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Empire: Total War review
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  1. #1

    Default Empire: Total War review

    Creative Assembly
    Historic Real-Time Strategy
    Release Date:
    Mar 3, 2009 (more)

    The series that mixes real time strategy with turn based management has a large fanbase and an even larger reputation for being one of the best strategy games around. Does the latest installment deliver the same fun and ingenuity as previous games, even as it breaks new ground for Total War? Read on to find out.


    Anyone who has played the TW series knows it's got some really good things going for it. It satisfies both the city builder and the warmonger, with it's ingenious real time battles, and it's simple but in-depth empire management. Until now, however, the series had been strictly medieval-to-Roman era themed, with your army consisting of swordsmen, archers and various specialty units. Now the game moves to Colonial era gameplay, and allows for you to play during the 1700s and beyond, during the time of muskets and cannons. Although this was a bold move, it was a good one, with the end result being a very fun (although somewhat unpolished) strategy game.

    First off, if you don't like slow games, Empire: TW is not for you. The game is simply not fast paced by any stretch of the imagination. This is not a design flaw - except in the case of the obnoxiously long loading screens, which can last for well over a minute - but merely a result of the type of game it is.

    The game's tutorial of sorts tells the story of the United State's earliest beginnings and then it's war against Great Britain for independence. The learning curve is somewhat steep for inexperienced strategy gamers, but it is introduced at a slow and steady pace, never overloading you with too much information at once.

    After the beautifully rendered opening cinematic, you are given control of the first British colony of Jamestown. You build up your defenses, create a small militia army, and move to take a few Native American settlements to secure your borders. This is fairly simple, although you get an idea early on of the level of thought required during times of war. It isn't generally (unless you are significantly larger than your opponent) a simple game of taking city after city until they nation is wiped out. It requires, at the base level, moderate tactical thought and a bit of shrewd diplomacy.

    Say, for example, that you are on unfriendly terms with a similarly sized nation near your borders. Could you simply amass an army and throw everything you have into a war with them? Sure, if you want to be bankrupt and have your entire army wiped out before two turns are completed.

    First, you would need to find out who their allies are, which is fairly simple since they show up right next to the nation on the diplomacy screen. Big allies equals big wars and that equals big troubles. Alliances can be nullified if the nation is allied with both warring nations - playing favorites is bad for their image, and they'll generally remain neutral.

    Next you would need to make an overall attack plan, which has close to a thousand variables involved. You need to decide what cities to attack first, where to move your armies for maximum coverage, what units to make, etc. etc.

    Once you're relatively sure you can handle the war on a strategic basis, you need to make sure your economy can support it. Units cost money to recruit, and then, depending on the unit, a certain amount of money per turn of upkeep cost. You can increase your economic power by upgrading industrial buildings, having good trade routes, and increasing the output of your farms and other resource buildings. This can be a pain, but it is absolutely necessary to becoming a world superpower. Having a lot of money is good for a multitude of other reasons, as well...you can bribe nations with expensive gifts, buy entire cities off of them, and of course, increase your military might.

    Now that everything is set, it's time to go to war. This is where the game really shines. I can't even describe with words how freaking fun the battles are. You need to understand that you are fighting with the earliest firearms and artillery however, so it takes patience and a rudimentary understanding of how these weapons worked to play the game.

    For example, muskets are really, really inaccurate. This is because as opposed to having the inner groove of modern guns, the ball would basically just spin around inside until it shot out, and you never knew where it would land. The only thing you could say with certainty was that it would end roughly where you were aiming. The game plays on this a lot.

    An entire platoon of soldiers can walk up, under constant fire, to your battle line and not be completely decimated. Unless you mean "decimated" as the Romans used it...every tenth man dying.

    Of course, over the course of a few volleys of shots, their numbers will drop hugely, as will their morale. Morale plays an even bigger part in battles than numbers or equipment, and it's an equalizer of sorts. The best part is, it's pretty easy to figure out, since it's common sense stuff.

    Units are confident when their side is winning, when their general is nearby, when they have men at their flanks to keep them safe or when they're doing something heroic like charging. They get scared and consider running away when a lot of them are dying, they're losing overall, the general is dead, or a multitude of other reasons. Eventually, they will get scared enough to "route", and run from the battle. This can create a really deadly chain reaction, because when people see their friends running they tend to join them. Making sure units always have back up and never throwing them into the meat grinder is critical to winning a battle.

    There are three types of battles, in general, excluding several smaller types. These are field battles, fort battles, and sieges.

    Field battles are the most common as far as my gameplay went. They occur when one force attacks an enemy force on any open area. Several factors are involved, like tree cover, buildings you can enter if you're in a town or farm or what have you, and the weather. If it's pouring rain then your weapons might backfire, units will have the accuracy of a drunken blind man, and other things.

