Cossacks: The Art of War (PC)
It was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness…it was not Age of Empires III, but with this expansion it is closer still.
By - Peter "Dirg" Suciu

If you are a fan of Age of Empires/Age of Kings and you missed Cossacks: European Wars earlier this year, then you owe it to yourself to look for the game along with its upcoming expansion, Cossacks: The Art of War. While Ensemble Studios has turned its own attention towards a different kind of game with Age of Mythology, Cossacks actually picks up where the Age of Empires series left off.

Cossacks: The Art of War

Game Type: Strategy
Developer: GSC
Publisher: CDV Software
Multiplayer: LAN / Internet
Platform: PC
Starting in the 16th century in the age of reason and enlightenment, Cossacks, was like a new Age title -- but perhaps a little rougher around the edges and lacking much of the polish that was present in the classic Age of Kings. GSC Game World, the Ukrainian developers behind Cossacks, really seemed to know their European history and it is quite obvious that they were big fans of Ensemble's work. The game accurately depicted the 16th through 18th centuries, an era of great culture and refinement -- which is seen in the representation of buildings from the different powers -- but it was also a time of nearly constant warfare in Europe. This was the end of noblemen and vassals and the roots of modern Western civilization, and it was known as the first period of true professional soldiers in the West since the fall of the Roman Empire.

The game was excellent for recreating the huge engagements of the period, with players being able to control literary thousands of men at a time -- all dressed in splendid uniforms and marching in formation. And while Cossacks was grand in this regard the game suffered in many ways for its poor multiplayer experience and limited customization, which is what made Age of Kings such a re-playable game.

Among the flaws was that in the multiplayer game for Cossacks it was impossible to add computer-controlled powers into the mix. Therefore we were left with straight deathmatch style games instead of two or more players testing their skills at trying to defeat a power. Even in the standard single-player games it wasn't really possible to ally with a computer-controlled power against other computer-controlled powers.

Both of these aspects have now been fixed in the expansion's playable beta but each needs a bit more work before they'll be completely solid. While you can have a computer ally they really don't seem to put up a good fight against the other computer powers, which work quite well together. Worse still is the fact that your "ally" is only allied with you in terms that they won't attack you and you can't attack them. So much for competition, but at least this is a vast improvement over the previous free-for-all nature of the original game.

Next: Customization...

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