Games can be loaded with detail, diversity, options, nice graphics, good sound and more, but no amount of features such as these can save it if game play is ugly and difficult. Control in Cohort II is pretty much a joke and that one shortcoming is enough to trample the game in the dust like one of Hannibal's elephants. The reference isn't too far-fetched since the game is rooted in the bygone era of Caesar and the Roman army that followed Hannibal's efforts. You can manipulate (control is too kind a term for the action) your forces at the army, battle group or individual unit level but be prepared to enjoy (or not, as the case will surely be for any serious war gamer looking for some vestige of realism) an imitation of the Keystone Cops on a bad day. Individual units will actually run into each other despite your best and most careful efforts to control their collective movements but the worst aspect is watching in horror as your troops retreat from the battle you've so carefully pointed them toward simply because the controls won't respond in any thing like real time. Problems exist in turning your units, directing your units and then regrouping or maintaining unit integrity for any number of equally absurd reasons. Further exacerbating the situation is the fact that control encompasses entire armies made up of a huge number of units, each frustratingly exhibiting tendencies to defy your orders.
Cohort II is intended as a stand-alone title with the added value of being able to play out battles from the earlier game Caesar. The lack of control notwithstanding, the interface is mouse controlled and dependent upon a system of pop-up menus. That part of the game functions fairly well but the heart of the game is the actual combat between your troops and the not-so-intelligent computer controlled opponents. To add insult to (virtual) injury, the game ships with a number of scenario cards that do nothing more than redefine unit structure and alter battlefields or conditions. Looks good at first until you realize that none of these altered battles or scenarios are offered as options within the game itself. To use them, you'll have to basically set up the scenario yourself.
Speaking of setting up, the scenario editor/builder is difficult to operate and very limited in scope regarding user input. Lack of a multi-player mode is surprising in a war game although decent artificial intelligence routines would solve that problem. No such luck in Cohort II as the computer plays predictably and changes tactics rarely. Figure out the winning formula and simply apply it to all scenarios and you'll win more often than not. Movement (such as it is) on the battlefield is a kind of freeform action that takes place on a moving (scrolling) screen with no hexes or squares normally associated with war gaming. Perhaps implementation of a limiting but focused movement system (e.g., hexes) could get the troops back in line but based on the game's slightly obtuse AI, it isn't likely.
Graphics: Individual units are nice to look at. Battlefields are nondescript and boring.
Sound: Even the sound effects aren't exactly game enhancing and, in fact, have an unintentional and unrealistic quality.
Enjoyment: Frustration Central. Suggestion: pass on this one, or, if you buy it and get stuck with it, pass it on to someone you don't like.
Replay Value: Too limited in game play. Suffers from AI brain cramp and repetitiveness.
Set around 200BC to 200AD, Cohort II give you the opportunity to set up battles between Roman armies of varying size and type, between warring races of barbarians, or to pit a Roman army and barbarian horde against each other. Over two dozen scenarios are provided (with the separate Scenario Cards) for those wishing to "draw their swords" immediately into a challenging battle. Your computer opponent has a variety of different tactics at its disposal, and will vary them depending on how the battle progresses. So even if you play the same scenario again and again, it won't be the same game twice.
Cohort II is a significant upgrade of Impressions' earlier Cohort. Aside from an upgrade of graphics (to VGA this time) and gameplay, this version is part of an interlocking game system module with Caesar, which allows the user to "drop down" and play out the tactical battles. The actual implementation of tactics, however, bears no relation to history: often it feels as if you are commanding a squad of World War II units than ancient Romans. Recommended for anyone who wants to delve into Caesar battles in more detail, but definitely not as a stand-alone product.
People who downloaded Cohort II (a.k.a. Fighting for Rome) have also downloaded:
Cohort (a.k.a. Fighting for Rome), Centurion: Defender of Rome, Command & Conquer: Generals, Caesar, Civil War Generals 2, Blitzkrieg: Battle at The Ardennes, Close Combat, Command & Conquer
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