    Fort battles are when a force garrisoned inside a fort are attacked. Why would anybody do that? Good question. It can serve several purposes, but this type of battle should be avoided at all costs, because this is by far the most difficult fight.

    Positioning forts at the mouth of a crossing can force the attacking force to take it so that they can continue to a city. And by "take it", I don't just mean taking the fort. You literally take it in a not so good way when you are forced to attack one.

    The defenders have an ENORMOUS defensive bonus. It takes a miracle and a lot of strategy to win these battles on higher difficulty settings. A fully upgraded Star Fort, where there is no possible way to get on the walls without taking shocking casualties, are the worst.

    The last type of battle is the moderately difficult one, and that is taking a city in a siege. If you keep your forces outside of the city, you can starve the enemy into submission (nothing coming in or out will make some very angry and hungry people) but the enemy will usually attack at the last second to avoid this. You can also demand that they surrender, but this almost never works. Nations are generally more willing to sacrifice hundreds of lives than simply give up the city.

    City and fort battles can be won by either making your way to the center and holding it against enemy troops still trying to defend it, or by killing/routing all units.

    After you've been fighting battles for awhile, you might take the time to enjoy some of the visuals. The graphics aren't groundbreaking, but they are stunning regardless. You can zoom in and check out the buttons on an individual soldier's suit, or take a view of the entire battle at once. When things get moving, with cannon blasts exploding left and right and all the gunfire, not to mention the awesome spectacle of a cavalry charge, the game is a sight to behold. You get a real epic feeling in some of the larger battles.

    Quit shots of a really quickly made battle (images are too large to post here, they'd mess up the spacing)

    Overview of setting up my units

    Failed cavalry charge, in an attempt to soften up their riflemen before their main assault

    Display of one of my favorite tactics, setting up a killzone using two walls of units

    Sorry that the pics aren't too great, but I needed some fast. This is also why I'm getting destroyed.

    The only things to take away from this masterpiece of a strategy game are some annoying bugs and the LOADING SCREENS. I mentioned earlier that they're long, but I need to reiterate: they are REALLY annoying. They do, however, give you really cool quotes from generals and political leaders to read that make you think.

    There are occasionally weird issues where units march single file, in a weird, glitchy hop.

    The game has at least one major crash-to-desktop error I've found and tested multiple times. It happened to me when exchanging ships from my navy while in a port. It didn't occur out at sea though.

    The frame rate occasionally drops for no apparent reason. It'll be running a thousand explosions without a hiccup, but then when you need to move the map it'll go from 60 to 20 FPS without warning. Very annoying.

    The bottom line

    Storyline: 9/10
    Regardless of your political views or your thoughts on the US, you can't help but cheer them on as the story tells about it's creation and war for independence.

    Graphics: 9/10
    Good details, textures are high quality, and effects are visually stunning. Only missing one point because of occasional frame rate drops.

    Sound: 8/10
    Good voice acting when there is some, and excellent sound effects.

    Replay value: 10/10
    The grand campaign is replayable an infinite number of times.

    Innovation: 10/10
    I can't think of another game that has even gone into this genre of Colonial RTS, let alone done it well.

    Overall: 9/10

    Once again, ask questions and they'll be added in a Q&A section.
    Last edited by Ubernerd; 09-15-2009 at 03:29 PM.

    Thank ye kindly, StreetSoldier.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Aug 2009


    you know im might just quit being a game review, caus eyour reviews and everyone elses, makes mine look childish.
    PSN = Street_Soldier69 [/B][/COLOR]

  3. #3


    Quote Originally Posted by Street_Soldier69 View Post
    you know im might just quit being a game review, caus eyour reviews and everyone elses, makes mine look childish.
    Just because they're shorter doesn't mean they're not worth reading.

    Thank ye kindly, StreetSoldier.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Aug 2009


    Quote Originally Posted by Ubernerd View Post
    Just because they're shorter doesn't mean they're not worth reading.
    see i review game slike an 1 hour after i get them, but now im trying to beat the game before i review it
    PSN = Street_Soldier69 [/B][/COLOR]

  5. #5


    Quote Originally Posted by Street_Soldier69 View Post
    see i review game slike an 1 hour after i get them, but now im trying to beat the game before i review it
    That's a good idea, only reviewing with an hour of experience doesn't give you a whole lot to talk about.

    Then again, I play at least 10 hours of a game and I also spend up to two hours on these reviews, but they sometimes still look short to me.

    Thank ye kindly, StreetSoldier.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    May 2008
    US of A


    Yeah man, if you beat the game it's ALOT easier to write the review.
    Especially if you do what I do and make notes while playing the Game.

    Anyway, Good review, never got to play this game.

  7. #7


    Best strategy ever

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