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Submitted by Chris Leyton on March 5 2009 - 21:39

Sleek, profound, and thoroughly addictive, Empire is undeniably Total War's defining chapter, so far...

Pros
  • A perfect blend of turn-based and real-time strategy.
  • Unit compass system is inspired.
  • Fantastic presentation.
Cons
  • Naval battles fail to deliver.
  • Looses the drive a little towards the end.
  • Occasionally iffy performance.

Setting sail towards largely uncharted waters there’s no denying a new title from The Creative Assembly is one of a few PC titles worth getting excited about, content in the knowledge that it sits quite comfortably on the format and offers an experience unlikely to ever be replicated on the consoles.

Having conquered Rome and emerged through the dark ages Empire continues the series legacy, fast forwarding through time to the early modern era of the 1700s and with it the discovery of the New World, vast technological advances, along with the rise of liberty and democracy.  Posing the challenge of global domination by taking charge of a particular nation and engaging in a hearty mix of tactical might, shrewd diplomacy, and devious espionage, Empire: Total War offers near endless levels of scope and scale in a deeply enthralling and satisfyingly time consuming experience.

Splitting the game between the traditional two phases, Empire is played out between turns on the global map by establishing settlements, improving technology, amassing armies, setting taxes, securing trade routes, and gradually gaining control over the 18th century map using whatever devious means necessary.  The second phase bears closer similarities to an RTS, coming into play whenever two factions come into contact and decide to settle their differences on the battlefield – or the open waters.  It’s essentially the same format that has governed the Total War series since day one, however, despite the similarities, Empires undoubtedly sits on the “new and improved” shelf.    Major changes to the turn-based campaign map result in a more efficient approach, yet one that offers enough depth to bewilder even a Total War fan - initially it's all wonderfully overwhelming.  Somehow (and we’re not entirely sure how), The Creative Assembly has managed to streamline the entire process and take the slight chore out of Medieval and Rome, but at the same time added a tremendous amount of new features and depth.  Total War has often fallen short in the strategy offerings compared to the likes of Civilization and certain other more dedicated 4X offerings, however there’s little denying the series has come of age and can now hold its own against the more serious alternatives.

The campaign map has changed quite considerably.  Buildings (barracks, farms, etc...) are now spread individually across each region instead of being located in each town or city, making it easier to spot exactly what you have and the respective stages of development.  Equally the process of recruiting troops has undergone a vast reorganisation, resulting in a unified setup that makes it much easier to keep your generals' numbers well stocked.  The tech tree governing advances in infrastructure, politics, agriculture, and military, offers the same compelling sense of progress and reward, unlocking new technologies which in turn provide crucial benefits on the battlefield (advanced formations), industrial revolutions (steam engine) and philosophical advances (abolition of slavery).  Like Medieval II before it, the tech-tree underpins the entire Total War experience expertly, the key to balancing Empire's many facets requiring a close eye and careful management. 

Although tax rates, trade routes, and the new political elements provide a near-perfect take on the turn-based strategy, there's little getting away from the fact that war got you places in the 18th century, where the battlefield itself is littered with equally considerable improvements.  Whereas battles were a ferocious clash of brute force in previous Total War titles, the increasing role of gunpowder with the invention of cannons and the musket brings about a significant change to the battlefield tactics.  It’s much more a case of holding  the line and keeping a steady nerve, yet knowing the significance of when to order the final charge.  One of the smaller but nevertheless appreciated introductions is the unit compass system, which further enhances the significance Total War places on tactical manoeuvring.  Effectively allowing groups of units to advance, full back, and rotate, the setup provides a highly effective ability to move a wider selection of units while retaining a crucial sense of formation.  Empire also boasts a pleasing degree of interaction with the terrain with walls providing defensive cover,  horses and troops leaping over obstacles and cannons taking advantage from a variety of defensive installations.

Unfortunately despite the promise of fully featured sea battles naval combat largely fails to impress and ultimately left us returning back to the old days of automatically generating the results.  It’s difficult to pinpoint exactly why, but naval combat largely fails to capture the tactical significance that defines the traditional land battles.  Although important aspects such as wind direction and broadside fire are aptly handled, coordinating attack between fleets is a fiddly affair confused by AI movement decisions that would have Nelson rocking in his grave.  Often breaking down into individual skirmishes, it's quite a difficult challenge to maintain the line of battle, which, while probably indicative of the complications of naval combat, ultimately fails to offer the satisfyingly grand tactical majesty of Empire’s land based warfare.

AI, however, by and large is suitably impressive and rarely demonstrates any of the foibles occasionally levelled at Medieval II.  Although the upper hand is always gained by keeping a close eye over each individual unit, we’ve been suitably impressed by the decisions that units will make when left to their own devices.  A cannon firing upon enemy troops decided to switch targets when an ill-informed friendly cavalry charge burst into the same area.  Equally the opponent AI packs plenty of ingenuity and always manages to cause a surprise when you least expect it, which can also be levelled at the shrewdness demonstrated on the campaign map.  Fortunately Empire also appears to suffer less from the dreaded bugs and glitches that thwarted Medieval II upon release.  Although we’ve incurred the occasional game crash and stuttering performance during intense battles on a rig that should be able to play this without too many problems, by and large Empires offers a strong and tight experience.

