Cossacks: Back to War

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a game by GSC Game World
Platform: PC (2002)
User Rating: 6.1/10 - 18 votes
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See also: Best RTS Games, Cossacks Games

The first thing you notice when playing Cossacks: Back To War is that it doesn't have much to do with fearsome, vodka-swilling horsemen of the Russian Steppes. Instead, you find yourself in possession of a sprawling RTS set between the 16th and 18th centuries, featuring titanic clashes between the great nations of Europe and beyond.

For those new to it all, the Cossacks games are to the RTS genre what War And Peace is to literature - epic, with a cast of thousands and made in Russia. Well, Ukraine. Up to 8,000 units can populate any of the often vast maps, and while frigates and Men-O-War trade salvoes on the ocean waves, cavalry and infantry charge through volleys of grapeshot on the land in impressively staged fights.

Money, Money, Money

Back at your lovingly constructed city, an intricate economy has to be looked after, with resources gathered, troops fed and armed, and marketplaces built to ensure a healthy flow of trade.

While this is the second expansion pack for Cossacks: European Wars, it is packaged as a stand-alone game. You get all the gameplay tweaks from the first expansion, The Art Of War, together with a bunch of all-new missions, nationalities, units and features. All this is yours for the reasonable ask of $20.

Switzerland and Hungary are the new countries in question, and each sports unique cavalry and infantry units and a distinct architectural style. There are 100 new maps to try your hand at, and the new terrain styles are supplemented by a user mod pack that contains a further 30 units.

Risky Business

None of which should distract from the fact that this is fundamentally the same micromanagement-heavy game released last March. It’s a daunting game to pick up, with a baffling array of build options and unit functions making it about as welcome a gift to the casual gamer as a hurriedly-wrapped pig’s excreta. And despite the developer's claims to have improved it, the Al still leaves a lot to be desired, committing such ills as telling formations of cavalry to stay put while distant artillery slowly decimates them. And, in single-player at least, victorious strategies usually revolve Laround building the right type of buildings and troops, rather than movements on the battlefield.

Shine On

The visuals still look pretty good. You can practically see the buttons gleaming on tunics and the action flows smoothly. The additions to the online game are impressive, and include a rating system, the more diplomatic and economic-oriented Peace Time mode (in which the onus is on out-building your opponents rather than out-fighting them), and the ability to forge alliances with CPU controlled sides.

Overall, it’s not bad value, and points to CDV for making it a stand-alone product. But, despite its impressive unit count and appealing setting, Cossacks: Back To War still lacks elegance and isn’t quite up to scratch.

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System requirements:

  • PC compatible
  • Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP

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