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Cossacks 3 Could Revive RTS Game Genre

By Peter Suciu
May 19, 2015 3:29 PM PT

GSC Game World on Monday announced it will release Cossacks 3, a new version of the popular real-time strategy title Cossacks: European Wars. It will be available for PC, Mac and Linux machines later this year.

Cossacks 3 is a modern remake of the original game that debuted in 2001. That history-based title was unique in that players could control hundreds of individual units at a time, vastly surpassing other games in the genre.


The original Cossacks: European Wars also was unique in that the game's designers opted to use the European conflicts of the 17th and 18th centuries as a backdrop instead of a science fiction or fantasy setting. During that era, colorfully dressed armies marched in perfect order on the battlefield and blasted away at each other in volleys. The developers at GSC Game Works opted to recreate that aspect of warfare in the game.

Cossacks 3 will build on that. It will include a greater selection of unit types with up to 10,000 individual soldiers on the battlefield at a time. The game will feature 12 playable nations representing the major European powers of the era, along with 140 diverse historical buildings, 100 scientific researches that can upgrade units, and improved physics to provide an even more realistic experience.


War College

When GSC Game Works released the original Cossacks: European Wars, the real-time strategy, or RTS, genre was one of the most popular on PCs and Macs. During the late 1990s and early 2000s, there was a wave of RTS games from major studios including Electronic Arts, Activision and Microsoft, including such high-profile series as Age of Empires, Command & Conquer and StarCraft.

The game play in all of them involved workers who could gather resources and build various structures, which in turn could produce military units, or upgrade the technology to improve the military units' fighting abilities. Players controlled their units and buildings, and used the workers to gather resources and attempt to fend off their enemies, all in "real time."


Despite the popularity of the genre, it eventually burned itself out -- largely because the game play was largely the same, even though the settings changed. Advanced features only made the game play more complex, essentially limiting its appeal.

Now, Cossacks 3 could introduce a new generation of gamers to the RTS genre.

"With games like this, it really depends on how well the game plays," said Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group.

The realism of the graphics and the relevance of the material are crucial, he suggested.


The material "may be an issue for the Western markets but should play well in Europe and Eastern Europe," Enderle told TechNewsWorld. "In addition, there are a lot of folks worldwide that like period games."

Don't Know Much About History

GSC Game Works' approach to being historically accurate could appeal to history buffs, but the game may not reach a wider audience, given that science fiction has become the de facto setting for countless action games.

"Certainly, if it does that, other game companies may take interest -- but the industry hasn't been excited about RTS games for a while, and it will likely take a breakout success to change that," said Enderle.

"I doubt a period game will do that. Science fiction and fantasy genre games -- particularly when releasing around hit movies in that same category -- likely have a higher probability of being a truly breakout success," he noted, "but if this game plays as well as it looks, it should still do surprisingly well."

Gaming Evolution

One hurdle facing an RTS comeback is that the gaming market has expanded dramatically in the past decade.

"The RTS genre is alive and well, actually, but it's evolved into MOBAs," said Joost van Dreunen, cofounder and principal analyst at Super Data Research.

MOBA (multiplayer online battle arena) and ARTS (action real-time strategy) feature similar game play but typically shorter matches than found in most RTS games, which required an hour or more of game play.

Another problem was that the same technology leaps that benefited shooters and action games may have hurt the RTS genre, which typically relied on overhead isometric views.

"When the jump to 3D was made,, we saw some action on persistent bases and customizable units, and Creative Assembly has done well leveraging huge unit numbers with its historical Total War series," said George Chronis, video game industry analyst for DFC Intelligence.

"Yet the big trend in RTS games remained competition -- as seen with StarCraft in Korea," he told TechNewsWorld. "On the PC, MOBAs crystallized that trend with new blood, giving many RTS players the new competitive experiences they were looking for."

On the other hand, mobile RTS titles like Clash of Clans siphoned off mainstream users, added Chronis, "so the genre never really left us -- it just got compartmentalized."

A New RTS Audience

Video game remakes often tend to stand out, especially on the PC, in part because the older games often may not be playable on the latest hardware. Even when the games are playable, few compare to the latest graphical updates, so gamers may want the same old favorite with a bit of an update.

"Cossacks 3 is a modern remake, which means the appeal will be nostalgic," said Chronis. "There definitely is a market there for a complete and fully featured RTS, but the question is whether a new audience will find the game? If not, then there won't be much chance for the genre."

Cossacks 3 is not Doom -- the hugely popular first-person shooter that was remade successfully with modern graphics. It springs from a fan favorite but not a mass hit, and that could be the biggest battle the game faces.

"It is possible for a more niche-focused RTS to do well and even spark renewed interest in the genre, but there are a lot of alternatives in the current market which may make it difficult for it to break back into the mainstream," Super Data's van Dreunen told TechNewsWorld.

One advantage that Cossacks 3 could have, however, is that as a PC game from an indie developer, it likely won't be nearly as expensive as many of today's triple-A titles for the console systems.

"Games out of Eastern Europe tend to be very aggressively priced for a PC game," noted Enderle. "If the game play is good, this should be able to find a loyal following -- building from the core of legacy players -- and find a new audience."

Peter Suciu is a freelance writer who has covered consumer electronics, technology, electronic entertainment and fitness-related trends for more than a decade. His work has appeared in more than three dozen publications, and he is the co-author of Careers in the Computer Game Industry (Career in the New Economy series), a career guide aimed at high school students from Rosen Publishing. You can connect with Peter on Google+.

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