Cossacks: European Wars Review (PC)

Europe in the era from the 17th century to the 18th century was, like the eras to follow, full of conflict and change. It was a time when the ideas of the enlightenment began to bear fruit, and when absolute monarchs battled across Europe and the world for hegemony, when 'Sun Kings' battled the forces of reaction and religious reform, between backward old orders and dynamic forces of change for control of Kingdoms and Empires. 'Cossacks: European wars' lets players experience the look and feel of this violent era via tactical battles between nations great and small.

The graphics are crisp and detailed, and the accompanying animations are great.

Keep your troops well supplied, or they'll desert you.

GSC, the designers of 'Cossacks' have brought this era to life with this real time strategy game based loosely on the famous Age Of Empires II system, with some changes, and, of course, excellent period buildings and units. Players will quickly get the feel of the era through this game engine, and it does portray the linear tactics so common to this time period.

Game play is based around a familiar formula. You have peasants who must gather food, chop wood, and mine metals and other ores as well as construct buildings for your nation to grow and thrive. The peasants are attractively animated, and go about their tasks in the expected way, but the game has some new wrinkles from older systems, such as, peasants can be captured and made to work for your enemies, as well as being wiped out by them, and the player, of course, can also capture them. Unfortunately, the peasants go about their work relatively quietly, so they never take on a 'personality' the way workers do in the AoE series of games. The game includes different music tracks for each of the powers, and is quite adequate for game play, although it does not have an outstanding score. Sound is used to distinguish building selection, as is common in these types of game engines, but the game's sounds are best seen in combat, a lot of effort was put into this part of it. Cavalry sabres rattle, cannons boom, and the sound of battle is everything a video warrior would expect from this period.

A series of campaigns and scenarios are included, numbering some 85 situations, which allow conflicts involving the 16 nations who's units are presented in the game to take part in. Each power has unique units and their own tech tree to follow, and have strengths and weaknesses, which lead to a lot of diversity to game play. The game also includes the naval vessels of the period portrayed, and allows for naval conflict as well as the familiar land campaigns. One area where this game departs from the AoE engine is the large amount of forces a player can field, no less then 8,000 troops can be commanded at a given time, and these forces can be deployed, by officers and their drum majors, into the common formations of the time, namely column, line and square. The landscape is attractive, as well as functional, and the buildings are rendered smartly, and enhance the game play experience. Like real armies, the armies of Cossacks must be fed from your food stores, and it costs materials to fire weapons, and gold to maintain cannons. Failure to have these materials in sufficient quantities will result in desertion of your armies and eventual defeat.

Battles are intense and can often involve thousands of troops.

Naval combat is exciting and works pretty well.

Top game moment: Taking a part in the not-so-often represented wars of gaming, such as the exciting Thirty Years War.

Overall, this is an excellent addition to the family of real time strategy games, and covers a period of great importance to history, in places that are not often mention these days, as well as the great battles of the famous wars and warriors, all in a single package. For those interested in the history of the period, GSC includes a large encyclopedia of the wars, units technologies of the era. I would very much recommend this game and system.