Cossacks 3 Review
Majestic foundation quickly devolves into a human meat grinder, and not in a good way
There is a lot of promise to be had in Cossacks 3. This ambitious remake of the 2001 classic real-time strategy from GSC Game World offers a wealthy variety of army building, war planning, base and economy management, and upgrades to stay on the cutting edge of the varying and enormous battlefields of 17th and 18th Century Europe. Unfortunately, while the tools and set-up are all absolutely there, the execution leaves more than a little bit to be desired. Cossacks 3 promises a lot and it sets it up pretty nicely, but just like your many glorious regiments, it all falls apart when things get intense.
As mentioned, the game takes place in 17th Century European provinces, just around when gunpowder is starting to become relevant in conflicts, but swords, spears, and cavalry are still the most common arms of the masses. There are more than 70 units in Cossacks 3, but it translates down to similar units varied across different nations. Still, there’s a distinct difference, strength, and weakness in the abilities of any given nation’s numerous varieties of soldiers. The three different types of cavalry range in strong melee, hit n’ run speed melee, and ranged musketeers on horseback. Invest too much in melee and ranged units will pick off your armies leaving the melee to finish you off. Invest too much in range and waves of melee fighters will close the distance, which forces ranged units to attempt to retreat before they can fire again.
Proper mixture of is the basic law of engagement in Cossacks 3 and the set-up is pretty great for what it is in theory and establishment. You’ll produce regiments of units ranging from the smallest crew of forty up to multiples of that same number, creating massive regiments that can be arranged in formation. Gunmen are best arranged in rank, firing at enemies in a line where every shooter has a shot on the targets. Melee are best arranged in columns allowing for rank-breaking assaults, and finally square formation allows for protection of officers and defense against cavalry units that might otherwise break your formation. You can set up your armies and hot key different regiment types for quick mass selection to order attacks, retreats, and counter offensives. Again, the set-up is fantastic, allowing the mind to wander on opportunities of strategy that this foundation allows. Unfortunately, when you put it all into practice, it’s as chaotic and uncontrolled as the most brutal No Man’s Land.
The biggest problem with Cossacks 3 lies in AI on both the player and enemy end. When your armies engage, expect your formations to fall apart almost instantly once they get to the enemy, with almost every close encounter devolving into a free-for-all of hectic murder. Not only is it frustrating to see the soldiers you painstakingly organized break ranks, but once they’re engaged, it’s equal parts a numbers game and random chance on whether or not your men will survive a big conflict. On one particular campaign mission, we set up a save and ran a single assault across a bridge several times. Sometimes it ended in with a long fight that saw us on the losing side, sometimes it ended with our forces crushed before they could even clear the first wave of enemy armies, sometimes they’d barely break through and we’d win, and a few times they managed to break the enemy ranks and annihilate them with much of our force intact. The random factor here makes things incredibly frustrating, devolving complex strategy into what mostly amounts to both sides hitting eachother with everything they’ve got until one side wins.
If that wasn’t bad enough, the production and aggression rates of enemy AI seem heavily out of balance. When we tried to play the game slow and build up our forces, we found the longer you go, the harder the fight becomes. The enemy would constantly barrage us with wave after wave of cavalry, infantry, and cannons with practically only seconds of breath in between. Even after heavily upgrading our forces, the constant pressure of fighting off enemies and having to replace losses in rapid intervals made the fight a stalemate at best, up until either our AI would put soldiers out of position allowing the enemy AI to instantly capitalize or our resources would run out, ending our production and allowing the endless waves to eventually roll through our forces. Even on normal difficulty, the wars of attrition in Cossacks 3 are relentless and brutal.
Speaking of resources, supporting your army with your base is paramount to any kind of victory, no matter how savagely gained. Cossacks 3 tasks you with raising a town of peasants who will then build your buildings and farm your resources. Coal, stone, iron, and gold come from mines built upon resource wells across the map while wood comes from harvesting nearby forests, and food comes from building mills that produce fields of wheat to be farmed. Each resource is paramount to the building, upgrading, and maintenance of your military and towns.
Staying ahead of the curve both at home and on the battlefield requires you to upgrade capabilities for both. For units you can upgrade attack and defense in the building that produces them, while resource buildings offer upgrades for production capabilities. Meanwhile, academies offer upgrades that benefit numerous parts of your war effort. The possibilities for improvement are pretty extensive and favor numerous playstyles, although there are certainly some more important than others. That said, it’s worth mentioning that as early as the second campaign mission, you have access to just about everything. You can even upgrade to the more technologically advanced 18th Century in that mission. There’s really no progression in the campaign to developing better units or capabilities as the game carries on. You just have access to everything all the time, which is a little bizarre to say the least.
Graphics and Performance
OS: Windows XP/7/8/10
Processor: Intel® Core 2 Duo 1,6 GHz/AMD 3000+
Memory: 2 GB RAM
Graphics: nVidia GeForce 8800 / ATI Radeon HD 2600 PRO 256Mb / Intel HD3000
DirectX: Version 9.0c
Network: Broadband Internet connection
Storage: 4 GB available space
Additional Notes: Screen Resolution - 1280x768
OS: Windows XP/7/8/10
Processor: Intel Core i5-3470, 3.20GHz or AMD FX-6300, 3.5Ghz
Memory: 4 GB RAM
Graphics: nVidia GeForce 560 / ATI Radeon HD 7900 Series
DirectX: Version 9.0c
Network: Broadband Internet connection
Storage: 6 GB available space
Additional Notes: Screen Resolution - 1920x1080 </b>
When it comes to the visuals, Cossacks 3 is fairly on point. Cities, armies, and maps look pleasant and varied when at rest. Watching your units move in formation is a pretty enjoyable feel. That said, when things get exciting and units fill the screen engaging each other, you can expect frame rate to take a hit like an old school StarCraft Carrier swarm. The game looks charming when at rest or even when moving slowly, but the frenetic pace of over thousand units on screen attacking each other at once will most likely test some systems.
COSSACKS 3 VERDICT
Cossacks 3’s visuals are initially colorful, smooth, and charming and giving the player so many tools to work with in the form of varied units and buildings, numerous upgrades, and vast armies with options for formation makes it seem like there are so many answers to the question of what it will take to win the day in any given skirmish. Unfortunately, the execution breaks down quickly once armies clash and the game quickly reveals how much of stuttering mess it is in both visuals and gameplay, with the most successful solution often coming down to mostly hitting it with all you’ve got and hoping your boys get through before theirs do. Cossacks 3 is extremely ambitious in its offerings and they mostly look good on paper, but when it comes time to deliver, it collapses under the weight of its own promises.
TOP GAME MOMENT
Gathering hundreds of soldiers in the most pristine of formations and setting them up in organized ranks for the offensive. They look quite proud for the awful things that are about to happen.
Good vs Bad
- Strong variety of units with unique strengths and weaknesses
- Large variety of buildings and resource wells to support troops
- Vast array of upgrades for all fronts
- Colorful maps with strategic opportunities
- Terrible player and enemy AI waste the above positives
- Complex strategy quickly devolves into simple bum rush tactics
- Performance issues in large engagements
- No unit or technology progression in campaign