Most helpful positive review
116 of 154 people found the following review helpful
on March 5, 2009
******Even more recent Update/Edit******
After playing through an entire campaign, I can genuinely feel justified in giving the game five stars. The replayability has some huge issues for me, since the amount of nations, large and small, in the game are tremendous, and yet you can only play as some 10 or so of them, not even with the rest as unlockables.
- I fully understand the golden arrows over cities, and this is immensely helpful in keeping track of buildings in the scattered towns, mines, workshops that are not labeled on the map
- Technology research is a vastly superior method of keeping certain technologies and eras on chronological track without requiring hundreds of "Marian reform" type scripted events like in Rome Total War or Medieval II Total War
- Gentlemen must go into universities to speed up technological research, or to kill enemy Gentlemen in duelling, in order to slow their research.
- The choppy map was resolved by getting a better video card for my computer. But that still doesn't excuse its excessive memory/graphical requirements.
However, what is seriously worth mentioning is the AI. Compared to RTW and M2TW, it's not a step down---it's a careen down the stairs. I had to end my Ottoman campaign early because in the middle of Bosnia, a thousand miles from any British settlement, an entire British army appeared out of NOWHERE just 5-6 turns into the game and took my settlement. I had no army anywhere close to this region, and nowhere near enough money to so much as stack up my cities with militia.
So I started easy with Britain. The experience can be summarized as this: Everyone wants to kill you, and will look only for the most menial and trivial of excuses to do so. This is not so much an exercise in Imperialism as it is in Accidental Imperialism or Protective Expansion.
Example: France is a major power, so I want their land. I take it, and hunt France down and kill them all. Spain, my long-time ally, decides to declare war on me for absolutely no reason, though perhaps simply because I border them. So I conquer them with some difficulty, and take their last city in Northern Italy. Then, because I border the Italian states, Genoa declares war on me. So I destroy Genoa, and then Venice declares war on me. So I destroy Venice, and Westphalia declares war on me. So I destroy Westphalia, and all is temporarily well.
Out of nowhere, Sweden, a nation I'm not even able to see on the map beyond fog of war, declares war on me. It's war actions for the next 10 in-game years is to blockade my major ports in Britain... with light galleys, the naval equivalent of a soldier on a bicycle with a slingshot.
So to stop this BS, I take the war to Sweden directly, conquering all of Finland and Norway, and pushing them out of Sweden... when out of nowhere, they send a HUGE army to Britain, and take London INSTANTLY (because there's no such thing as sieging in this game's AI---you don't have to build siege equipment, you can just instantly attack any city). Eventually I took London back, since England is where my best troops can be built.
After taking Sweden, I notice I'm now bordering Russia. Since I'm not stupid, I start building expedition armies in England to prepare, and then Russia declares war on me. So I break Russia badly, taking Moscow, St Petersburg, Arkhansgelsk, etcetera, and forcing a peace with them.
Meanwhile in the Americas, I was trying for some 50 years (half the game) to conquer the Iroquois Confederacy, since this would allow me to gain the 13 Colonies back to my Empire, but every time I got enough forces, some other BS would draw them away. Finally when I got a big enough army, the Iroquois used a strategy called "We're stupid" in which they send one general with a tiny little force of some cavalry and peasants to pillage my lands, unimpeded for several turns since my forces literally have to CHASE them around the map.
Then out of NOWHERE, the Maratha Confederacy, from all the way in Southern India, lands a HUGE force in SPAIN and takes my city there. Years later, they take one of my islands in the Carribean. AN INDIAN ARMY TAKES A BRITISH COLONY IN THE CARRIBEAN.
But despite that, the Maratha Confederacy was the absolute best in-game opponent I've ever had in this game. Their AI was cunning and tactful, And when I landed an expedition force in India, they bribed a tiny Indian kingdom to attack me, bleeding both myself and them, then they came down to crush me, sending the expedition home with only 400 of the original 6,000 men.
I sent a second expedition, which successfully gained a foothold in one city, and spent years with Marathans just watching, and marching all around it, with occasional skirmishes to stop them from pillaging towns and workshops. Eventually, they forced me to divide my force, and then they took my city while most of my army was killing one of theirs. I had to evacuate this army out of India entirely, and never returned.
