Eurokerthunked: Empire: Total War Review

By Kieron Gillen on February 27th, 2009 at 9:10 am.

Totally

My review of Empire: Total War has just gone live over at Eurogamer. I have to run to catch a train, so a quick link is all you’re getting for now. Expect RPS’ Wot I Think from Mr Stone early next week

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87 Comments »

  1. abigbat says:

    “…it convinces me that there is glamour in shiny buttons and musket-shot”; I rather enjoyed that!

    Excellent review. I must agree that while I have no interest what-so-ever in this period of military history, the allure of this game has me sorely tempted to give it a chance.

    Bring on the trumpets.

  2. Rob Zacny says:

    When you have a moment, I have a question about the battle maps. In the demo, the Battle of Brandywine map is very nicely detailed, with numerous hills, groves, and paths that made the battle very fluid and unpredictable for a Total War game. Do the maps in the campaign pack as much topographical detail, or are they more traditional Total War campaign maps (big hill with a forest across 1/3 of the map)?

    Are the battles still the Total War titanic clash followed by a quick rout, or do they play a bit more like the demo battle, with skirmishing, advances, retreats, and finally decision?

  3. Plopsworth says:

    I think it’s annoying how deliberately restrictive the timeline is. It’s just so blindingly obvious that they’re saving the Napoleonic Wars (with possible Franco-Prussian conflict) and the 30 years war for expansion-packs.

    It’s like selling an album without the two best tracks on it.

  4. Sucram says:

    “Empire’s Grand Campaign is the grandest”

    Oo sounds grand.

  5. Andrew says:

    “When life gives you cannons, make Cannonade.”

    YES.

  6. MrDeVil_909 says:

    Skipped Medieval 2, the Rome Gold edition was all I needed, but this sounds very cool.

    I think I’ll wait for the first Gold package and the patches that come with it though.

  7. phil says:

    Nice review, I especially like the Tolstoy comparision; War and Piece was indeed bugged to hell, the historical essays were almost game breakers, luckily translators never seem to stop trying to fix it.

    Equally, if you need some contextual reading before Cliving though the sub-continent, White Mughals is just stunning.

  8. Kalain says:

    Wasn’t really interested in getting this until I played the demo. Good review and you come to all the points I agree on.

  9. Orlando says:

    From what i’ve heared it’s a good game… I can’t wait to put my hands on the full version :x

  10. thefanciestofpants says:

    Can’t. Bloody. Wait.

  11. reiver says:

    Kieron nice review and i’m glad to hear that you think the AI has improved.

    I hope you can answer this question as reports have been very ambiguous so far. How do the reinforcements work? Is it like Rome and M2 where you can have multiple armies on the field at once or is it like the original Medieval where it was 20 of your units on the field at once and 1 unit out for every 1 that enters.

    Cheers.

  12. Heliocentric says:

    Okay, you sold it to me. Do want.

  13. Bobsy says:

    Kieron. Kieron!

    Hey, Kieron?

    Why did you only give this 9/10? You are clearly not a reviewer and honestly? I think this must mean you’re very gay indeed. Like, super-gay.

    (just trying to get into the spirit of the times)

  14. Theoban says:

    Oh don’t make me want this, I don’t have time to play this as well as DoWII and finally finishing Bioshock. Please don’t make me buy it…please….ok I’m getting my wallet out….agh!

  15. l1ddl3monkey says:

    I am looking forward to restoring the great British Empire to it’s rightful place as owner of all the worlds tea. At least in a virtual sense.

    Are there any Zulus? Faaaahsands of ‘em? Stop throwin’ those blaaahdy spears at me etc etc

  16. TC says:

    Glad CA reduced the amount of regions/cities, sieges IMO are Total Wars weakest aspect and the less of them and the more big battles the better.

    I did not like the sea battles at first but have come to appreciate them more after learning how to use formations and the various other tactical gubbins in the demo battle. Besides they ship models are just fantastic.

  17. schurem says:

    Do want, want NAO!

  18. ILR says:

    A genuinely positive review for a Total War game is nice surprise after the lukewarm reception of the demo. I was waiting for the inevitable ‘praise praise praise… BUT ON THE OTHER HAND’ section all the way to the midpoint of the third page.

    This will be an eventual purchase. Let’s see a couple more reviews first.

