The next game in the Empire series from Creative Assembly has definitely kicked up the bar from the previous titles. Gone is the Medieval era and weíre now in the Early Modern, a time where gunpowder and cavalry swords settled scores. Gameplay
Empire: Total War is broken up into two game modes, thereís turn-based strategy where you can manage your economy, make strategic decisions and send out your armies to do battle with the various factions or try your hand at the noble art of diplomacy. Once you get into a fight though it switches the tried and tested RTS style gameplay, thereís no base building to annoy here though, itís hundreds and hundreds of men all ready to die for your armchair general.
Both modes are packed with a fair amount of detail, how you decide to make treaties and alliances, what technology you want to pick up next and how to manage your territories can all end up with you making bitter enemies or a long-lasting friendship with your neighbour countries. Play it diplomatically and you can end up on the winning path pretty quickly. A novice player is well advised to take on the gameís short American Independence campaign first, this also serves as the gameís tutorial and covers the basics.
Compared to the previous game the main campaign map is massive, itís split into three main chunks: India, the Americas and then Europe. There are also some minor trade areas which are mostly at sea, though weíll come to that in a bit. You choose one of the 11 main nations: Great Britain, France, Spain, Sweden, Russia, 13 Colonies, the Ottoman Empire, and the Maratha Confederacy. There are about 40 minor nations that fill in the rest of the world map...
So as you can see thereís a lot of scope. Add to this naval battles as well as the detailed land battles and thereís a lot of gameplay to cover, the novice player is quickly left behind too since the information on many of the screens is sketchy at best and itís not presented very well. Thatís one of my main gripes with the game as it stands; the lack of direction in the available tactical information sucks a lot.
They did streamline a lot of what you have to do though, making it easier to get into. Things like Diplomacy are easier to understand and implement, the tech-tree is pretty expansive and fairly easy to use and setting taxes is a lot easier than previous Total War games. The biggest star of all of this though are the tactical battles, with the inclusion of real time naval battles with a variety of ship controls and cannon shot to play with.
The strategic section is troubled by some very inconsistent Ďunder the bonnetí AI choices and marred by an instruction manual thatís as helpful as a book printed on black paper with black text. Trying to find what youíre looking for on the gameís info screens might as well be you shooting glow in the dark chickens with a pea shooter whilst wearing a blind fold in a dark room. The elements are there, but they donít quite just add up to success.
Itís all very confusing and enough to really annoy me.
I found I used Diplomacy a lot and just let the game handle a lot of it, since it seems uber-retarded when it wants to actually move enemy troops between theatres of war and you can get anything you want for very little in exchange thanks to the seemingly-broken Diplomacy.