I only wish there were more AI instances in that campaign like the one of the Marathan Confederacy. It gave me the best and most intense view of Imperialism, guerrilla warfare, and nasty politics that I never got dealing with the rest of the campaign's AI, which ranged from "Retardation" to "Crippling paranoia"
*****Most recent Update/Edit******
Due to prolonged experience with the game, I'm taking serious consideration into reducing the amount of stars I've given it. That would force me to delete the review in order to re-submit it again. Leave comments if you care enough about me (Awww) to have an opinion.
*********See reasoning for this at bottom of review.**********
Well, not aside. I want to address this first.
If it weren't for Steam, I would have pre-ordered Empire Total War, and have had it brand new and shiny in my hands and on my computer the day it came out.
Instead I didn't. Instead I didn't buy it and played it on another computer.
Because "Steam" is REQUIRED to play this game. Because in order to play this game, you must go through what some Amazon-er in the discussion threads called "SecuSteam", which is kind of stupid, but it iterates the fact that Empire Total War is using a DRM reminiscent of EA's debacle with Spore and every other game they've released since mid-late 2008. And because "Steam" received an "F" rating from the Better Business Bureau.
As such, I do not trust it. I will never buy a game that has installation limits, activation requirements, no re-sale ability, and the potential for shady malware infection as SecuROM did with EA's games. I said it so before, if the video game companies want to treat me like a pirate, I'd be better off becoming a pirate instead. These kinds of DRM only encourage normally loyal consumers to instead opt for the pirated copies, which they can play without restrictions designed to thwart it. It's what people who use metaphors call a "catch-22".
To the game...
I overestimated this game, I think; I'm someone who owns (and PURCHASED) Medieval II Total War, upped the graphics to their highest settings, and unit scale to Huge, and ended up with choppy action moving in "screenshot mode" with severely low framerate. I struck a neat balance between graphics and speed by removing all Anti-Aliasing and shadows.
I was shocked, surprised, and shocked that Empire Total War actually ran BETTER than Medieval II Total War, with Anti-Aliasing x2 enabled. There's still minor graphical issues, but not enough to detract from gameplay.
The game engine is a major leap from RTW and M2TW, but not in the sort of massive way that was Shogun/Medieval Total War to Rome Total War. The campaign map is actually smaller, though there is far more information in your settlements and armies to take in, and it hurts slightly that the text on a 1024x768 window (in windowed mode) is very small and difficult to read. There is text almost everywhere, and opening up settlement info is no longer like in RTW/M2TW where you have a list to select buildings to build, tax rates, recruitment, etcetera.
Instead, opening a settlement's information is more like opening the "Settlement Details" scroll in M2TW/RTW, which shows you things like religion, and the specific aspects causing unhappiness and population growth. Taxation has its own separate scroll to open, by which you can adjust the tax levels for the Upper Classes separately from the Middle/Lower Classes.
Despite the significantly longer loading times compared to M2TW, the game's campaign map is fluid, if a bit choppy, and there is no additional loading required to shift "theaters" from Europe to America to India to the East Indies, etcetera. It becomes a little tough, however, to keep track of the Americas when they're basically on what amounts to an entirely different map, and you can't just scroll there like you could in M2TW.
Turns are back to RTW basics, with two turns per year, each turn either Summer or Winter, and movement points are far larger to reflect an easier time in moving things around. Though still it's slightly inaccurate in being far too much time to move things around.
The campaign aspect of the game is indeed a whole 'nother being for the Total War player like me---unlike RTW to M2TW, you won't be able to hop in and master it all within one gaming session of an hour or so. There's far too much to take in all at once, and the camera controls are different (in that the Right click button no longer scrolls when you hold it down) and cannot be modified.
The sea battles are exactly as I pictured they would be in fantasizing about naval battle in Rome Total War. You have the same deployment-grid layout as with ground battles, to arrange your ships as you want.
Naval combat is rather like that in "Sid Meier's Pirates!", only you must micro-manage ALL your ships at once, which is what causes problems for so many as I've read in forums already.
The sea battles are fun, even if they're still rather "Beta Stage"-ish. There is no clipping with the ships, so you can gape in horror as one of your surrendered ships suddenly gets jerked back by the wind, and rams right into the side of your flagship, bringing both ships to a total stop and letting the enemy bash you to death.