  19. JoeDuck says:

    The game was bought on steam before Christmas. The new pc (bought it for this game) is ready, the os installed, the drivers updated, all the other steam stuff is already downloaded so the pipes are clean for the download. The mouse has new batteries and the day off work is already negotiated. I’ve also been accumulating wife points for sometime and now i’m ready to spend them fast.
    Yes, I’m a fanboy of the TW series AND of the period.

    SO when I read that it ONLY got a 9/10, I feel it is finally my duty as fanboy to do as so many have done before me:

    OMG !!!! 9/10!!!! WHY SO LOW?
    :-)

  20. Real Horrorshow says:

    I’m kind of annoyed to learn that the 13 Colonies/U.S.A. aren’t playable in the grand campaign proper, and are just an unplayable British protectorate.

    I think it would have been a much more interesting set-up to make the 13 Colonies playable at 1700, but a protectorate of GB. Then later on you can decide if you want to rebel or not, or when to do it. Then when certain conditions are met the faction morphs into the USA with specific units, uniforms, flags, etc. (Think Kalmar Union in Kingdoms). I simply assumed it was like this before because it seems like a no brainer. The true set-up seems pretty boring to me.

    We got this brand new TW game set ~500 years into the future from Medieval, the New World, all of that…and I’m stuck with the same 10 or so stuffy old European powers, with only 1 Indian faction and the US playable in a mini campaign to spice things up? All I can say is descr_strat.txt here I come. I cant tell you how much I was looking forward to playing my mother country in a TW grand campaign. European TW fans take it for granted.

    Kieron, maybe you can lift my spirits, can you explain in some detail exactly how large in scale the Road to Independence campaign is compared to at least the previous “single region” TW games? Is it like the Medieval 2/Rome GC’s or is it more like one of the Kingdoms mini campaigns?

  21. MacBeth says:

    “My favourite historical error is that they’ve put Glasgow on the west coast of Scotland.”

    Err… what? Am I missing meta-gags here?

  22. phuzz says:

    “Empire will give you a new bad habit: naval gazing.”
    Oh KG, that’s just terrible.
    Not played a TW game properly since Shogun (which I enjoyed, but got quickly bored of Rome), but the graphics look particularly shiny so this may get a look in in a month or two (people have been mentioning the Gold pack, how long until that’s out, roughly?).

  23. Chandrose says:

    I’m trying not to get too excited, when I get too excited I curse…. fuck yeah!

    *Ahem* Excuse me, but I love the TW series, and this one doesn’t look like it’s going to disappoint.

  24. PaulMorel says:

    Has anyone else played the game “Imperial Glory”? It was released in … 06 I think, and it is basically exactly like this game, as far as I can tell.

  25. MetalCircus says:

    i’m somewhat new to Total War games; is this more or less accessible than previous games? Is the tutorial fluid enough to ease me into it gently (Yes, I know, i’m a big pussy)

  26. Taillefer says:

    AI was my biggest concern, as it seemed to be steadily getting worse. But to see it share a sentence with “hugely improved” is very comforting. Huzzah!

  27. TC says:

    To be honest lots of people myself included think making the 13 colonies a protectorate rather than simply GB territory is already quite a nod to the American audience. No reason to have them as a playable faction as you start with a blank slate in 1700 and the conditions that lead to the colonies seeking independance might not occur.

  28. Real Horrorshow says:

    Gameplay > history. My suggestion would be much more interesting game-play wise than the way it is now. All I wish is that the 13 Colonies be playable since they’re already there, it wouldn’t hurt anything if all you’re going to do is play GB anyway. I don’t see how you can argue against the protectorate set up though, in favor of just making it “Britain in North America.” It will make you have to watch over your colonies to keep them in line. It would be a lot different (and wrong) if colonies were simply treated as territory conquered in a game. AFAIK New Spain and New France are protectorates too.

  29. FhnuZoag says:

    PaulMorel:
    Reading the wikipedia article, it sounds like the big difference is that IG doesn’t model morale, making it much more of a conventional numerical advantage based RTS than Total Wars’ flank, demoralise and crush approach.

  30. JoeDuck says:

    @Paul Morel:
    I played (and finished) Imperial Glory. From what I seem to recall it was way simpler than a TW game, both in the tactical game (AI and morale specially) as well as in the strategy levels (unit diversity, economy, diplomacy…).
    Evidently we still cannot compare as ETW is not out, but
    I hope they are not “basically exactly the same game” because I expect more from ETW.
    Way more.

  31. Dain says:

    If anyone tells you IG is the same as E:TW, fix them with a long stare, walk slowly around them and examine their ear to make sure there is no daylight coming in the other side.

