Cossacks: Back to War Review
By Corey Stoneburner |
When it was released well over a year ago Cossacks didn't cause much of a stir, but the quality of the original game has impressed many with a growing legion of fans getting into one of the most absorbing post renaissance strategy games to ever hit the PC. This second expansion pack attempts to breathe even more life into what is essentially a very absorbing and deep eighteenth century wargame, but is it a case of milking the cow too aggressively? Well grab a teat and read on...
In case you didn't know, Back to War plonks a general's hat on your dome and has you overseeing the rather complex social and economic systems required to field an army during the 18th Century. With the interface improvements (units don't get captured unfairly anymore) as well as the new missions, this pack might be worth considering if you enjoyed the original game.
Cossacks managed to blend in depth RTS action with some decent strategy elements and as such stayed ahead of the more simple C&C inspired pack. This is also true of this latest expansion pack and devotees of the Cossacks formula might well enjoy Back to War, but there are some issues as well.
For a start, the visuals look rather dated when compared to new titles now, even if the graphics are still functional and full of flair with a variety of troop types and massive numbers on the battlefield.
The pack gives you two new nations to campaign as, Switzerland and Hungary, and there are a whopping 101 new single player missions and a handful of new units for some of the other nations as well. That said there are no proper scripted campaigns, which just comes across as lazy. Also you have to remember that even though there are more missions on offer than just about any other expansion pack we have ever heard of there are also lots of free downloadable missions you can get your hands on online. So the question is, why pay for these?
In the game's defense, the maps on offer are more massive than those in the original game, making for quite possibly the biggest real-time strategy game arenas ever made. This is great for four player multiplayer battles as you have room to expand, develop and ultimately crush your enemies. The inclusion of bigger maps does stress your hardware a bit though and certainly if you have the minimum specification machine (a humble Pentium II 233 with 32 Meg you will find the gameplay slows to a crawl). Anything over a PIII733 with 128 MB of Ram is more than satisfactory though.
Like the previous iterations in the series, combat is a big part of the game and the battles can be quite massive with huge armies meeting each other with a lot of action, noise and much bloodshed. You have to be sure you use the right units for the right purposes and that they are in the most advantageous formation. Leaving artillery at the front of your forces unprotected by men at arms is not very wise. Similarly, attacking fortifications without heavy siege weapons and only a force composed of skirmishing troops and cavalry is a dumb move too, so you have to make sure you balance your forces so that they are suited to the task at hand.
What did you think about Back to War?
There are still some AI issues as well. There are some problems with the artificial intelligence programming in that sometimes your units don't move as intelligently as you'd like unless you are prepared to nursemaid them while they wander the map. Certainly it is frustrating to see your troops stupidly blunder into the enemy field of fire when you have asked them to retreat.