Cossacks 3 PC Review

Cossacks 3 is a remake that captures the essence of the original Cossacks but is dragged down by a handful of issues.

By Woozie, Posted 20 Sep 2016

The original Cossacks was one of the first strategy games I dabbled in after being baptized in the fires of Age of Empires and I’ve a couple of fond memories of it. Apart from introducing an era I hadn’t yet seen, its massive battles alongside a different approach towards resources that not only required you to produce but also sustain your troops, made me lose enough hours playing as Prussia, Sweden and the rest of the factions. While it did run a bit under the radar, Cossacks 3 is releasing today.

Cossacks 3, Screenshot, Review

Despite the 3 at the end of the title, the new Cossacks is, in fact, a remake of the original Cossacks, as the developer GSC Game World clearly states on their website. It very much bases its mechanics on the old game, being a classic RTS. Cossacks 3 brings base-building, large land battles and naval battles to the table. Its twelve factions are pulled right from the original game. The continental factions will play similar to each other, the main difference being one unique unit that replaces another in the case of some factions. The real difference comes when we’re talking about Algeria, which bases its army on cheap units that are quick to train and Ukraine, faction that does not have any melee infantry of its own.

Cossacks differs from other classic RTS games in a couple of ways. It definitely involves base building; however, apart from gathering resources to build units, you also need to sustain them. Every man on the ground will drain food from your stockpile. In the case of mercenaries and ships, gold will be drained. Allow your treasury to be emptied and your mercenaries will turn on you, regardless of whether you’re at peace or in the midst of battle. Building cannons may cost a lot of coal, however, without it they will also not be able to fire. A steady stream of resources or otherwise smart troop management is absolutely necessary in order to succeed.

Cossacks 3, Screenshot, Review

The available campaigns focus on different events taking place during the 17th and 18th centuries and cover the entire spectrum of mechanics that Cossacks is known for. Some scenarios will have you simply ordering ships around. Others will be large battles in which you’ll control a part of the army, while others will give you a base and ask you to do a number of things. Before each mission, there’s some written context to the real-life event. While playing, you will also get in-game text that will pop up as you complete objectives. These text bubbles can sometimes inform you of optional objectives that can be done which do yield rewards of a kind or another. Do not, however, expect a very deep or tied-together narrative experience, as that was never the focus of the original.

There is also a skirmish mode, under the Random Map menu. The map selection lacks actual maps, instead relying on presets like “continental” and “mountains”, automatically generating the play field based on your preferences. Up to 8 players can wage war or play at diplomacy on these maps and, as long as AI issues don’t kick in, the feeling is very similar to that of the original. The AI does, however, tend to rely mostly on sending small contingents of troops at regular intervals towards you. On the good side, if a frontal attack is repealed, they will start sending troops on the flanks, at times stealing unguarded peasants right from other your nose. Assigning soldier guards to buildings and workers is very much necessary and a thing that will, hopefully, be included in the tutorial that is said to ship with the full game. It will be a bit odd to see cannons moving around by themselves, without an actual crew, but keeping them far from your other units will make them easy capture targets for enemy cavalry. Friendly fire is also a thing you need to keep in mind. While friendly musketeers won’t mow down your troops, artillery pieces and ship cannons will, especially as their accuracy, without upgrades, will be dependent on the distance between them and the target.

Cossacks 3, Screenshot, Review

While the gameplay is indeed exactly what you’d expect from the original Cossacks, the Cossacks 3 build I played did have a couple of issues that aren’t easy to overlook. The most glaring one was related to naval battles. Selecting a group of even 3 or 4 ships and clicking on the target caused them to clip into each other when in firing range, effectively cancelling their ability to fire upon said target. When ships didn’t do that, they would position themselves in front of each other, allowing for only a part of them to fire upon the enemy. This happened even when the battles were happening in open areas and space was nowhere near an issue. While the ground units did not suffer from the same issue, they had a number of pathfinding difficulties, especially when coming up to bridges which made portions of larger groups to remain behind. At times, certain units wouldn’t allow themselves to be selected with other units. When assigning them to build or harvest, peasants might go over to the target but not initiate their task without clicking on said target again. This is extremely frustrating when you’re trying to build stuff but also need to pay attention at a battle in another place on the map. To top it all off, there’s the music. Either the composer tried to re-invent avant-garde or two tracks in different keys were constantly playing at the same time. Needless to say, I kept the music volume to a minimum.

The other sounds in the game worked as intended and did a decent job of offering feedback. A missing element would, perhaps be, voice prompts when selecting units. Buildings have specific sounds, however selecting units does not. It would be an addition to consider in the future. Cossacks 3 is not a looker, compared to modern strategy games, however, the graphics are visibly improved from the original. Sure, there may be browser games that have similar graphics, but the style GSC Game World chose for Cossacks 3 does help with retaining that old school atmosphere the original had, while doing a good job of letting you know where everything is.

Cossacks 3, Screenshot, Review

At the end of the day, Cossacks 3 captures the charm of the original and will definitely tug at some nostalgia strings. If the issues present in this build transfer over to the full release, the gameplay experience will be marred at times. However if they don’t, you’ll be getting a better looking version of the original Cossacks that has no issue running on modern systems. While its ability to draw in a new crowd is very much debatable, those gamers that remember the “good old days” may want to take a look at Cossacks 3 for a walk down nostalgia lane.

Note: This review is based on a pre-release build that did not feature a tutorial campaign, multiplayer and some localization options.

Bogdan Robert, NoobFeed
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General Information

Cossacks 3


Platform(s): PC
Publisher(s): GSC Game World
Developer(s): GSC Game World
Genres: Real-Time Strategy
Themes: Real-Time Strategy
Release Date: 2016-09-20

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