Cossacks : European Wars is another release in the Real Time Strategy game genre. The game is based on historical events covering the period from the 16th to the 18th century in Europe. Anyone with some historical knowledge will know that this period of history was full of wars and rebellions as states were formed and capitalism began to grow. The game includes huge armies in battle formed of up to an incredible 8,000 units.
To begin you choose the type of game you want. Most people will go for single player and be faced with another three choices: Campaign, Single Mission and Random Map. Campaigns are complex collections of missions which you must complete in order to progress. Single missions are exactly that, you set the difficulty before hand and then must fulfil the criteria for victory, whether it is to gain complete contol of an island or protect your kingdom from barbarians. Random Map allows you to choose from the sixteen different nations included and fight it out with whoever you want, you can also set resource levels and map type.
The multi-player mode allows you to set up deathmatch games on a network or across the internet and you can face up to 7 opponents in battle. Cossacks also offers a wealth of knowledge on actual historical battles, as well as giving you the chance to relive them. Strategies must be planned and tested, you cannot win unless you are organised.
The game runs in real time and you must first build a town hall. Your town hall will produce peasants to work for you. You need peasants to build buildings, to chop wood, to mine stone, coal and whatever other resources are around, and to work the fields. Your empire will run dependant on six resources - gold, coal, iron, food, wood and stone. Different buildings and units cost different amounts of resources to produce. You will need to build barracks, stables and defences to protect your population, it is important to take the geographical features into account. Use natural barriers and take advantage of the realistic features, for example canons fire further from on top of hills.
The graphics are excellent, the units are very detailed and look authentic, there is also a stunning variety and they all look genuinely different. The backgrounds are also good and luckily resources never run out. There are elements of other strategy games, the gameplay reminded me of Command and Conquer. You click and select units the same way, the maps are similar and the defence building is similar. However Cossacks looks really authentic, the units move nicely and look good when attacking.
The sound is also good. Background music is easily ignorable and the sounds of battle are very realistic, they even fade as you move away from them on the map. In quiet places you may even hear birds tweeting in the trees, although it usually isn't long until a cavalry charge or canon ball silences them.
Tactically the game is complex. Many of the units can be combined under commanders into large groups. They have a variety of different tactical formations and it is imortant to choose the right combination for victory. Artillery pieces come in all different sizes and types and have differing ranges of fire accordingly, they are also slow moving and easily captured. There are over 85 missions in total and of course the random map will always be different.
There are over 85 missions in total and of course the random map will always be different so you would expect the replay value to be good, however I got bored of this game after a few short months and have never really felt the desire to return to it. There are a number of flaws. The range on some of the infantry units is very annoying, if cavalry manage to get in amongst them then they will try to walk out to a suitable distance before firing (as the time it takes for them to raise and fire their guns is so long the horse is usually on top of them before they do). Quite often battles will begin to look very messy and it is difficult to assert effective control, too often it becomes a frustrating experience.
At first I wrote off this game as strictly for hardcore re-enactment gamers but it is actually much more accessible than that and hugely enjoyable. If you liked Pharaoh, Caesar, Civilisation, or Command and Conquer then this game is worth a look, it includes elements of them all. A highly challenging, fairly realistically detailed strategy game that eats up the hours but probably won't be making it into your top ten games lists.