Customer Review

40 of 45 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars After 1.6 patch: Three stars to un-modded, Five stars to modded., December 25, 2009
= Fun:3.0 out of 5 stars 
This review is from: Empire: Total War - PC (DVD-ROM)
February 7, 2010 UPDATE: Darth Mod is soon to be 6.9 or 7.0 version and I can freely say that ETW should have been Vanilla 1.6 + Darth 6.9 at release. Again to re-affirm my opinion: now that the game can be had for a bargain, I believe it is one of the best RTS/Turn based hybrids ever to exist. We will see how Shogun 2 will do ;-)

April 9, 2010 UPDATE: Great day for ETW community. CA has released 1.6 patch which fixes most of Battle AI problems like instant melee charge, inability to form battle line or constant priority switching. I tested several campaign battles and AI behaves much more sensible and presents nice challenge on Hard/Very Hard settings.

February 17, 2009 UPDATE: With Napoleon Total War release five days away, community learned couple of sad news about new game:
a) It will not integrate with ETW, so any fixes to engine and AI will not apply to ETW.
b) There will be no mod tools. Modders might get some supporting documentation, but CA confirmed that game design will remain closed.
c) Theatre is limited to Europe (no Mid-East and North Africa).

OK, I'm late with my review, that no one will probably read. Oh, well...

Empire Total War (ETW), the game we love to hate. To summarize my review - I recommend this game to anyone, go ahead and buy it, download one of the free mods I mention below and enjoy hours and hours of fun gameplay. Let me begin by saying that I tried going back to Medieval II Kingdoms after all 1.0, 1.2, 1.3 mess and I got bored instantly. Main reason I came back to ETW was that prior series had too much of siege battles and I am tired of them. The game overall has more positives, however it is in human nature to have stronger emotions about negatives. But I felt like it was important to note the issues still present in un-modded game.

The good about ETW:
++++++++++++++++++
+ Campaign map is finally pretty accurate geographically, no more need for Stainless Steel (SS) or Deus Lo Vult (DLV) mods from Medieval II Kingdoms
+ New regions added: India, South (Northern part) and North Americas
+ Naval combat could be fun with mods as long as fleets are small (see mod recommendations below)
+ Economic/industrial buildings are in separate settlements now, which adds more strategic depth
+ 18 century period
+ No need for diplomats to open negotiations
+ Much better graphics, 3D combat runs very fluid (see my PC specs below)
+ Expansion to colonies
+ Trade nodes and pirates
+ You can change government type by setting off actions that lead to revolution
+ Technology research is done in schools and universities
+ Very few siege battles, which is plus in my opinion
+ Cross theater and naval invasions by AI are finally working

Now about the bad:
------------------
- The game was released unfinished, which was confirmed by several developers on their blogs. It took over 9 months to bring it to 1.5, the last patch, and many things are nowhere near fixed. New patches had tendency to break things that older patches fixed. It was nightmare. Most disheartening news was the fact that sometime during late stages of development Creative Assembly (CA) lead Artificial Intelligence (AI) programmer had to leave the team, and what I could gather from CA's blogs, it was very hard to pick up for others and AI was doomed from the get-go. Google "Battle AI - By Mike Simpson".

- Steam required for retail boxed game to install and play even in single play mode. More and more games are following this suite. It sucks, period. If you were not careful Steam would patch your game automatically and mess things up for you big time. My biggest problem with Steam is that I had to pay the same amount for rental game as what I'd have paid for the game I owned and could have sold. Rental PC games should not cost $50, $25 is more reasonable price.

- Battle AI (BAI) in un-modded game is simply abysmal. You will face staggering zombie clusters roaming the battlefield in front of your artillery batteries while they shred them to pieces, they will often cross the lines and fall victims of their own fire. They will always choose melee even if they outclass your infantry in accuracy and reloading skill. Decision making is bad as well it's like AI has ADD - they seem to commit to one plan of attack just within second to switch their priorities, break formations and chase after CA knows what.

- Severely lacking ability to force fire. Your infantry will only commence firing when every single one of the soldiers fall in. They can't save their lives if Johnny Smith stuck while climbing fence and his company is charged by cavalry. Cossacks had this functionality decade ago.

