REVIEW

Cossacks: European Wars

By Richard Moore
CDV Software website

Austerlitz
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One of the best real-time strategy games to be released in a long while is Cossacks - European Wars, an Age of Empires-style, empire-building title that covers the rarely visited 16th, 17th and 18th centuries.

They were times of great political and social upheaval across Europe with great Western nations like France, Spain, Holland, Sweden and Britain establishing themselves as powers and finding themselves in conflict with not only each other, but eastern empires such as the Russians, Turks and the marauding Cossacks.

There are 16 nations in all with Algeria, Austria, Piedmont, Poland, Portugal, Prussia, Saxony, Ukraine and Venice.

Technological change was also leaping ahead with armies moving from using pikes and swords to augmenting their forces with muskets and cannons.

Cossacks drops gamers right into the period with the best graphics and strategic-game sprites that this fellow has seen and maintains the seduction with nice in-game animation and fine gameplay. As you would expect from a huge game like this, there is a fairly steep learning curve.

By that I mean overall strategies, rather than the nuts and bolts of creating an empire.

Similar in the basic look, operation and feel of AoE, Cossacks gives you a wide choice for the type of game you want to play and which country you want to control.

Pick a provided campaign, custom one, or try some of the single mission workouts.

The first thing you notice about Cossacks is the eye-popping graphics. Truly, they are sensational. Whether it be the highly detailed terrain, pin-sharp buildings or cleverly designed sprites, they are gobsmacking.

How's this: little figures that go through separate movements to load muskets, horses whose legs move in coordination, cannonballs that arc nicely towards destroying something, explosions that look like voluminous clouds, drummers whose little arms beat the drumskins and individual shadows for the sprites' weapons.

During melees or firefights the developers have made it look as if each unit is fighting as individuals and you can watch as pikemen lean forward to jab opponents, or shoulder arms to manouevre.

The great detail of what's going on in the screen makes this a fascinating game to just watch.

There is a wealth of units to produce and use, with different nations having their own specialist advantages.

There are pikemen, swordsmen, musketeers, dragoons, mamelukes, winged horsemen, spearmen, cannons, howitzers, officers, drummers, archers, highlanders, streets, panders, janissaries, grenadiers, hussars, cossacks the list just keeps going.

Artillery is an incredibly powerful technology in Cossacks, as are the stone defence towers. Both pack quite a punch and, properly postioned, can smash most attacks against your settlements.

Naval units are included and these move nicely on some pretty cool waters and their broadsides are pretty devastating.

Damage, on both land and sea, is well portrayed with pieces of wood, brick and masonry flying all over the show.

The military campaigns include The 30 Years War (1618-1648), the English Civil War, the English and Dutch wars, the War for Spanish Succession, the Northern war, the War of Austrian Succession, the Seven Years War, the Ukrainian independence war (1648-1657) and various sea wars against pirates.

Cossacks is a very in-depth game and you will need to read the rules to get the full advantage of it. The almost-200-page manual is one of the best produced in a very long time.

It is so nice to be able to sit down and just flick through the pages at leisure and not find out about everything you need to know to get through the game, but also extra detail on the periods Cossacks covers. They are not huge tracts of indecipherable detail, but nicely weighted and easy to digest snippets.

You run your country's in a similar way to other empire strategy games with your production based upon the collection of six resources: food, wood, stone, gold, iron, and coal.

A sound economy is important but, once you've got it up and running with lots of little peasants doing your bidding, it is fairly easy to manage. You just need to keep an eye on things every now and then.

One of the key strategies has to be keeping your technologies up. For no matter how many troops you've got, if they come up against better trained units then you get your bottom kicked - horribly.

Aside from the military worth of technological advancement, keeping your production cogs running quickly and smoothly - again via advancements - means units can be produced more quickly and cheaply.

Overall, Cossacks is a terribly appealing and addictive strategy game that will keep you occupied for months.

Congratulations Game World, you have an absolute winner here.

90%

 
 
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