Almost real! Mass anarchy of battle clashes. A combination of Age of Empires and Shogun:Total War.
Now this a chaotic game! If you think Age of Empires is a great game, this game makes it look like mud down the drain (though you may disagree after you read my review on the bad stuff of this game). If your looking for a never-ending war game, this is probably the closest thing.
Each nation (more than 15) has they're unique units and specialities (like AOE but more diverse), more than 300 different technologies.
I'll compare this game with Age of Empires (AOE) to tell you what makes this game a great buy:
1. Mass battles. Ever seen more than 100 units battling each other? Try 8000 units. Mass blood, mass everything.
2. Totally realistic. Some die hard, some die quickly. This game is a total violation of human rights! These are the realistic features of the game:
a. Geography strategy: Yes, the higher the terrain, the longer you climb and further your guns and cannons can shoot.
b. Impassible terrain: Some areas where you just can't pass, because of the geographic terrain. Very useful in war tactics.
c. Cannons: Cannons are ever so usefull, and they kill a lotta guys too. Experience the grapeshot cannonball (mass death), Multi-barred cannon (first form of an automatic machine gun), Howitser: close range bombardment and the building basher: the Mortar.
d. No ones perfect, but some are: Yes, it's not just about hitpoints, there are lucky shots (one shot one kill), and bad misses (especially cannons).
e. Realistic economy: Well, almost. The prices of the market are also affected by time besides supply and demand. And they tell you what commodities are a profit or a loss.
f. Food! Yes, they go down. Unlike AOE, your soldiers actually eat. Gotta get those farms working.
g. Maintanence: Yep, walls need stone maintation, cannons and ships always need gold. Uh, don't know if that's realistic or not though.
e. Ruins. After a building is bombarded to 0, it takes a while for the ground to clear. Irritating but logical.
f. Splinters and cannon fire: Big cannons cause a lotta destruction. Try standing beside a building that's being bombarded and live through it. And don't try standing in front of a firing cannon, if the cannonball doesn't get you, the explosive force will.
g. Generals and drummers: You need these guys to create formations. Logical enough.
3. No end of resources! Yes, no more running out of gold.
4. Mass unit communication: Although it needs a lotta fixing, you can mass command your units.
5. Mercenaries: Yes, you can hire foreign troops. They cost a lotta a gold, and are weaker than you home-made troops, but are so fast to create. Oh, and they need annual pay or else they will rebel!
6. No more making homes! The irritating part in AOE, is you need a lotta houses for your troops. Barracks and town halls have a lotta space.
7. Expensive buildings. The next building you make is more expensive than the last building. Very wise.
8. Massive unit level. I have reached the limit, but it seems to be a combination number between you and your enemies. But they don't say the number limit though (8000 maybe?).
9. Active repairmen: Your peasants thankfully after repairing one damaged wall, fix the next and so one. Unlike AOE.
There's a whole more, but I can't seen to recall. Sorry.
The game testers MESSED UP BIG TIME on this game.
If we're talking about user friendly, you still can't beat AOE.
For a strategy game, this is a very IRRITATING game. Thank you for that sudden burst of emotion.
It's very hard to control your units: They can't seem to walk a straight line between A to B. They like taking detours and sightseeing. This stupidicy by one of your units can provoke the a whole battlion to attack when your outnumbered. Word of advise: Don't higher tourists in your army. This game proves that point.
Your units have a very active imagination: a too high artificial intelligence when you don't want them to do squat. I wish they'd just sit still. AOE still wins in this are on the "defend" (or guard?) command. Where they attack and approaching enemy and go back to their destined guard post.
Personally comment for the makers of the game: If you can't make it better, DON'T MAKE IT WORSE. Thank you.
The formations are very bad. Unlike AOE, formations can only be made by single unit types per 16 units: 16, 32, 64 etc.
You peasants can be captured, if not guarded by your troops. Probably realistic, but very irritating. Especially if they're reparing walls.
Oh, I just found out you cannot tell your TOWERS TO STOP FIRING. Why is this a problem? It is when they keep blowing up your wooden walls, thus letting the enemy in. Great job by the makers of the game in making this worse than AOE.
Word of warning, your units move like snails. A grandpa could walk faster with one leg as far as I am concerned. Although there are some units that specialize in fast movement, the "reinforcement" strategy may require a lot of praying to actually succed.
The Bottom Line
Here's my grade for the game:
Difficulty: A+ Warning only for experienced gameplayers. Oh, I only played the highest level of difficulty by the way. Easy and normal are for novices..hahaha
Why I gave A+, despite the irritating AI, the hardest levels still give you a fighting change, doesn't actually mean you can win, but a fighting chance nevertheless. And campaigns (well most of them) are not just your easy going usual AOE types, they are actually quite challenging.
Not bad. A little more detailed in depth and colour.
Artificial Intelligence: D-
Probably a little dramatic, but your emotions will agree when you find out everyone is going and doing this you didn't tell them to.
User Friendly: D
Not enough short cuts, not enough creative actions. This is by comparing to AOE by the way and other strategic games. You would at least expect something new, but it didn't.
Historical background, manuals and stuff: D
The manual stunk big time to my opinion. Not enough details on history and units. Most historical games I've played have complete details about the background and more. In cossacks, it seems they just needed a formal excuse to put something in writing.
Should you get this game: B
Yeah, why not. I still consider it a good playable game with a LOT of gaming hours.