- No mod tools. It was evident when first downloadable content (DLC) was released, that SEGA and CA will milk this thing for what's it worth by making silly new units and selling them $5 a pop. THIS IS MAJOR problem for community, because CA dropped further post-release development, modding community can not improve the game, and it still needs a lot of work. I'm amazed that modders could accomplish what they did without proper support from CA (TROM, DarthMod, APE:TI and others). I went straight to mods, because I could not tolerate vanilla game for four turns. But modders' hands are tied, there is only so much they can get done on the surface. What infuriates me is the fact that mod tools WERE BETA TESTED SOMETIME IN EARLY SUMMER, so they exist but solely for making DLC content. My only hope is that when Napoleon Total War (NTW) is released, CA and SEGA will come to their senses and give community that supported them for over decade what it deserves.

- Since strategic map has so many 3D bells and whistles it tends to run very choppy (see my PC specs below).

- Siege/fort battles are ridiculously broken. To sum it up: Enemy will either try to attack your fort with mounted units only, in which case you just let them come close to the walls and pulverize with cannons and musket fire, or if they are blessed with infantry, those lads will use Batman's grappling hooks and climb the walls Spiderman style. It is so easy to fool AI attacking your fort that modders came out with the mod that removes all forts from the game altogether.

- Unfortunately after several real time naval battles you will choose to autoresolve instead. AI can't hold battle formations for long even if their ships have range accuracy advantage. Battle after battle degrades into furball mess. You will find it interesting that sloops and brigs can transport huge armies across the oceans. Latest patch brought in really senile changes to naval combat. Somehow Campaign Artificial Intelligence (CAI) is unable to produce expensive high quality ships of the line and instead it spams dozens of sloops and brigs. CA can not fix this directly so instead they rebalanced navy by gimping ships of the line and giving extra range and accuracy to sloops and brigs. WHAAAAT? ARE YOU KIDDING ME? Again thanks to modding community that knows how to revert this arcadish approach to things.

- There are no more missions that your government assigns to you.

- From diplomatic screen you don't know the intentions of the counter party. If you share a border with the nation it will automatically declare war on you. If war is declared on you, you don't know what the heck they want especially if you had very friendly relationship.

- Game no longer has grid on the campaign map (which developers hyped a lot), so AI armies often do stupid things and get stuck.

- You can't change the monarch.

- Regime change via revolution is convoluted and does not always work as planned.

- You can not recruit agents yourself anymore, they are spawned automatically based on the number and level of the buildings (school, church, bawdy house).

- If enemy army is severely outnumbered it will not try to retreat neither on campaign map nor on battle field. I understand this makes it easy on casual player, you simply don't have to chase marauding army engaged in guerrilla warfare. But it is simply stupid.

- I sure hope that CA/SEGA will release proper American Revolution campaign. They may also give us Civil War at some point (may be after Napoleon expansion?). Road To Independence (American Revolution) campaign is simply a joke in vanilla. I love that period of US History and I think it was neglected. I will see what folks at American Revolution Mod could accomplish without mod tools.

What gets most folks pissed off about this game is CA/SEGA attitude and buried potential in tangled mess of code and patches. This game also took several steps back from great concepts developed in prior series. Would I buy it again when it came out in March of 2009 knowing all the problems? Probably yes. There is simply no other game out there that almost well combines Real Time Combat with Turn Based Strategy. I'm not going to be so eager with NTW. I sure hope that Paradox Interactive would some day come out with worthy competitor. They have very solid strategic AI track record, now they need to venture into 3D real time combat.

Regards, and Happy Holidays!
- Skeptic.

MOD RECOMMENDATIONS: (generally go to twcenter dot net, then forums, empire total war, hosted modifications)
1. DarthMod. This is mega mod of mods and it incorporates many other submods. Without Darth, ETW would be bland and boring.
2. APE: TI, or fully A Proper Empire: Terra Incognita
3. American Revolution Mod

P.S. My PC configuration: Spectre x32BV-Full HD // GA-EP45-UD3P F10e // C2D E8400 stock // Buffalo Micron D9 DDR2 4x1Gb // HD5850 1GB // Intel Pro 1000PT PCIe // Creative X-Fi // Intel x-18M 2x80Gb RAID-0 // WD1001FALS // TRUE-120 // Antec Quattro 850W // Win7 64bit
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