Cossacks II: Napoleonic Wars PC CD-ROM
Published by CDV
Developed by GSC Game World
Release Date: Out Now
Cossacks II: Napoleonic Wars, an introduction.
When the Cossacks: European Wars was released it changed the way many looked at battles in RTS games. Prior to its release RTS games had small unit caps that meant you hardly ever had more that a few hundred units in a battle at any one time. Whilst this was OK (and let's face it there are some cracking RTS games that pre-date Cossacks), it didn't really allow for advanced tactics or really effective formations. Cossacks changed all this. Instead of battles with only a few hundred units at best, Cossacks had battles that contained thousands of units. This allowed the game to create massive armies, the like of which hadn't been seen before in a PC game. Aside from the huge battles though Cossacks was a great game in other respects too and it was no surprise to us that it sold as well as it did. After a couple of stand-alone expansion packs we finally have the sequel, Cossacks II: Napoleonic Wars.
What's the game about?
Cossacks II: Napoleonic Wars as the title suggests concentrates on the early nineteenth century. The game allows you to control Egypt and one of five European nations including France, Britain, Russia, Prussia and Austria. The single-player game includes a Campaign mode, a Skirmish mode and a Battle mode (with 10 battles, such as Austerlitz, on offer). Perhaps the most promising single-player mode is titled Battle for Europe. Battle for Europe looks rather like a board game in that you move your armies (represented by icons) from territory to territory. The game plays out in a turn-based fashion and allows for diplomacy to be carried out and other tactical decisions. You'll be asked by other nations to perform certain tasks and you'll be rewarded for doing so. Naturally the battles are carried out in real-time using the standard game engine. We've seen this kind of thing before in Rise of Nations and the Total War series but it’s still great to see such a mode in Cossacks II. The multiplayer side of the game (LAN and Internet) allows for skirmish battles. Clans and rated games are both possible for Internet play. Unfortunately you can't play the Battle for Europe game in multiplayer mode, which is a shame as it would have been interesting.
What's good about the game?
It's good to see a RTS game try and do something different. GSC have introduced the concepts of fatigue and morale. You'll have to keep an eye on both (they are represented by gauges for a formation rather than for a single unit) because once your units are fatigued their morale will deplete if they continue to move. A new impact zone display has been included for firearms. This impact zone shows you, by the use of coloured zones, the distances over which your firearms are effective. As with Cossacks you can pause the game at any time to issue orders and then un-pause the game to watch them be carried out. This means that no matter how hectic the battle becomes you can always step back for a minute or two and think of a strategy. Once again resource management is part of the game and like in Cossacks, it's helped by having workers that take the initiative and don't simply stand idle. My favourite part of the game has to be the Battle for Europe mode though. To be completely honest the campaign didn't really do much for me and it was great to have the Battle for Europe mode as an alternate single-player mode. Importantly the enemy AI seems to put up a good fight and to take on the higher difficulty levels, you'll have to be well versed in the game mechanics which is how it should be.
What's not so good about the game?
Whilst I admit Cossacks II is an enjoyable RTS (and worth picking up if you are a fan of the genre) I also have to admit that it isn't as impressive as I thought it would be. Whilst there are some new additions that change the way the game plays, such as the morale and fatigue aspects, the game doesn't feel all that different from Cossacks and American Conquest. This isn't necessarily a bad thing as both games were impressive in their time but I expected more from Cossacks II. As we've mentioned above it's a shame that the Battle for Europe mode can't be played online as this would have made the game more appealing and many gamers who are still waiting for the Total Wars games to have an online campaign might have been tempted by it. You can't save during a battle in the Battle for Europe mode and the mode doesn't offer you a choice of picking a nation to play as. When you first play the game you'll create a profile and in this profile you have to pick a nation. It's the choice you make here which determines which nation you'll play as in the Battle for Europe mode, which seems a little awkward to me.
How does it look?
Cossacks II looks fairly good for a RTS game. The game features 140 unique units and 180 building types and all of these are nicely detailed. The maps that you'll battle on are huge and the battles are once again humongous (consisting of up to 64,000 units) with many thousands of units involved. The screen resolution can range from 1024x768 to a whopping 2048x1536 so if you are fortunate enough to have a monitor that supports such a sky high resolution the battles will look even more dramatic. You'll notice a range of video clips that are shown during a battle (in a small window at the bottom of the screen). These look OK but don't really serve any purpose and certainly wouldn't have been missed had they been left out. On the whole the game is presented quite nicely and the game engine performs well considering how many units can be onscreen at any one time.
How deaf gamer friendly is the game?
There are no problems for deaf gamers with Cossacks II. The game is subtitled so you'll be able to follow the campaign's story. All messages are show in text too. During a game an envelope icon will appear on the left side of the screen and clicking on this will show you the message. The games tutorials are also subtitled so you'll be able to learn the basics of the game. The game manual isn't anywhere near as impressive as the one for Cossacks: European Wars but it's still a decent effort weighing in at 70+ pages. During the game you'll see floating text messages from the units as they come under attack. These messages all relate to their morale and will show you if the men are scared or fear for their lives. It's a nice touch and one that other RTS games should take on board.
Finally then the sequel to the highly acclaimed Cossacks is here. Fans of the original game should be pleased with Cossacks II: Napoleonic Wars although I daresay there will be some, like me, who would have expected more new features and for the game to feel more different than it does. That said though we are still talking about a quality RTS and one that is definitely worth picking up. The sheer scale of the battles is impressive and the Battle for Europe mode is sure to swallow up many RTS gamer's spare hours over the coming months. Best of all the game is once again deaf gamer friendly and you'll be able to fully appreciate what's on offer in Cossacks II.
Overall Game Rating: 8.0/10
Deaf Gamers Classification
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The sequel to the highly acclaimed Cossacks: European Wars is finally with us and it's another quality RTS experience. The battles are bigger than ever and now you'll have to deal with fatigue and morale. The Battle for Europe mode is very enjoyable but it's a shame you can't play it online.