Four long years. That's how long we've been waiting for a proper sequel to one of the most innovative RTS games of recent times, Cossacks: European Wars. But come April, that wait should be coming to a bloody end, thanks to the release of Napoleonic Wars.
The title is somewhat misleading though, as the game won't be solely focused around the martial exploits of a 5ft-nothing egotistical Frenchman. Instead, you'll be able to take control of numerous 19th century European nations (including Bonaparte's lot of course), and lead them off to dominate the continent.
"Fatigue and morale have a big impact on the gameplay, which is a key difference to the original game," explains Oleg Yavorsky, product manager at GSC Gameworld. "There are also a variety of tactical tricks, a simplified economic system and very few upgrades. This should enable you to focus more on combat and to defeat stronger opponents through the skillful use of strategy, location and timing. We've also added a global map to the Campaign mode."
On The Campaign Trail
So, a more strategic experience awaits, one that'll hopefully meld the epic battles of the first game with the kind of realistic tactics found in the likes of Rome: Total War. Plus, with GSC claiming that its new engine can pump out vast levels of detail, including battles featuring 64,000 troops, over 1,000 types of flora and fauna and shader-based water, we could be in for a visual treat as well as a strategic one - although to date, we've yet to be entirely convinced by the game's visuals.
But let's talk more about the campaign map, which sounds like it could take Cossacks' gameplay to an all-new freeform level. "There'll be a tutorial with a linear storyline to teach you how to use the interface, controls and each troop type. The tutorial's missions will be varied and hugely different from each other and are set to include tasks like eliminating artillery with chasseurs squads, so the main forces can successfully advance on a particular front," explains Oleg.
"The main campaign is non-linear and there's only one goal - to conquer Europe. To do so, you need to combine the tactical tricks learnt in the tutorial, along with the extensive use of diplomacy, economy, trade and sabotage acts. It's totally up to you to decide where your army moves to in the next turn."
Sounds great so far. Now add plans for AI to intelligently utilise its surroundings and combine arms to outsmart you - as well as a host of units, each with its own stats for health, morale, armament, defence, hit power, shot power and shot distance - and it's hard to argue that Cossacks II lacks promise. It has oodles of it.
Of course, whether it'll deliver is another matter, but the portents are
good, especially as GSC has a reputation for developing and producing innovative titles. Well, apart from the dire, amateurish and clearly rushed Alexander of course. But nobody's perfect, right?
So, with a bit of luck, come April, all of us strategy fans will be wreaking havoc across Europe in a rampage of megalomania, after which we'll come home, sup back some warm milk laced with Stolichnaya and have loads of fun repeating the feat in Cossacks II. Sounds good to me.