Empire: Partial War

February is, it seems, the official month of killing tiny soldiers, and today in particular is St. Man-Squisher’s Day. This fine Friday has already seen the launch of Dawn of War II – which I’m alt-tabbed from right now, excitingly – and now we also get to behold the majesty of the new Total War game. The 2 gigabyte (lawks, lummee, won’t somebody please think of the children etc) Empire demo’s just gone live on Steam, ahead of the launch of the whole epic shebang on March 4th. We shall, of course, be sharing some sort of opinion on ETW cometh the hour, but let’s be honest, the odds of it being anything less than spectacular are tinier than a vole’s pinkie finger.

Beneath the magical clicky words, details on exactly what’s in this here demo.

A tutorial on the basic land and naval battle systems, then two historical skirmishes that go a little something like this:

Battle of Brandywine Creek
After landing from his transport ships on the American coast, Major-General Sir William Howe led the British troops eastwards, with the intention of capturing Philadelphia.
In preparation, American General George Washington readied most of his units to defend from this frontal assault around the narrow crossing of Chad’s Ford on the Brandywine. The Creek flows through the countryside of Pennsylvania, enveloped by sheer cliffs and heavily wooded hills on both sides. Knowing that much of the fast-flowing creek could not be crossed, Washington was confident of holding his position.
However, more detailed surveillance of the terrain would suggest that alternative routes could turn the battle in the favor of the British.

Battle of Lagos
As so often in 18th Century warfare, French plans to invade England during the Seven Years War were reliant on ships from the naval base at Toulon joining ships from Brest. The British had both ports blockaded, and the French had to wait for one of the blockading fleets to withdraw for re-supply before attempting any rendezvous.
The opportunity came when the British fleet under Admiral Boscawen at Toulon withdrew to Gibraltar. The French under Jean-François de la Clue-Sabran left Toulon, and began to make their way towards Brest. Passing the Straits of Gibraltar, the French were spotted by Boscawen’s lookout ships.
Giving chase, Boscawen’s fleet was only slightly larger than the French force, and caught up with them off the coast of Portugal where battle was joined.
Take control of the British and defeat the French to end the invasion threat to Britain.

But I hate the British!

Oh, and have some system specs too. We know that stuff’s the only thing you really read RPS for.

Processor: 2.4 GHz Intel® Pentium® or greater or AMD® Athlon® equivalent CPU
Memory: 1GB RAM (XP,) 2GB RAM (Vista™)
Graphics: 100% DirectX 9.0c compatible hardware accelerated video card with shader version 2.0 support, 256 MB video memory
Display: Minimum screen resolution of 1024 x 768 pixels
Hard Drive: 15 GB free hard disk space


  1. Heliocentric says:

    Downloading like torrent fiend.

  2. Xercies says:

    Ah damn you TW I really want to buy you yet I have no money…or time…

  3. jalf says:

    If only all you schmucks would get off Steam and stop hogging their download servers! Getting a miserable 53kb/s from them atm.

    At this rate it’s going to be ages before I get to play… *sigh*

  4. Binho says:

    Oh yeah! sucks to be you jalf, I’m getting more than 800kb/s! Thank god for our office’s industrial internet connection! :D CAN’T WAIT!!!

  5. jalf says:

    Binho: I was able to grab the DoW2 beta at some 2.5MB/s, so I can’t complain about my connection either. I guess Steam just insists on assigning me to their busiest, slowest server…

  6. Binho says:

    Man, that sucks! Hopefully it’ll speed up. How far along is it?

  7. Darkelp says:

    I almost missed this until I casually alt-tabbed out of L4D and saw it on the steam updates.

    Now it’s downloading at 200kb’s, but I have been having the same speed’s as Jalf.


  8. Pantsman says:

    The only Brandywine I know is in Middle-Earth.

  9. LordAnubis says:

    Was downloading at an epic 1.1kb/s. Ah, the days of dial-up – how I miss thee! It was downloading so slowly that it just stopped altogether. Can see why though – a few million people hitting the same Steam server ^^

  10. rob says:

    The battle for Brandywine Bridge: lead the hobbits to defend their quaint rural village from an attack by the dastardly British! Sabotage the enemy’s tea supply to ruin their morale but be wary! If the evil Brits deploy their special Sharpe unit, nary an officer will be left unpunched nor a french bird unshagged. Coming to PS3, XBox 360 and Nintendo DS this summer.

