Empire: Total War
How do you review a giant like Empire: Total War? Not only does the downloadable version take a good 15GB from your download limit, but also your PC or laptop will groan from the content, violence and graphical beauty. No matter how you turn or twist, what Creative Assembly put together is a masterpiece, an example of how unstoppable ambition and vision delivers a game that not only justifies the existence of harcore pc game pc’s but also reduces console games to playthings for the lesser amongst us.
The Total War series has always been a unique series. Strategists and tactical brains worship the games for years already and also on TV it has been used thanks to its realistic showing and epic proportions. That is no different in this episode as although we get confronted with a different time in history the idea behind the game remained the same. Still a combination is made between two genres, one being a grown up RTS with realistic units that populate large battlefields and the other being a turn-based part on a world map that reminds of Civilization. Decide what you want to build, how high your taxes are and what you want to spend them on. Negotiate with other nations and if that fails: send your army so that the battle gets finished in the RTS part. The possibilities that get distilled from all this are so vast that you can even limit (if you would want to) to one of both parts without even having one second the impression that you’re not playing a solid game.
If this sounds quite complicated, then you’re right. And luckily! The depth of E:TW is unseen and we wouldn’t want to have it any other way. Luckily the makers also added plenty of tutorials and tips so that you can go deeper in the possibilities at your own pace. Great to have that feeling again after so many hours of playing that there’s still so much to discover and learn. Newcomers will also be happy with “The Road to Independence”, a storyline that replays the battle for independence of the United States and that offers slightly less liberty but does bit by bit teach you how to play this game and to use its many aspects. On top of that the happenings of that battle are beautifully shown and history lovers will have a lot of fun with it. The setting, for those that didn’t realise it yet, is in the 18th century and although the focus is on Europe you can also explore two other areas that played a large role in that era: America and India.
Once the single player part is done you can choose for the Grand Camapaign, the piece-de-resistance. This doesn’t tell a story but gives you an immense world where you can opt to play as one of the big European forces of that time, each with their limitations, strengths and specific goals to achieve victory. The replayability of this mode is unseen big. Lovers choose for a peaceful path, one of commerce (a game by itself), diplomacy, taking decent government decisions and the research of technology (also a tech tree is present) or science. If you’re fed up with that or if your colleagues are too voracious with rare items then you just kick ass and invade them with your army.
Here we come in contact with the innovations of Empire. There are more possibilities inside each province: there’s a capitol that you can expand with certain structures, new settlements that also can be expanded will show up and there are also other resources that need to be mined or protected. Think of mines, harbors or universities. Just like with Civ the makers made that these added possibilities remain easy to control so that you can quickly finish turns or let the AI take care of things.
We already shortly mentioned the harbors above. And if you need harbors that means ships! Here the Total War series takes a new stop as this time all types of boats are present to explore the oceans, trade and fight others. This part got a lot of attention from the devs (and marketing people) and you can easily say the sea battles are great. Personally I prefer strategic land fights (which this time feel fresh thanks to the use of gun powder with all kinds of new tactics as result) as on sea the encounters concentrate to tactical movement, making sure the wind is in your sails and managing specific units. Shooting with cannons, entering hostile ships or giant masts falling down: it all looks equally fantastic but in the end these sea battles are a nice addition that doesn’t change the gameplay as a whole. See it as another extra and good feature.
Graphically this game will tease you if you don’t have a monster pc. The engine works perfectly on a relatively old pc but these with a fast one will be able to fully enjoy the vast vistas, the sails moving in the wind and the beautiful, historically correct, detailed units. Individual cannon balls fly through the battlefield and you’ll zoom in more than once to admire the animations in the midst of these bloody fields of war.
There is so much more to be said (on for instance the extensive multiplayer possibilities, the options to set op skirmish games yourself, the historical missions and all new details like trade and diplomacy, or the possibility to dual with certain characters). Empire: Total War , however, is a total package that will appeal to both the general as the prime minister in you, that’s both accessibly as infinitely deep, and that contains more content and replayability than half of all your games together. If Gears 2 is a reason to buy and Xbox360, or Killzone 2 makes you want to have a PS3, then this stragegy game is definitely a reason to put together a hi-end game pc. A beast of a game with plenty of unfinished edges and details which easily disappear in the grandure, depth and immersion of the gameplay. Buy it!