Top positive review
6 people found this helpful
Great game hampered by too many bugs
on November 20, 2011
I've read a number of the Amazon reviews of this game, and they all pretty much capture what I'm going to say, which is namely that Empire: Total War is a great game that could be truly phenomenal if it weren't for the myriad of technical issues that one experiences while playing the game.
Overall impression: I would give this game a "B+" grade, but I must add that this could easily be an "A+" game. The problem is that there are a number of technical faults hamper this game from realizing its true potential, which makes it all the more difficult for me to give it a lower grade.
Here is a summary of some of the issues that you will encounter:
1. Fort/siege battles: Laying siege to a city is a staple of Total War games, and generally amongst the funnest parts of these games. Unfortunately in Empire siege battles can be a massive drain to slug through. Even in moderately sized battles (~1000 soldiers on each side), there comes a point when the enemy AI gives so many commands to its own armies that the game starts to lag so badly that before long you are basically watching your battle progress in photographs/slideshows with a two to three second delay between each frame. This is NOT a performance issue--my current PC specs: AMD Phenom 965 BE 3.4 GHz quad core CPU, 8GB DDR3 RAM, Nvidia GeForce 560Ti video card. The issue in Empire is that the AI gives out so many automatic commands that it overloads the cpu, which eventually slows the game to an unbearable lag. Fortunately, this only happens during siege battles: I've played massive field battles and this lag never occurs, even with the biggest of armies. This seriously takes away from the game, and I have chosen "automatic resolve" during a number of siege battles later in my game out of sheer fatigue of not wanting to deal with a choppy city siege. It is easily the worst bug in the game, and as of 2011 the updates/patches have not fixed this problem.
2. AI path-finding issues: I decided to separate AI issues from the "siege battles" section above, even though the vast majority of AI issues are related to how the AI acts during siege battles. When attacking a fort, your AI is somewhat incompetent at assaulting walls (unlike in Rome: Total War). If you choose not to destroy a wall with artillery, your only other option is to assault the wall with troops by having them throw grappling hooks onto the wall and scaling the wall themselves. Oftentimes when one unit gets their hooks/ropes in place, all other units--despite being ordered specifically to other sections of the wall--will all funnel towards one set of ropes. Additionally, within one unit and one set of ropes (4 or 5 ropes), all the men in a given unit will eventually gather around just ONE rope and slowly funnel themselves upward towards the enemy where they can be killed one at a time. There is no way to fix this, unlike having separate units come to a single set of ropes (they can be ordered back to another section of wall). Additionally, assuming that they can successfully get onto the walls, your units will have a difficult time fighting enemy AI in melee while on the walls. Assuming your units are winning a melee battle, they will often get an enemy unit down to two to three men, only to continually "knock down" enemy units without actually killing them. Since enemy units don't generally rout in Empire while in the walls in their own fort, this makes killing enemy units on walls an extremely difficult task. Of course, if you can get beyond the walls then the AI works fine like in field battles, but assaulting walls without artillery is not recommended. Another problem: blowing down walls with cannons/mortars to bypass the problems associated with having your units scale the walls precipitates the problem of enemy AI overloading the program with the "command loop" that I described above, causing significant lag.
Now for the positives:
-Field battles are insanely fun, and the graphics/battle detail are truly outstanding. Watching units fight in melee is a real treat, especially since some of the unit battle animations are extremely detailed/complex.
-I love the technology/research system, and taxes are way easier to manage in Empire than in Rome.
-Diplomacy is much more intricate, and I think it's a major improvement over Rome (some disagree with me on this).
-Agents like gentlemen (researchers, duelers), rakes (spies/assassins), and priests are extremely fun to use, and the fact that you don't have to train them (they spawn automatically) actually is a welcome development in my mind.
-The economics system is also much more advanced and fun: no longer are all of your major economic buildings confined to a single city, but rather spread out throughout each region. This makes campaign movements even more tactical than they were in Rome, and you have MANY options when it comes to deciding what type of economic buildings to construct.
-The government system is great, and adds even more layers of complexity (fun complexity) to the game. If you're clever enough, you can change your government willingly by engineering revolutions based on playing with taxes and various buildings.
-Naval battles are extremely detailed and fun, although managing larger fleets during a battle (I'd say >5-6 ships) is very difficult.
-Trade is much more important, and it's fun to steal from enemy trade routes (on land or sea).
-Damaging an enemy's economy also has a much more noticeable effect on Empire. In Rome I felt like blocking an enemy's trade ports had basically no effect, but in Empire you can almost completely cripple enemies by continually raiding their valuable cities (farms, industrial buildings, etc.) and blocking/stealing their trade income. I have bankrupted nations by doing this, and it produces very satisfying results in addition to noticeably depleting their ability to train armies.
Overall it's somewhat frustrating that this game turned out the way it did. Empire has the makings of a top-notch Total War game, but Creative Assembly just couldn't wait a little longer to release it and work out the bugs, so they basically churned out a half-finished product. What's more irritating is that they won't (or can't) fix the current bugs.
Bottom line: if you are a Total War fan, I think you owe it to yourself to get this game, but just be warned that it may frustrate the living hell out of you at times.