    I could make a long post about how even the N:TW2 mod for Rome was better than IG, but I feel it is unneeded.

  32. Okami says:

    I cant tell you how much I was looking forward to playing my mother country in a TW grand campaign. Well you’ll just have to be content to play your mother country in almost every other game ever made.

  33. Tei says:

    For a historical accurate depiction of the england colonies revolution, I hope the iluminaty war against aliens is well depicted.

  34. A-Scale says:

    YAY! I’m REALLY excited about this title. I only played the most recent Total War game, but I really enjoyed the realistic combat, one shot kills, and tactics. I do believe I’ll be buying this one.

  35. theleif says:

    Who cares about some grumpy British colonist far away, when you can get your revenge on Russia Poland and Denmark, and conquer the world with you unstoppable Caroleans?

  36. Real Horrorshow says:

    Okami: Relax with the snarky attitude. You know, as long as ETW has been announced, every place on the internet I’ve been from YouTube, to various Total War forums, etc., and now even here, I’ve always gotten some kind of sarcastic comment from somebody for just simply saying something innocent along the lines of “It will be fun to play U.S. in a Total War game.”

    Is there really something offensive to you and others that someone might want to play the U.S. in a TW game or isn’t sickened when they hear the words “United States”? Is it a Revolution thing, is that still touchy? I’m not being sarcastic, I’m seriously curious. It’s an established trend to where I can 100% expect to recieve some kind of smart ass comment whenever I place the initials US and TW in the same sentence. Show me a TW forum, I’ll make the post, and then I’ll show you the comment. It works every time.

    Please tell me why.

  37. Kieron Gillen says:

    Real Horrorshow: I admit, I presumed the 13 Colonies *were* playable in the Grand Campaign – I didn’t explicitly check, but they’re in the major nations column in the Diplomacy, which is where the others are.

    (The USA’s campaign is about the length of the short Grand Campaign, so it’s not as if it’s being hugely short-changed.)

    MacBeth: It’s actually ON the west coast.

    Phuzz: Presumably the editor added it, as I didn’t write it. I’m fine with that though, as it’s a splendidly bad one.

    The Cannonade gag is mine though.

    TC: There’s actually a mission you get as the English. If you can conquer and hold three specific provinces, the 13 Colonies actually join you.

    KG

  38. Ginger Yellow says:

    Counting down the days…

  39. Lukasz says:

    Hah theleif. In your dreams!

    I prefer shogun over med and rome. better atmosphere, more interesting setting.

    Empire on other hand has better setting, not dull and overused medieval or Empire Romanum but era of great majestic ships, colorful soldiers and great technological progress.
    Already preorderd. 110 AUD :(

  40. Real Horrorshow says:

    I was wondering more about how many territories there are. The end-date can be edited to be 2009 in about 2 minutes. Same thing with making the 13 playable in the GC, but “unofficial” factions usually aren’t as full-featured and polished which is what worries me. Norway in the Tuetonic Campaign couldn’t even make buildings, the Mongols for some reason are always depicted as Muslim because they’re too lazy to give them pagan stuffs, etc. So at least I’m hoping the 13/US faction in the GC is filled out enough to be interesting.

  41. theleif says:

    @Lukasz
    See you on the battlefield (once the multiplayer patch get released)!

    @Real Horrorshow
    You’ll get a mod in a week that lets you play as the colonies. The TW mod community is fantastic.

    Tip: If you have M2:TW, try the Stainless Steel mod. There’s even lots of mods for that mod!

    http://www.twcenter.net/

  42. Jeremy says:

    Well shoot, I may have to get this then, but I’m already playing DoW II and Drakensang, so I’m not entirely sure where to fit it in at this point, maybe I’ll wait for some patches to play it out.

  43. Dain says:

    Hey Kieron, with regard to the firing drills, are you restricted to one at a time? And are they a linear research progression or branching? It always felt like it’d make more sense to have the option of several on the battlefield as looking at them it seems like different drills suit different situations.

  44. sinister agent says:

    Has anyone else played the game “Imperial Glory”? It was released in … 06 I think, and it is basically exactly like this game, as far as I can tell.

    Yes, and it was full of great ideas that were rather poorly implemented, and as a game just didn’t hang together anywhere near as well as the Total War games. High points were the maps with win conditions like ‘first person to secure this building for five minutes wins’ instead of just ‘kill everyone’, the diplomatic options like marching through a friendly neighbour’s land, and the buildings. But it just didn’t work very well, and you started off in such a poor position that merely surviving the first few years was an excercise in frustration. And, I think most cripplingly of all, your actual battlefield options were so limited that you couldn’t even tell troops to disengage once they’d initiated an attack – if they started a losing battle, you could just forget about them, because they’re all as good as dead.

