Monday, August 27, 2012

Empire Total War

Empire Total War

Empire Total War is a vast and complex game that is somewhat daunting to dive into, especially for those who are new the the franchise. There are so many controls, micromanagement,  and elements in the game from the very start, it's more than understandable. Even the highlight of what makes the game so much fun to play, can take a while to learn and even longer to achieve a level of competence that is enough to, say take on a veteran online whose been playing the game for months, even a few years. That being said, once the player finally starts to discover and learn the controls and familiarize themselves with how the game works, what they will find is Empire Total War is actually fairly simple once the basics (of which there are many) are out of the way.

Empire Total War Nations

In Empire Total War, you will take the helm of the many countries during the 18th century. Each country is either in a state of decline, or working its way to a potential golden age. It's up the the player  to save the falling country, or maintain its current success and expand upon it. This is done through military conquest, trade, diplomacy, making and breaking alliances, researching new technologies of Enlightenment  Industry, Agriculture, Naval warfare, and Land-based warfare, and espionage. The campaign map, where you will control and maintain your small nation or dominant empire, is turn-based. Meaning, you will decide what to invest in, perhaps a government building or factory, choose what to do with you army, maybe attack a neighboring nation, or train up an enormous horde. Of course these are just a few examples When fighting on land or sea, the game switches to real-time.

Empire Total War Trailer Youtube vid by GamingQuickAndGood

Empire Total War Campaign Map

Now, the campaign map looks beautiful with new graphics and a far more accurate depiction of the world. From the Americas, to Europe, to India, the map is simply gorgeous. And what the developers tried to do here was streamline the process. In previous Total War games, everything was controlled through each individual city. Barracks could be built, the port, the government building, the archery range, the stables,the roads, farms, etc.

Empire Total War City Outskirts 

In Empire Total War, only the main buildings are constructed through the city itself. Ports, farms, colleges, and religious buildings are constructed outside of the city. And while this helped streamline the process to a degree, it becomes a little irritating once you find yourself managing a vast empire. In short, it almost feels like Where's Waldo? Only, you'll be thinking Where's the upgrade icon? as you scan you empire searching for those little spinning hammer icons above anything you can afford to build and upgrade outside the city.

Empire Total War my Experience with Total Warfare

Placing just about everything outside the major cities was done to get the player more involved with the campaign map, as well as introducing a new element to the Total War series. Total War. Who knew? Total war meaning warfare on just about every level, not just two armies clashing on a battlefield. Players can now raid and destroy the farms, ports, factories, plantations, and just about everything else outside of the enemy's city. In other words, you can wage an economic, religious war, even get your rivals populous to rise against them and rebel. For example, if you're playing as a Protestant nation you can destroy the Catholic religious buildings and then send in your priests to convert the Catholic population into Protestants. This will in turn make them far less happy with their current Catholic government.

Empire Total War Scenario

Here is another scenario, one that I found myself in while playing as Great Britain. France and Spain declared war on me at the same time. A single turn after that, Sweden decided to have a go at me. I didn't have much of a standing army, but I did have an excellent navy. I used that navy to choke all overseas trade while defending my country from any amphibious assaults. While my navy fought all over the Atlantic, Mediterranean, and the North Sea laying waste to enemy navies and blockading enemy ports, I raised my armies and invaded, taking cities, and in the case of France and Spain, completely wiping them off the map. Swedan followed a few turns later. Of course this isn't a faq or walk through. I just wanted to give an example of the emphasis on total warfare. You can literally beat other countries into the ground if you can strangle their economy, destroy their farms, create political and social unrest, and so on. And of course, your enemies can do the same to you if you're not careful.

Empire Total War Combat

Combat in Empire Total War is different than previous games. In Rome Total War and Medieval/Medieval 2 Total War, fighting was mostly hand to hand combat with the exception of archers and some artillery like catapults, onagers, and so on. Since Empire Total Ware has the player fighting through the 18th and 19th centuries, obviously gunpowder is the staple. Empire Total War's combat is more about forming strong lines and working the angles to your advantage. In many cases you'll find yourself lined up across from an enemy line and simply trade volleys. Of course, just because this is 18th-19th century warfare, you don't have to fight like the idiots of the day and simply be content with standing there and hoping your head isn't blown off your shoulders.

Empire Total War for Dummies

Flanking is just as important. Players will have to learn to set up a cross fire, gain a superior position, reach the high ground, and use their military technologies to their advantage. For example, you may be facing a larger force and the odds may seem against you. But then you realize that the enemy hasn't researched fire by rank (meaning one line shoots, take a knee, and the line behind them shoot, takes a knee, etc), suddenly you're feeling lucky. Or perhaps the enemy has more cannon than you, but yours are more advanced and maneuverable. You place them on a hill and in then end, cause more damage and inflict more casualties simply because you had the option to move your cannons in the first place and rain death on your foes.

Empire Total War on Land or Sea

Naval warfare is one of the highlights of Empire Total War and perhaps the biggest selling point by the developers. You can create vast armadas of the famous ships of the line. Even today, when most people think of naval warfare, usually the first thing that comes to mind are enormous ships of the line firing cannonballs, or pirates raiding a trade ship.

