Empire: Total War - game review

Date: 2009-03-03 10:14:00
The review was based on the PC version.

Behind Creative Assembly, the creator of the Total War series, there are people who have already earned the trust of players around the world. Nevertheless, some fans of Rome and both parts of the Medieval mini-cycle were seriously wondering whether it would be good for Empire to bring the idea of TW into the eighteenth century. Playing an early version of the game convinced me that the men from CA know very well what they are dealing with and how to deal with the problems arising from the historical period. It looks like PC players got another great strategy game.

It cannot be denied that the vast majority of Polish players will first of all want to check how Creative Assembly imagines the 18th-century Republic of Poland. I am no exception here - I quickly set up the terms of the campaign, took a look at the map of Europe, and then let myself be thrown among the invading neighbors.

The Polish campaign seems quite difficult when compared to the French or British campaign. Our country starts without ports, with a meager army, poor economy and many angry countries around. A person deciding to launch a Polish campaign must therefore take care of literally all aspects of the country's development. In the case of Western powers, such problems occur much less frequently (if at all).

The Republic of Poland is, of course, not a great challenge for a seasoned player. By playing a long campaign, victory can be achieved by conquering the capitals of countries such as Sweden, Prussia, Austria and the Ottoman Empire. Add to this the necessity to conquer over twenty regions, it turns out that the player has to conquer half of Europe, all of Anatolia and a part of the Middle East. It looks like a job for many, many days. Indeed, with the unhurried game, Empire: Total War will last for at least a few nice weeks (and knowing life, the game will soon be enriched with mods developed by fans of the series). Russia and Denmark are here as Poland's allies. The Republic is also a protector for Courland and Saxony.

Players who want to conquer all provinces in the world will also get a bit of a sweat, especially when conquering heavily defended principalities and protectorates, of which there are many here. For these people, a world domination mode has been prepared, in which the condition of victory is the occupation of forty regions and achieving the highest prestige in the world.

The above-mentioned prestige can be obtained through the development of the state in four areas - technology, economy, navy and land forces. Depending on your preferences, you can gain prestige in various ways. However, this does not change the fact that one of the best ways to strengthen the position of the state is war, because it not only increases the prestige of our country, but also lowers the corresponding rate of the defeated enemy. Moreover, fighting other nations allows them to take highly developed cities, prosperous farms and important merchant ports. One of the implemented campaigns is based on gaining prestige. However, it is up to the player to complete his task with the use of brute force.

Countries in Empire differ not only in terms of the army and religion. Now there is one more difference, and that is the political system. Although the differences between nations in this respect are not very great (absolute monarchs have their advisers who function like ministers in republics), they are taken into account in diplomacy - countries with different systems of government will have less chance of getting along than nations with similar system.

Already in the beta test, I praised the improvements and partially the automation of diplomacy, but what Creative Assembly presented in the final version of the game turns out to be even better than what we have dealt with so far. To the long-known liquidation of troublesome diplomats, there has been a clear division of states into major and minor. In addition, the diplomacy panel has been supplemented with a very useful map through which we can check what relations exist between countries and what affects the friendship or reluctance between them. This map shows clearly why some countries are hated by other nations. This is exactly what I missed in previous Total War games - sometimes it was hard to understand why the attitudes of some countries changed dramatically in just a few turns. Such fluctuations also appear in Empire , but you can check the cause at any time. Knowing the reason, one can effectively develop a solution aimed at e.g. gaining favor of a specific nation.

Dealing with diplomatic problems can take many forms. The least engaging is simply waiting a few or a dozen turns. Thanks to this delay, a foreign power can forget about its old conflicts. The conclusion of a trade agreement also allows you to repair relations with another country. The most immediate means of improving relationships is offering expensive gifts, such as jewelry, porcelain or racehorses. Interestingly, replacing them with the usual monetary fee does not have the same effect. In Empire diplomacy, money is used to supplement offers with attractive conditions and to convince others to take part in negotiations, but they cannot be used to completely bribe foreign powers. Gifts, on the other hand, must at least appear to be selfless gifts.

