Genre: Strategy Developer: Creative Assembly Publisher: Sega Classification: G Release Date: 14th Mar 2009 Platforms:PC
Login to submit your review score
The Good bits
Wow this game is big.
At no point did CA stop and say "Maybe we've done enough".
No holds barred approach to hardcore strategy will satisfy many.
The Bad stuff
Arrrrgh, the pathing!
Yarrr, the sea battles!
No holds barred approach to hardcore strategy will prove too complicated to some.
Empire: Total War's greatest strength is also its greatest weakness. The strategy behind Empire: Total War's trademark epic battles is ultra-realistic, and early on in learning the game you get a feeling of power unmatched by all other games. You have the ability to try out strategies and tactics others wouldn't dream of, you can attempt attacks most wouldn't dare and you can become the ultimate armchair general.
And just when you feel like you cannot be beaten, you'll send your artillery to the top of a mountain to provide awe-inspiring long ranged support only to have the unit AI take a path directly through enemy combatants - routed seconds into the battle for making a manoeuvre not even the craftiest (or mentally unbalanced) general would attempt. After taking so much care in creating a realistic environment for you to command your armies, the need to micromanage your armies with specific waypoint style directions is mind-boggling.
Of course, when you're talking about a title as grand as Empire: Total War, a small thing like occasionally in the heat of battle needing to micro-manage your army is only a blip on the radar. We're looking at a game which is part Turn-Based Strategy part Real Time Tactics - you've got unit and resource management on a mountainous scale and you've got tactical battle management with the same grandeur.
As you might expect from a title which combines TBS with RTT, Empire: Total War isn't easy. The tutorials in the game adequately walk you through the basics of movement and attacking - and the turn-based part of the game is explained quite well. If you aren't a modern day Hannibal of Carthage however, the advanced military tactics the AI uses from the outset will probably come as a rude shock for you. Newcomers to the series will probably have issues winning battles even when the odds are stacked in their favour as the AI outflanks and outmanoeuvres them. Arguably, you might call this a trait of the Total War series - it would be interesting to see whether players of the previous games would like or dislike an emphasis on learning tactics.
This takes me back to Rome: Total War. One of my friends not known for strategic thinking (or most kinds of thinking) would play the game religiously, developing and proving the might of the HRE again and again. I was interested to see how he was winning battles - I soon found out he'd let the AI resolve every single skirmish except when he was poised for certain victory. By playing only battles he was certain to win over and over he eventually learned the game's ins and outs until he was confident enough to fight battles most would probably lose. Empire: Total War can of course be played the same way, so it's by no means a write-off for newcomers.
The introduction of sea battles is a welcome one - the player now has the ability to control and command a fleet, whereas previously sea battles were immediately resolved by AI. Given the game's 18th century setting and the influences a powerful navy had at the time to both military and economic affairs, it's a logical step for the series. Unfortunately the approach the game takes is slow and tedious - much like a real life ocean based skirmish - which breaks the pace of the game. Further, when compared to the hectic and massive battles taking place on land, sea battle seem tiny and inconsequential by comparison. They're quite easy to win on your own but you'll find them barely worth the time. What's worse is - I can't imagine any other way for the Total War series to do sea battles.
About the 18th century setting - I'm not a fan. To me it's not a great enough period of history to warrant a game like this - the single player story campaign based around the American Revolution isn't as great a struggle to me as say the rise and fall of the Roman Empire or the Crusades. The larger scale campaign involving the typical world wide domination objective dashes the emphasis on the beginning of the American nation and allows you to play as whoever you want once more - if you don't care for the birth of the USA, jump straight into the campaigns.
All in all, Empire: Total War is an epic achievement. It's not the gaming perfection I imagined it would be - the sea battles seem simplistic compared to the grand battles on land, and the AI pathing leads to some instances of micro-management which rob the game of the
immersion it creates with its graphics and realism. Still - those graphics and that realism are something to behold. E:TW transcends minor issues, lets you forget them and uses sheer numbers and size to bludgeon you into liking it.
At the end of the day I find myself in the peculiar predicament of hating the pathing, disliking the setting and being underwhelmed by the sea battles... and yet still consistently attempting to conquer the world. The series has always traditionally been the kind of game which is too difficult for your average gamer, and Empire: Total War isn't here to pander to the Everyman. It takes a hard-line approach at strategy gaming and despite a few hiccups it conquers all those in its path. If it comes to a vote though, I say we go back to Rome and we fix that iffy AI.
what could have been will be how this game is remembered. total waste unless some real fixes come out, so far not much. to me it makes no sense you have to be connected to a host and the bugs are worse than any other game i've played EVER
Great game, the only problem I have is that the strategy map section is too slow & laggy. It takes forever to see all the AI moves play out and they themselves have a laggy transition from one to the next.
Personally though, I always loved the Total War series for the real-time part, so I mainly play custom battles (land & sea). That way you can just play around with all the different units, strategies and battle areas, which in turn prepares you for some seriously hard multiplayer matches.
However, if you're the strategy map type then I strongly suggest you get yourself a top-end Intel core i7, cuz that's about the only thing that would be able to run the strategy map part lag-free.
Overall this is a great game , but there is still room for improvement. The thing that lets it down for me is the freezes and crashes. Also the relatively low performance , eg graphics lag in the map area.
I have a reasonably good set up that handles all other games nicely , but so much with Empire Total War.
I have an Intel Core Duo E8400 (3.00 ghz) running at 1333 mhz fsb. 2 GB Corsair DDR2 running at 1066 mhz.
A Gigabyte mobo P35-DS3
An ATI X1950 512 MB DDR4 mem , processor and graphics mem running at overclocked speeds.