    Empire looks and sounds interesting. I’m not surprised that the naval combat wasn’t a big deal, frankly – I never thought it was a significant omission from the earlier games. I’m pretty disappointed that they’ve left out the Napoleonic bit, but otherwise I am very interested in this one, now. Cheers, Kiers.

  45. Funky Badger says:

    Horrowshow: I expect it’s residual Dubya fallout. Don’t take it personally, it’ll probably wear off in a few years.

  46. jalf says:

    @Real Horrorshow: Eh, as I understood it, finishing the road to independence tutorial thingy would unlock the USA for play in the proper campaign map. The opposing side in the demo land battle was American. Also preordering from play.com gives you a USA-exclusive unit, which I’d take as a pretty strong hint that the USA is in fact, you know, playable. I obviously haven’t played the game yet, so can’t say for sure, but… Let’s wait until we’ve tried the game before complaining too much, shall we?

    (checking the game’s website gives me this, right at the top of the news section: http://www.totalwar.com/empire/gameinfo/factions.php?id=26 )

    Our United States of America faction feature is now online. They are playable once you have reached the fourth episode in the ‘Road to Independence’.

    Sounds to me like the USA will be playable.

    Is there really something offensive to you and others that someone might want to play the U.S. in a TW game or isn’t sickened when they hear the words “United States”? Is it a Revolution thing, is that still touchy? I’m not being sarcastic, I’m seriously curious. It’s an established trend to where I can 100% expect to recieve some kind of smart ass comment whenever I place the initials US and TW in the same sentence. Show me a TW forum, I’ll make the post, and then I’ll show you the comment. It works every time.

    Perhaps because a lot of other Americans have the ability to boil any discussion on any subject down to “but does it give enough attention to the USA?” ;)

    It’s not like Okami’s response was particularly hurtful or offensive. He just pointed out that you *can* play your country in about 99% of all other games. He didn’t say “The USA sucks, and it’d ruin the game if they were playable”. He didn’t even mention Bush. Calm down.

    For some reason, Americans tend to be *extremely* sensitive, if not downright paranoid about their country. For some reason, it Must Not Be Joked About. If you want to know why your question gets the responses it does, look at how you react to them. With fear that your country is being insulted, with anger that your country is not being given the attention it deserves. You’re *convinced* that whatever response you got was an attack on your country.

    It wasn’t. It’s just that to the rest of us, the world doesn’t revolve around the USA. It’s no better, worse, more or less unique, than any other country in the world. The only way in which it stands out is in how seriously its inhabitants take it.

    Relax, don’t automatically assume that people are on a mission to insult your country. Usually they’re not. They just don’t see a need to venerate it either. When European players ask why their country isn’t playable, they get much the same answers.

    Cheer up. Nothing good comes of taking your country too seriously! I’m from Denmark, no one has taken my country seriously for at least 400 years. It’s not so bad. :)

    European TW fans take it for granted.

    Not at all. Try counting the countries. There are plenty that have never been playable. Norway and Sweden come to mind, although Sweden seems to be playable in ETW at least.

  47. Unlucky Irish says:

    Does Scotland feature at all in the game? I know the website lists Great Britain as a faction but it also features a “Clansmen” unit (which, to be honest, looks weirdly like a particularly well armed English tourist…) and if the game starts in 1700 then Scotland would feature, in one form or another, as a separate nation for the first 9 years of the campaign at least. It’s not a deal breaker, it would just be a nice touch.

    @ Horrorshow: During the 18th century was most defiantly a minor power; including it in a game about imperialism would be like including the Republic of Ireland in a game about World War 2. Accurate yes, but with out much propose.

  48. sinister agent says:

    I’m from Denmark, no one has taken my country seriously for at least 400 years.

    That’s simply not true. I, for one, take good bacon extremely seriously.

  49. theleif says:

    @ jalf

    I’d say excluding the Dutch as a playable faction is a glaring example (an example of not including a historically important nation in the Empire era) . I’d argue they played a more important role, worldwide, than the 13 colonies.
    Can you say “glaring example”? Well, you get my point.
    Anyway, I’m happy i can play Sweden for once, witch is usually only possible if Paradox is the developer. But then again, in their games, you can play almost any nation in the world.

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