The addition of a narrative driven mode labelled The Road to Independence provides a rewarding introductory experience for Total War fans and newcomers alike.  With a definitive structure to provide guidance during the early stages of the four chapters, The Road To Independence chronicles the discovery of America, the French and Indian War, and ultimately the Americans decision to usurp foreign control and establish a country of their own with the War of Independence.  Scripted superbly enough to threaten balding history teachers pay packet, the initial list of tasks serve as an ideal tutorial of sorts to the Total War gameplay, before ultimately opening up into something closer to the traditional epic proportions of the Grand Campaign.

Featuring three theatres of operations – America, Europe and India – and with a considerable number of nations to guide to global supremacy, Empire's Grand Campaign offers an enticing variety of challenges to undertake in a thoroughly classic “one more turn” addictive manner.    Although multiplayer is currently the traditional offering of skirmishes on land or sea with Steam functionality and game rankings allegedly set to drag it up to date, the promise of the complete Total War campaign experience finally emerging into multiplayer with a post-release update is something we can’t wait to get our hands on.

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  • Graphics: 86%
     
  • Sound: 89%
     
  • Gameplay: 92%
     
  • Originality: 91%
     
  • Longevity: 90%
     
Overall Score: 9/10
Empire: Total War continues the franchise’s legacy, simply a masterpiece in the strategy genre.  Significant improvements and enhancements to virtually every aspect of the game make this a must-have for fans of the series, whilst we’d urge anybody who’s yet to take the plunge to check it out – Empire: Total War defines PC gaming.

 

   

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By: freeradical

Added:Thu 03rd Dec 2009 11:53, Post No: 33

Yep. It's a public beta, so it's free. The Elite American Units DLC costs £1.99 though.


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By: Anonymous

Added:Wed 02nd Dec 2009 19:13, Post No: 32

can't it be downloaded for free?


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By: Anonymous

Added:Fri 31st Jul 2009 23:49, Post No: 31

'Where "should" reenforcements come then?'

Wherever they were placed on the campaign map should be indicative of where they appear within the battle. A secondary army placed directly behind my main should not spawn onto the battle map directly behind my enemy's army, though this is widely the case.

 

"And I've had plenty of occasions when the AI has retreated."

This is either a lie or a misunderstanding of terms. The AI will "rout" on the battle map when defeated/overwhelmed. The AI does not retreat in campaign map situations; like 20 full assorted units meeting one half strength unit.

"Empire: Total War has been universally acclaimed, but individual complains will always happen"

 

As far as reviews from those paid by a larger company (gamespy, gamenet,tvg, etc) you're right, they're overly positive. Player-written reviews, as far as I have read, have been littered with the comments echoed here - bugs, broken- and missing content, permanently-corrupted saves - take your pick.

The only game i've ever seen that compared to this one's level of buggedlybrokenness is Daikatana - woe betide purchasers thereof.

 


By: SegaBoy

Added:Thu 02nd Jul 2009 17:08, Post No: 30

Oh yeah?  And where did you get that juicy morsel from?  Can't see it myself, seeing as no Total War game has been released for a console.


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By: Anonymous

Added:Thu 02nd Jul 2009 16:51, Post No: 29

Empire: Total War is for xbox 360

 

 


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By: Anonymous

Added:Tue 23rd Jun 2009 07:58, Post No: 28

bad update since then i cant play online when i give orders it takes ten seconds between them to be followed so now my cav wait until everyone fire at them or mly troops dont move they wait to die. This is the worst update I ever seen i am totally desappointed and feel that i cant play it anymore... before everything worked just fine... so now it is just a waste


By: SegaBoy

Added:Thu 16th Apr 2009 10:45, Post No: 27

I found the naval combat in general pretty hit-and-miss...


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By: Anonymous

Added:Wed 15th Apr 2009 00:35, Post No: 26

a large fleet is too hard to manage.


By: SegaBoy

Added:Tue 07th Apr 2009 11:15, Post No: 25

Where "should" reenforcements come then?

And I've had plenty of occasions when the AI has retreated.

Rarely had an issue with CTD, perhaps once.  It's unfair to label this as a fault, as this is most often caused by problems with individual setups.

Empire: Total War has been universally acclaimed, but individual complains will always happen.

Sounds like you should just take your copy back and get a refund, as you're obviously not happy with it.


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By: Anonymous

Added:Mon 06th Apr 2009 23:17, Post No: 24

What the hell kind of awful review is THIS? Did you even play the game, Mr. Reviewer? Did they pay you with freebies. Did the shine blind you?

1. AI can`t do sea invasions. You are invincible as England.

2. Reinforcements don`t come where they should on battlemaps.

3. Diplomacy is useless.

3 Loads of other AI uselesness, like the enemy never retreats even if outnumbered10\1.

4. Loads of cTDs, sounds issues etc.

Plus a helluva a lot more, too many to write here. The only good stuff are the land and ship battles, but alone it is not enough if Campaign Ai is crap!

And if you rated the game on what it might be like in the future, WE want to know what it`s like NOW! It`s our money we spend, not yours.

 

The game deserves 6\10 and you deserve 2/10 for the review.

 


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