Publisher: CDV Software
Developer: GSC Game World
Release Date: April 26, 2005
Buy 'COSSACKS II: Napoleonic Wars': PC
Occasionally, you come across a title that you know is good, but it is simply outside of what you can really enjoy. This was my experience when playing Cossacks II: the Napoleonic Wars. The game is well executed in most ways, but somehow wasn't the right "fit" for me.
Cossacks II places you in the Napoleonic wars, where you are given command of various missions, some based on actual historic engagements, wherein you are attempting to conquer (or defend) Europe. The game works to remain true to history in a number of ways, limiting the units and technologies to a fairly small range. Some of this may be an annoyance for the common gamer, but it will be a goldmine for a fan of that particular historical era.
Fundamentally, Cossacks II is a real-time strategy, and most of the expected features are in it. You build a barracks and academy to produce soldiers and officers, storehouses so your peasants can gather resources faster, etc. In this way, Cossacks II isn't different from a standard RTS, though its technology tree is much narrower than most other games, due to it being designed to be a simulation of a specific time period instead of covering a wide swath of human history.
Simulation is perhaps the key word for Cossacks II, and it shows in the combat model more than anywhere else. For example, the fighting unit is not a single musketeer, but rather a formation of musketeers. When producing your units, instead of clicking the button at the barracks to make a single unit, you "turn on" the unit production, and the barracks will continue to produce them until resources run out, the population cap is reached, or you turn off the production. Once a sufficiently large group (in the case of our musketeers, 120) of units is assembled, you organize them in to a formation. You can then add to your formation with such units as officers, banner men, etc., which have the effect of improving the formation's morale.
Morale comes into play when actual combat is entered, as well as during troop movement across the map; make your men walk too far, and they get tired, which leads to poor morale. Once in position, your troops have basically two options for battle, ranged (firing your muskets) and melee (with bayonets). Within the ranged option, you also have cannons, but more on them in a moment. You wait to fire with the slow-to-reload muskets until the enemy is close, but you have the option of ordering your entire troop to fire at once, or having them fire in ranks (there are three ranks in any formation).
Here is perhaps where the game failed to fit my tastes. Your goal in launching into combat is not so much to wipe out the enemy, but to break their spirit and cause them to break formation and retreat. This, of course, means the enemy is trying to do the same to you, and somehow it just irritated me to see my troops, 120 strong, turn and run for the hills when I expect absolute devotion and obedience in my RTS minions. Morale comes into play here because the higher your company morale, the more likely they will stand ground and continue to fight for you. As you complete mini-objectives with your army, what starts out as a tiny map will expand and give your troops more to do.
Graphically, the game is quite nice; units are well-animated and clean. When traveling the roads, troops snake along in columns, as would the real troops of yesteryear. When formed up in ranks for combat, they turn and wheel just like a real army does when going through march practice. Instructions are given both verbally and in text, and can be reviewed easily by clicking on envelope icons in the upper left-hand corner of the screen. Sound are quite crisp; the roar of a troop formation as they unload their muskets sounds very much like it should, complete with a rippling wave of exploding black powder.
The most annoying part of the game is the eternal specter of load times. I'll admit that my computer is becoming a bit dated, but it is up to snuff to play titles such as World of Warcraft without any problems and with fairly snappy load times. When it comes to Cossacks II, however, from double-clicking the game icon to when it is loaded and ready to play takes as long as 10 minutes. which can be extremely frustrating.
Overall, I have to say that Cossacks II: Napoleonic Wars is well constructed, suffering from only a few flaws (namely loading time), but it is not something I would recommend to just anyone. It is designed more for historical reenactment buffs than the everyday player, but for those reenactment junkies, this game could easily be seen as a candidate for their favorite of the year.
With historic reenactments, attention to accuracy, and a wealth of information, Cossacks II: Napoleonic Wars, while a solid title, might be too overwhelming for the casual gamer. On the other hand, the title is a veritable treasure trove for history buffs, aficionados of that particular time period, or people otherwise interested in how wars were actually fought through human history.
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