Empire: Total War Review
Empire Total War? What the hell? Didn’t this game come out like a year ago or something? Let me check…March 3, 2009! Whoa! This game must be twenty bucks by now, right? Let me check…No way! Fifty bucks still! Wake me up again in another 199 days. At LonePlacebo, you see, a game review is never to late. Tetris, anyone?
This game review is no ordinary game review. Sure, it’s fantastically written like always, but you’ll notice something different. Is it the font? No. Is it how friggin long it is in comparison with 90% of this website? Kind of. I know you are dying from anticipation. The inability to figure out this enigma must be eating away at your appendix. That’s right! It’s written by LonePlacebo’s first ever employee! He goes by the tentative pen name of “Sahin the Falcon.” (Don’t ask me) He specializes in everything and will hopefully continue to produce some more Pulitzer-worthy articles for this website in the future. Proceed to the article and make your judgment.
Empire: Total War, the latest game in the Creative Assembly’s award-winning Total War series, puts you into the wartorn 18th century to command one of twelve major factions, such as the British, French, or Ottomans. If you didn’t know yet, the Total War series is a turn-based strategy game that allows players to control both the strategic layer of their empire and the tactical battles. All strategic decisions such as infrastructure improvement, taxation, and army recruitment are controlled in the turn-based main campaign map, which spans Europe, the Middle East, North Africa, North America, and part of South America. The rest of the world is represented by small trading coastlines that can generate trade income if you send ships there.
Where Empire: Total War differs from games such as Europa Universalis III, Hearts of Iron III, and Civilization IV is its tactical battle map. Whereas battles in these games are decided instantaneously, Empire gives the player direct, real-time control of both land and naval battles. Players can control any regiments or ships recruited in the campaign map in these battles. Any losses sustained in battle will be reflected in the campaign map.
The campaign map view shows your faction’s regions (the main territorial breakdown in the game), cities, and villages. Regions serve as a predetermined territorial boundaries. Simply capture more regions to expand your territory. Each region contains one main city, which is where recruitment occurs. Regions may also contain ten or more villages, which can specialize in the production of wealth (calculated in taxation) through workshops and mines, or schools (which research technology), or churches (which convert populations to your state religion and decrease civil unrest). Empire models happiness and discontent into the game, too. If you build lots of government buildings and place troops in your regions, your citizens will be less likely to revolt. If you build too many schools, or even worse, universities (damn those protesting students!), your regions could erupt into open revolt or even catapult your empire into revolution. Your wise monarch could be guillotined and replaced by an elected ruler.
Diplomacy also occurs in the campaign map view, but as of patch 1.3 it is basically broken. The AI is overly aggressive and rarely makes peace. Overall, the entire campaign AI is not very well coded. Within a few turns you may find yourself at war with multiple factions. Ironically, the game’s difficulty is still balanced because the AI doesn’t create enough troops, enabling you to fight multiple countries at once. Still, the AI has its moments of intelligence. It can send raiding parties rampaging through your territory, disrupting your economic progress, and use its navy to mount sneak attacks. The AI will also fanatically defend important areas, such as its capital city.
Land battles reflect the style of warfare in the 18th century. Armies are formed mainly by musket-armed Line Infantry, supported by cannons, skirmishers (armed with primitive rifles), and cavalry. As time goes on, technology advances. This is a new addition to the Total War series. You can choose which technologies to research in the campaign map. For example, you can focus on researching infantry technologies to teach them new firing drills, such as Fire by Rank, which triples your Line Infantry’s firepower. Overall, land battles are easy to command and glorious to watch. Land battles have virtually no bugs and are almost as good as watching a movie like Glory, Gettysburg, or The Patriot. I especially like the melee animations, all individually recorded by professional stuntmen. Men stab and hack at each other, pushing each other on the ground and kicking downed men in the face. It is even possible for knocked down soldiers to parry bayonet stabs or roll out of the way and get back up again. The smoke, gunfire, and melee fighting sounds all add to the epic battle atmosphere of the game. I especially enjoy seeing cavalry charge into an unprepared infantry formation and send men flying in all directions.
Naval battles are graphically just as refined as land battles, but a bit harder to control. Almost all ships are sailing ships of the line, carrying from 18 to 122 cannons on their sides. Players can control up to twenty sailing ships in battle, which may not seem like a lot but is actually a hassle. To add to the micromanagement, players can inflict bonus damage to enemy ships by manually firing broadsides. It is hard to resist the temptation of firing broadsides (who would forgo more damage?) but timing the broadsides of more than 5 ships is downright impossible. You can also board ships to capture them, but the defending ship gets such a huge defensive bonus in the boarding melee that it is much easier (and less risky) to just sink the enemy ships instead of boarding them, even if you are already winning the battle.
Multiplayer consists only of land battles and naval battles, though a 1v1 campaign multiplayer was promised for the future. You will find many challenging opponents online. A thorough ranking system keeps track of your victories and losses, as well as providing each player a skill rating. Winning battles against higher ranked players will increase your rating. Drops are fairly infrequent in multiplayer, though they are possible.
Overall, Empire: Total War is a highly polished and elegant strategy game that allows armchair generals to conquer the known world of the 1700’s. There are European nations to humble, Native Americans to crush, and boundless land to colonize into a worldwide empire.
Presentation – 10/10 There is no equally in-depth strategy game out there that is this easy to pick up and start playing. In fact, the tutorial is an entire four-part campaign, called the Road to Independence, where you play as the British colonials and eventually win your independence. When you play the tutorial you will feel like you are already playing a game for real.
Gameplay – 9.5/10 There are a few bugs here and there, and the campaign AI is not perfect, but anyone who thinks that musket-armed troops are no fun to fight with will be pleasantly surprised.
Graphics – 10/10 The graphics are just gorgeous for a strategy game of this caliber. The models and skins alone are amazing, but the melee animations just put this game well over the top.
Sound – 8.5/10 The sounds of battle are very convincing, but the music is not. The campaign music is also rather repetitive.
Multiplayer – 8.5/10 Land and naval battles are awesome, but they only last about 30 minutes each. No campaign multiplayer – yet.
Lasting Appeal – 10/10 Twelve factions, twelve campaigns, hundreds of units, land battles, naval battles, a large multiplayer community, numerous mods and maps, paid downloadable content, what else could you ask for?
Overall – 9.5/10
Empire is everything a historical strategy gamer could ask for.
Reviewer’s PC Specs and Recommendations:
CPU: Intel E8500 3.16 GHz
RAM: 4GB 1066MHz
Video Card: Radeon HD4870 512 MB
Monitor: 22” 1680×1050 resolution
On a 22” monitor you will need at least a Radeon HD4870 or a Geforce GTX 260 to run Empire on ultra settings with the maximum number of units onscreen. However, on a 17” monitor a Radeon HD4850 or 9800GTX+ should do fine. Of course, the game can also be run on lower settings. Even a Geforce 8800 (or 9600 GSO; they are the same thing) or an HD3870/HD4830 should be able to run Empire on high settings. Anything lower than a Geforce 8600/7950 or HD3850 will have to run Empire on low settings. Any decent CPU can run Empire. The system requirements state that a 2.4GHz processor is required; however, Empire can run on a 1.8GHz single-core without much lag. However, you should consider getting at least 2GB of RAM to run Empire. Four or six GB would significantly speed up your load times.