You have no control over the melee combat in boarding ships, but you have total control over broadsiding, as you can pick round shot, chain shot, or cannon shot, manually rotate your ship into position, load up the cannons and wait for them all to be ready, and then fire once an enemy ship comes into your target radius.
Land battles are essentially unchanged from the Total War standard, which is great.
My experience with the Rome Total War mod "Napoleonic Total War II" and with the gunpowder units in Medieval II Total War left me a bit disillusioned in thinking the AI would have severe problems in infantry firing, as if one rifleman gets out of line, they all stop and wait for him to fall back in place before even reloading.
This is all fixed, as gunpowder infantry fire at a steady pace, uninterrupted by stupidities in pathfinding or AI. And they no longer freak out and stop firing if their line is bent in any way; I've seen riflemen continuing to fire even after a stupid move by my part has their line bending like an arc.
Artillery in particular are incredibly impressive, and made even more so by the fact that they are LOUD AS HELL! I zoomed in to a group of my cannons on the field, and jumped in my seat as they fired, with a sound like someone firing a gun near my face.
Unlike Medieval II Total War with Rome Total War, this is not a game that could replace its predecessor, due to its extreme changes in the game engine, as well as the completely changed battlefield mechanics due to the fundamental shift in warfare from melee to gunpowder.
My only major complaint on the game itself is that all the game files are in separate ".pack" files, and as such cannot be modified directly as Rome Total War or Medieval II post-unpacking could be. Unless they release an unpacking tool at some point, I don't see how this game will be open to modification.
And my new major complaint: I am a Total War player since 2004, though I am limited to the engine used by Rome Total War and Medieval II Total War. From that perspective, this game is almost unplayable for me.
Even approaching it as a completely new gamer to the experience, I found it so immensely and insanely complex and off-putting by its hellish amount of details and multi-tasking, that I cannot get past a few turns in the main campaign.
The new campaign map is far more animated than its predecessors. As such, it is choppy for me when trying to scroll. There is so much information to take in, as not only do you have cities in regions to handle, but every region has one city, and several satellite towns and farms and ports that you must INDIVIDUALLY handle or else have your region fall behind in economy and production.
The fog of war does not hide unknown settlements, and so there will be city labels all over the map, further adding to the confusion in determining where everything is, especially when these satellite towns mentioned don't even have labels, so I found myself clicking on enemy towns for several seconds to build better farms, unaware that it wasn't even in my territory.
Rather than the placid colors and shapes and small vegetation from the previous games' maps, this one has everything in stark bold colors, with huge trees littering many areas, green grass like Eden in twilight, that it's a merciless assault on the eyes when you have to keep track of so many things on this landscape all at once, or else risk having enemy armies ransack all your towns and farms without you even realizing it until two turns later.
This micro-managing of farms and the like also causes problems with costs. It means you have to spend 2000 money on each individual farm in each individual estate in a single region, adding up to around 10,000 for farms within a three or four region nation. This is simply BAD ECONOMY for a WAR game. When you're spending enough money for half an army just on farms, whereas in previous games you'd spend less than half that for the same amount, you start to hemhorrage money and start getting enemies raiding your territory because you can't afford a standing army to stand in EVERY SINGLE MINI TOWN and port and farm.
Then the information. There is tons of it, and I haven't even figured out what most of it means.
-I don't understand why the tax rate is uniform for your entire nation rather than differentiated between cities.
-I don't understand what the golden arrows floating above cities means.
-I don't understand why I'm supposed to care what sort of crop is being traded where.
-I don't understand why I should be forced to research technologies and the like, Civilization style, taking two years and 3000 money just to be able to build fences around my farms.
-I don't understand why I can't hire mercenaries, and yet I can train soldiers from a general when out of a city, and yet those trained soldiers end up spawning at my capital.
-I don't understand how upgrading governmental buildings, improving bureaucracy, and the like, somehow causes UNHAPPINESS due to "repression", which seems to occur no matter if your government is a humble republic or a tyrannical empire.
-I don't understand what purpose the "gentleman" agent serves, as he can't do anything. Nor can I even train agents, as they spawn randomly wherever the hell they feel like spawning. (NOTE: I know what Gentlemen do now)
So it appears that my opinion on Empire: Total War has changed very drastically. I still haven't given up on the game, but I'm not liking how my review stands at five stars as of late.