  11. Binho says:

    grr, the download finished, but it keeps crashing. This is why I hate steam. What happened to good old fashioned download from the website?

  12. jalf says:

    Binho: Verify the installation in Steam. Steam doesn’t handle errors very well, so running out of disk space or other errors just makes it jump up to 100%. Verifying should detect that and download any missing bits.

    And I’m 52% through now, and still chugging along at 53kb/s…

  13. rupert says:

    zoom downloading at 700KB/s got 60% so far :D

  14. Binho says:

    just did it, 0% fragmentation. It won’t even load up the menu. Probably those annoying backgrounds with videos playing.

    And because it’s bloody steam, I can’t take the install file home and have to redownload it all over again. Bah. Does anyone know if there are torrents up for the demo yet? :P

  15. jigglybean says:

    Its a bad idea giving an exclusive of a demo to someone. It annoys me and means that people have to wait even longer to download and play it.

    Cheers Sega – great idea. NOT

    Moving on to the game, I cant wait to get my hands on it.

  16. crying-minotaur says:

    This item is currently unavailable in your region


    (I’m in Korea right now).

  17. Binho says:

    Got it to work!!! Just take more than 5 minutes to load.

    First impressions:

    – Pretty
    – Pretty standard total war fare
    – The british accent in the tutorial is hilarious! lol, I hope they are taking the piss :)

    Havn’t tried naval battles yet

  18. Nimic says:

    30kb/s on a connection which can do 10MB/s…

    I feel violated.

  19. Dreamhacker says:

    I hope the demo appears OUTSIDE Steam for us luddites…

    Steam eats children!

  20. manintheshack says:

    I’m so happy I could cry. No, really.

  21. PaulMorel says:

    Wow. I wish I could afford this game right now.

    Also, 15Gb free space? blech.

    It’s not that 15Gb is too big, in these days of ridiculous hard drives. It’s just that I have a hard time believing that they really NEEDED 15Gb. It seems to show a remarkable lack of care for the customer’s PCs…. but I guess that if you develop a great game, you can afford to give a big middle finger to the small portion of your customers that will notice the 15Gb install size.

  22. cliffski says:

    wow I can pre-order now for £39.99!!!!!!!!! OMG!!!

    Dispatch estimate for these items: 3 Mar 2009

    1 “Empire: Total War (PC DVD)”
    CD-ROM; £23.96

    Sold by: Amazon EU S.a.r.L.

    Steam loses…

  23. jalf says:

    cliffski: Too true. I found game.co.uk to be a better deal than Amazon, but both are better than Steam.

    Oh, and for some reason my download restarted. I got to 52%, then it jumped to 0%. I’m back up to 24% now. :/

    PaulMorel: The download is only 2GB. I don’t know where they get the 15Gb figure from, and I strongly suspect it’ll work with less.

  24. MooseDrool says:

    jalf mine did the same thing. Was at 80% and it started to resume… back to go without my $200.

  25. Lord Forkington says:

    Wasn’t the Medieval 2 Space 12GB? Not sure, that’s just a figure that rings bells.

  26. manintheshack says:

    Honestly, if you sit and watch the download rate and will it to be stable it works a treat.

  27. jigglybean says:

    4 hour download so far and im only 58% there. Ive a good mind to cancel my pre-order. Great work Sega!

  28. Archonsod says:

    Takes around ten minutes to start up once you get it downloaded too. Quicker on subsequent runs though.

    Ick, the naval combat is clumsy.

  29. manintheshack says:

    ‘Wasn’t the Medieval 2 Space’

    Christ, I thought I’d completely missed an amazing re-invention of the series then. Medieval set in space sounds awesome.

    Also, ‘Brest’. Heh.

  30. Heliocentric says:

    If they bollocks up mod support. And the naval combat is crap i’m sticking to rome.

  31. Hentzau says:

    Jim mentioned the naval combat in his PCG review, but what he seems to have omitted is any mention of the atrocious load times. Two minutes spent looking at the damn loading screen for the land battle. Translate that into campaign terms and probably two hours of it will be spent there. I hope they have some *really* good quotes for this one because we’re going to be reading them a lot.

