy musket shots. Iron and coal is required to reload ranged weapons, and losing track of these can place a general in the uncomfortable position of bringing the era-appropriate “knife to a gunfight.”
Morale and experience are interrelated. The more experienced a unit is, the better its morale will be. An inexperienced soldier is more likely to run as soon as the bullets fly (even if not felled directly), whereas the veteran musketeer is going to sit tight and fire back when the right opportunity presents itself. Armies take inspiration from seeing their unit and national flags flying high, drummers keeping them in step, and able officers encouraging them and keeping them as a cohesive force. Each of these factors plays an independent role and can determine the outcome of a fight.
Fatigue also affects morale. Tired units will become exhausted and, in turn, lose morale. It’s important to use roads whenever possible, and not force your soldiers to march (or ride) long distances without a break or in an inappropriate formation. Failing to keep this in mind will have the player’s forces ready to bolt once they finally close with an enemy, even before the first shot is fired.
XG: Will there be any economic elements (e.g., resource gathering) involved?
MK: While resource gathering is still important in the game, we’ve streamlined it so you’re not having to continually micromange throughout the game. Players simply set their peasants to collecting certain resources and it takes care of itself.
The player will need gold, wood, and stone to build structures and requisition forces; foodstuff is vital for keeping armies fed (and alive), while coal and iron allow infantry, cavalry, and artillery to reload.
The player will need to occasionally re-allocate peasants to focus more on one or the other resource as demand dictates, but more time will be spent on developing tactics or even planning which enemy resource-rich areas should be captured and made one’s own.
XG: What AI secrets can you share?
MK: Well, if we shared, it wouldn’t be a secret now, would it?
Trust us in this, AI units will reflect real world units, with battle-hardened veterans dominating the battlefield with swift maneuvers and clever attacks, while green troops will be bullet catchers.
XG: Will players take on small missions, grand campaigns, some of both, or something else?
MK: We’ve included six historical missions that model their historic counterparts and place the player in control of one of the historical opponents, with both sides’ units in preset locations and relative strengths. These are fairly fast paced. We’ve included an additional four historically inspired battles that function similarly. In all of these, the primary goal is to destroy or rout the enemy and to capture and hold key objectives.
There are two strategic campaigns.
One is a traditional multi-mission linked campaign, of which the first two double as tutorial. Cut scenes link these and a plot drives them forward. Each successive mission doesn’t unlock until the previous ones are completed.
The second campaign is the Battle for Europe that uses a turn-based strategic interface and feels a bit like a traditional board game in that mode. Combat is resolved in real-time and the six nations compete for dominance of Europe and parts of Northern Africa.
Lastly, there are a total of ten skirmish missions that are best described as traditional RTS games. Each can last a significant amount of time, as the opposing sides gather resources, build structures, follow technology trees, build units and form them into armies, ultimately clashing in potentially massive battles.
We’re also including LAN and Internet supported multi-player gaming that will include a competitive ladder system for those that wish to measure their mettle against other online armchair emperors (or empresses).
XG: When can players expect a Cossacks 2: Napoleonic Wars demo?
MK: We’re working to get a demo out a few weeks before launch. The game will hit North American retail outlets during the first week of May. While a target for a demo is sometime in April, right now our primary focus is on getting everything done that we can to make the game a truly wonderful experience.
INFORMATION ABOUT THIS CONTENT:
Date of publish: 16.03.2005
Author: Jim H. Moreno
Language of publish: english