Cossacks II: Napoleonic Wars Preview
When someone says “Napoleonic Wars” a number of things spring to mind; huge battles, revolution, muskets, eccentric royalty, honorable gentlemen… dishonorable gentlemen, however unlike most people my mind immediately says “Kiev based games developer”. Why? Well that’s quite simple, GSC (Developer of the Cossacks series) has decided to give us the opportunity to relive this world in a realistic manner through their upcoming game Cossacks II: Napoleonic Wars.
Many people shunned Cossacks: European Wars, either the game required too much micro-management or it just seemed overly complicated. This time around there should be no such qualms, GSC has listened to the criticisms they received and have completely reworked the way the game runs including a complete redesign of the interface.
Upon starting the game, aside from the usual developer and publisher logos, you are also treated to the Cossacks II intro movie. In their usual way, GSC have thrown the rule book out which demands rendered movies that have no connection with the game and have inserted some re-enactment footage instead! This unique introduction fits the game really well.
When you first start up the game and create your profile you are prompted to play two tutorial missions which introduce you to basic game concepts. The first of these tutorials is the “Sergeant Tutorial” This introduces you to basic combat ideas, such as forming a regiment, fatigue levels and how to effectively attack an enemy. The “Officer Tutorial” then teaches you basic ideas behind settlement management and how to assault enemy towns and villages.
Many of you (I must confess to this myself) like to jump straight into a game without playing the tutorials, but with Cossacks II that would be a bad idea. The game has a relatively easy learning curve yet I still recommend you spend at least an hour playing the tutorials to get to grips with the basic controls. The only real problem I had with the tutorials was that there were a couple of translation problems (I was seriously worried when the Persians turned up dressed as Prussians!) and the cut-scenes in between each section of the tutorial were identical. After playing through a couple of sections I was sick of the repetitive voice over.
So, what makes this game different from every other RTS on the market? For a start the interface is probably one of the best I’ve ever used. Even the traditional top resource bar has been modified for ease of use. Associated with every resource is an indicator showing the number of peasants actively gathering. Your population and the population limit can also be found here.
The resource bar isn’t the only part of the interface to be completely reworked. Now whenever you select a unit, you can find out every piece of information you could ever want, including the number of men in the regiment, the fatigue level, the number of men killed by the regiment or the regiments current morale. This new simple, yet feature packed, interface enables you to find out vital information quickly without havng to search through a never-ending maze of menus.
“What’s an interface without gameplay?” I hear you cry. But thats the beauty of the game, it manages to combine a top class interface with quality gameplay.
One of the things I played around with on installing the game was the new “fire by rank” feature. This enables you to order a single rank to fire at a time. This can be particularly useful when you want to fire at a distant enemy but not be caught with unloaded muskets if they suddenly charge towards you.
Of the many new features added, one of the best has got to be the “range to kills” indicator which allows you to judge when its best to open fire. The indicator uses a simple 3 colour system; Green (You’ll hit a couple of men), Yellow (You’ll cause quite a few deaths) and Red (The front rank practically disappears). Best of all is the AI’s reaction to you. Often, if you fire whilst in the “Green Zone”, you kill only a couple of men and unless you only fired a single ranks’ muskets, your only defence is the bayonet. This means the AI will walk into the “Red Zone”, decimate your regiment with musket fire and then charge home to slaughter the survivors!
This time around the game features historical battles, missions, skirmishes and “Battle for Europe”! Each of these game modes offers a different style of play thus develops the Cossacks experience. “Battle for Europe” is a new mode of play similar to the strategic maps of games such as Rome: Total War and Rise of Nations. You generate resources in your territories each turn and send out armies led by your commanders. The number of men your commanders can command is dictated by his current rank starting with “Lieutenant” where each commander can only control four units.
After you’ve selected your commander and told him to attack a sector, you are presented with a map showing what the sector looks like and what opposition forces there are. you are then given the choice of continuing the attack or retreating. After selecting to continue you enter a predesigned map for that sector with your selected units in order to capture the city. As well as this there are various other bonus missions you can complete in order to gain the reouces your army needs to survive.
The map contains a single large city (which you have to capture) and lots of small villages. These vilages produce the resources you find in the game. As you capture each village you stengthen youself whilst weakening the enemy’s ability to re-inforce himself. A neat little feature is that donkeys are used to transfer resources from the villages to the town hall of the main city. If you kill the donkeys your enemy doesn’t get supplies!
On top of the gameplay and interface changes there is a brand new graphics and physics engine. The landscapes are all in 3D complete with swaying trees and translucent water whilst the units are still sprites. The use of sprites keeps system requirements down whilst the 3D landscape ensures here is a great looking area for them to roam around in.
All in all Cossacks II: Napoleonic Wars seems to be shaping up well. All that remains is for GSC to sort out the language problems and just add the finishing touches to what could be one of the best strategy games of the year.