  32. clive dunn says:

    oh god, what to do. I really want to play it but feel i should wait for it drop through my letterbox and play the ‘real thing’. I guess i could look at the demo as being like foreplay i s’pose.

  33. Heliocentric says:

    So, try not to enjoy the demo too much?

  34. reiver says:

    The game has steamworks so even if you don’t buy the steam version (and why would you?) you’ll still need steam to run it.
    Also for anyone with crappy download speeds i can reccomend going into settings and changing your download region to east coast USA. My speed went from 100KB/s to 750.
    M2 did say it was going to be 11 or 12 GBs in the run up to its release but ended up at around 9.

  35. Rich_P says:

    The load times are atrocious. I mean really bad. So bad that I tried to Alt-F4 out of the demo, thinking it froze on me.

    Other than that, it’s standard Total War fun. I was surprised when cannonballs started plowing through my infantry columns from halfway across the map. Very few RTS games have large maps and truly long-range weapons.

  36. Turin Turambar says:

    “The game has steamworks so even if you don’t buy the steam version (and why would you?) you’ll still need steam to run it.”

    Because the Steam version is twice as expensive as the retail version?

  37. Real Horrorshow says:

    It gave me a BSOD…thats always a good sign. That and, as said, the load times are absurd. In-game performance was a lot better than I expected though.

  38. Binho says:

    It’s not bad, nothing revolutionary. The load times are terrible, i thought the game was crashing before because it took so long to load.

    The music is very repetitive, and a bit disappointing considering how good the music in the rest of the series was.

    I thought the naval combat was different and interesting. The demo map for the naval combat is pretty good. The only issue I have is that fact that the sea has boundaries! It really breaks immersion and your tactics, when your line of battle hits an invisible wall and all the ships lose formation. Especially as it takes ages to get them underway again.

    The demo land battle is quite boring though, it’s quite a crap map. I get the feeling that big, open plain battles are going to be great. Especially since generals seem to no longer be suicidal!

    Hopefully it being on steam won’t make it hard to mod though…

  39. FunkyLlama says:

    Awful load times. If the full game doesn’t load any faster, I won’t be buying it. They’re THAT bad. U_U

  40. Real Horrorshow says:

    I agree with FunkyLlama. I can’t imagine trying to play a campaign with those load times. I’d end up just auto resolving everything.

  41. reiver says:

    “Because the Steam version is twice as expensive as the retail version?”

    My bad, poor syntax or whatever. What I was meaning was why would you buy the steam version when it’s twice as expensive as the retail and the retail comes with the usual steam benefits of CD free play and auto updates.

  42. Poindexter says:

    I believe I read on their website that Empire will be the most moddable Total War game yet. And they plan to support the community with it too.

  43. Johnson says:

    Truth about changing your download region to east coast usa and getting MUCH better speeds, i went from 50k to 700k after a steam restart.

  44. hjh123 says:

    Thanks johnson, im getting a 500 kb download now which is good considering it was 10kb

  45. Po0py says:

    I’m kinda having second thoughts on getting this now. It performs well but load times are a killer. It even takes at least 30 seconds just to get back to the main menu after a battle. Also, is anyone having problems Alt + Tabbing?

  46. A-Scale says:

    It’s taking me nearly 3 hours to download. 100kbps.

  47. A-Scale says:

    Yeah ok wow. I just changed from US North central to East coast and saw my speeds go from 30kbps to 770. And I’m in Michigan (aka not the east coast). How strange. Thanks for the advice!

  48. Erlam says:

    “If the evil Brits deploy their special Sharpe unit, nary an officer will be left unpunched nor a french bird unshagged.”

    One thing I love about RPS is there are so many people from the Empire who love the same shows I do.

    Also; I’d better be able to play as the Canadians or the Whitehouse is going down for the 3rd time.

  49. A-Scale says:

    Andddd the game won’t advance past the first black credit screen. No sound. Hit every button to no avail. I’m on Vista 64.

  50. Rich_P says:

    Are you giving it enough time? The loading times are long enough to be confused with a complete system hang…