Just as corsairs can raid a merchant fleet, it is also possible to hire the right men to carry out raids on land trade routes. Attacks on traders deal with the so-called revelers. In addition to attacking merchants, they can infiltrate garrisons, perform assassinations (you don't have to train spies and assassins separately!), Sabotage enemy buildings, and even - which is the task of the best agents - infiltrate a foreign navy.

In addition to rogues, we also have at our disposal the so-called gentlemen. If one were to look for a synonym for this name, it would probably fall on the word "intellectuals". These gentlemen mostly deal with the technological development of the state. Concentrated in research centers (Krakow, Cambridge, etc.), they can conduct research on military, economic and ideological improvements. It is thanks to them that the army can use new formations (wedge, square), additional weapons (bayonets, spatter missiles), and civilians can work faster and more efficiently. In short, without gentlemen, the state is developing at a snail's pace, although there is no question of a complete stagnation, because sooner or later technologies developed on the lands of our neighbors will also appear in Poland on the basis of the involuntary spread of knowledge.

Conducting research is not the only job of intellectuals. If necessary, they can be ordered to steal technology from a research facility belonging to another country. Gentlemen also engage in duels with other agents (including scavengers). It is interesting that the person challenged to fight has the right to choose the weapon with which the conflict will be resolved. We can choose a gun or rapier here.

In the new Total War it was decided to give up taking prisoners. There is no longer any ransom demand for captured soldiers. By organizing the pursuit of the soldiers fleeing the battlefield, we condemn them to death, thanks to which the opponent cannot hide, regroup and strike again. It was decided to diversify the battles on land by adding the possibility of manning civilian buildings. Unfortunately, using buildings for defense purposes is a bad idea in most cases. Apart from the fact that the building does not move and is a great target for artillery, line infantry can always run to a manned structure, go inside and kill enemies with bayonets. And the defenders can do little, because even if they shoot from the windows of the building, their combat strength is still lower than in the case of traditional fire from the ranks, for the simple reason that there are fewer windows than shooters.

Traditionally, in the case of land battles in TW, we deal with errors in the artificial intelligence of opponents. The problem is with the cavalry. However, it is not about flawed charges, but rather about the lack of any action when driving is under fire from the musketeers. More than once or twice, I have shot off more than half of a horse regiment before it deigned to react and move away. It is also annoying that infantry units still want to regularly line up in long rows along the enemy's formation. At the moment when opponents are fleeing from the battlefield and I want to shoot some of them, my infantry does not want to shoot even a few balls; prefers to position himself properly first, regardless of the fact that when he finishes forming a formation, the opponent will be very far away.

The intelligence of enemy crews is at a decent level. They don't make glaring mistakes, try to be on the move all the time and use both the linear pattern and the dash above the "T". The opponent tries to use different types of ammunition during the fight and often avoids full broadside volleys. Some realism fanatics will certainly be irritated by, for example, the ability to sail against the wind (terribly slow, but still), its constant strength, etc. Creative Assembly apparently had to make considerable compromises in terms of naval battles and abandon the fully reliable behavior of ships for the pleasure of having fun.

Empire is definitely one of the nicer strategy games of the last few months. At the maximum level of detail, the ships look great. They have lots of details, the sails are beautifully puffed up under the influence of the wind, and the ships under fire have large holes in the hulls; from time to time a fire breaks out on board. Infantry and cavalry - due to their size - are less detailed than ships, but it still doesn't change the fact that the ground forces also look good. Particularly noteworthy is the smoke coming out of the barrel after firing a shot, as well as the feeling of depth of space. The same is true for animations - although they are repeated often (e.g. in the case of a large infantry unit that has to jump over a wall), they look great. In Empire, the animations have been enriched with a ragdoll, which is activated when we charge the horse. The attacked infantrymen may fly a bit too far, but this does not spoil the overall perception of the game.