Empire Total War Navies

Empire Total War implements a new game mechanic to allow players to control their navies in real time combat just as they would with land armies. The visuals are stunning, especially when watching a devastating volley collide into the hull of an enemy ship. If your computer can support it, setting that bad boy on higher graphic settings is a real treat and gorgeous to behold in the sheer level of detail.

Empire Total War Online Youtube vid by PrinceofMacedon

Empire Total War Total Warfare

As I said before, with the emphasis on total warfare, real total warfare, navies are far more important in Empire Total War than in previous Total War games. Navies blockade and destroy ports and docks, raid trade lines and even steal trade along the trade routes, a new feature of Empire Total War. Players have the option to send trade ships to the coasts of Brazil, the Ivory coast, Madagascar, and the East Indies, present day Indonesia if I'm not mistaken, along with colonizing the Americas and India.

Empire Total War Trade Income

Trade is all important in Empire Total War. And in many ways this is almost eerily realistic as you will literally go to war over resources and trade income. In one play through as America, the Dutch were blockading the ports of one of m,y biggest trading partners, costing me roughly $30K in total profits. The stupid AI of Sweden, the country I was trading with, had a navy, but for whatever reason decided not to take on the Dutch navy, which in my opinion was slightly weaker, tun after turn after turn. Then the Dutch started blockading The Ottoman Empire and Russia, my other trade partners, the Ottomans bringing in about $40K and the Russians about $50k. The Ottomans and the Russians didn't have a navy capable of taking on the Dutch and the Swede AI was just too stupid to do anything about it. SO I declared on The Netherlands, smashed their navies with my own, and took all their cities. I love the smell of sinking ships of the line and an extra $120k in the bank.

Empire Total War Learning Curve

That seems like a lot of praise, doesn't it? Well the honeymoon is over and it's time to talk about whats rotten about Empire Total War. There are many cool new features in Empire Total War, but there is very little explanation of what everything does, and for what purpose. Take the new feature of researching new technologies. Most have a perquisite technology you'll have to research first. The problem is, the said technology isn't always apparent, especially to a new player. Sometimes you'll have to research one thing before you can research something else, and other times you have to build a certain building before you can begin researching the technology you want.

Empire Total War Problems

There are many bugs in Empire Total War, even with the many patches that have come out. I personally haven't experienced any game crashes, but I know many have complained about it. Nothing is more frustrating than investing several hours into a game only to have it crash on you.

Empire Total War's Incompetent AI

Another annoying bug is with the AI. Half the time the AI is completely incompetent. You may have a perfect line set up and the AI will throw only a few unites at a time at you, even when it has superior numbers. Sometimes they simply walk right up to your line so you can shoot them in the face. Other times they'll line up but won't shoot back. Even on higher difficulties, there won't be that much of a difference.

Empire Total War Combat Bugs

But there are some bugs that are actually an advantage for the enemy AI. One I frequently encounter is a musket unit shooting sideways out of their line of sight at an impossible angle, not even so much as one friendly casualty. Fore every gunpowder unit, there is only a certain area in which they can shoot, think of it as a V shape, with your unit at the base. Anything that falls into this V is fair game to shoot. Only the AI can shoot just about anywhere. I've ever seen the AI  Shoot BEHIND them, even when facing in the opposite direction.

Empire Total War Player Bugs

There will be times when your guys won't shoot, even when they've reloaded/ When they're sitting there like idiots, getting shot to bits, you'll have to manually select them and right click on an enemy unit to "wake them up" as I call it.

Empire Total War Path Finding Problems

Unit path finding is another problem, especially with Naval combat. In fact, you might have to micro manage naval battles even more for this very reason than land battles.

Empire Total War Campaign Bugs

And in general, there are some things that just don't make sense with the campaign map. I'm talking mainly about the finances of your rivals. This is just one example, believe me, I have about a hundred more. Take the small nation of, say, Hanover. I once played again where Hanover's allies were defeated and it was surrounded on all sides by hostile nations, The Netherlands, Prussia, Austria, and Sweden. Hanover had no trade by land or sea, and it was making about $3,000 from taxes. But I did the math on the unit upkeep of all its armies and it was roughly $10,000. so then I thought, maybe its just taking from the bank and will eventually run out of money an be forced to disband a few armies. Well, roughly 50 turn later, when I surrounded Hanover after crushing most of Europe, the tiny nation still had no trade, roughly $3,000 from taxes, but the army upkeep was easily around $11,000.

Empire Total War Financial Bugs

Here's another example: I was taking on Great Britain and whittled them down to a single city, Ireland, having taken all their colonies, England, and Scotland. Great Britain still had at least 3-4 full stack navies full of first rates (The strongest, most expensive naval units in the game) second rates, and third rates. Ireland was netting roughly $5,000 from taxes. But considering only ONE first rate ship of the line is roughly $1,000 in upkeep, and they had several per navy, the numbers just didn't add up. Oh, and that's just counting their navy. They had two full stacks (40units) of mostly line infantry and artillery guarding Dublin. So in terms of finances, the player is almost always at a disadvantage.

Empire Total War Final Verdict

Empire Total War is a solid game all things considered. The visuals are stunning and the gameplay is a blast once you get the hang of the new controls and gameplay mechanics. There are however, way too many bugs, even with all the patches. Also, I highly recommend a supped-up machine or this game will lag big time. That is just a recommendation, it is not something I took from the overall score.  And so, Empire Total War earns a 6 out of 10.

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