Napoleon: Total War - game review

Author: Przemysław Zamęcki
Date: 2010-02-18 16:02:00
The review was based on the PC version.

Even a player with a moderate level of history must have heard of Napoleon. A short, stocky and slightly balding gentleman made almost all of Europe fall to his knees at one point in history. The logical consequence is the willingness to present these conquests by the Creative Assembly team, which has been treating us with further variations on the military struggles of the human species for ten years. A great leader, visionary, brilliant politician, despot, madman, incorrigible dreamer?

Napoleon: Total War is a fully standalone expansion and does not require Empire to function properly, although it is clearly visible that the base is the backbone of the new version. However, there are many changes: from the way the campaigns are played on the general map to the battles themselves, during which the general ceased to function only as a uniform button.

In addition, Napoleon offers a really large dose of entertainment. The main part of the game focuses on three campaigns of increasing complexity led by "The Little Corporal". The first, which is also more of an introduction to the other two, is the campaign in northern Italy taking place in the years 1796-1797, during which our task is to conquer Klagenfurt and open a free road that could be used for the conquest of Austria. The second campaign takes place in Egypt (1798-1800), while the third and most important one, which is the core of the game, is the campaign in Europe (1805-1812). But that's not all. The authors decided to provide us with a look at history from a different point of view, thanks to which we can also conquer Europe as the ruler of one of the countries of the then anti-French coalition: Great Britain, Austria, Prussia or Russia. By choosing one of these countries, you can play in the historical mode, in which the goal is to capture and hold specific provinces before the end of a certain time, or in the world domination mode, which consists in conquering at least sixty regions, including several key regions for the development of a given country. Such a widely understood topic causes that Napoleon is no longer seen as a mere accessory. However, the attractiveness of the production is not only due to these campaigns, but also several smaller or larger changes in the way the game is played.

The more compact design of the game forced a different presentation of the micro scale. As we deal with only one continent and a small part of the other, the campaign maps have been divided into many more provinces, and therefore, obviously, have become more detailed. In addition, the length of one turn has been shortened, which now lasts exactly two weeks. This gives you much more freedom when undertaking military actions, but at the same time requires more turns to build a decent army. From time to time, the program also orders the execution of an additional mission, e.g. conquering a specific city or undertaking diplomatic actions in relation to one of the neighbors. Sometimes the reward for completing it fully compensates for the effort put into it, and it can be, for example, a unique unit. Fortunately, in Napoleon, diplomats have completely disappeared from the map, and all contracts, treaties and demands are dealt with in a special window. A novelty in the diplomacy panel is, among other things, the possibility of requesting the breaking of the alliance of one of the countries with our enemy or a request for a trade embargo on him.

Following the example of our predecessors, contributing to the development of education, we can also use the services of gentlemen who can steal technologies, duel or, if they are sent back to a research center, accelerate research on one of a dozen or so projects. A recruited spy infiltrates or sabotages the enemy structure. So in this aspect of the game, everything has remained the same as usual.

What is completely new is the system of individual fatigue or being closer to the truth and historical realities - rather, their torment. Already in the first campaign, when entering the Alpine region with the army, we receive a message that due to the cold some of the soldiers will probably soon turn into snowmen. One salvation is taking care of the supply lines (you need to get and keep marked points), but when we enter Russia in the main campaign, it can be unhappy and a repetition of the entertainment (200 years after the actual events) will take its toll on any home-grown general. In turn, during the campaign in Egypt, when we drive into the desert in search of Bedouins, soldiers may start to die of thirst. The troops depleted in battle can be replenished, allowing them to rest in one of the garrisons. At the same time, these replenishments are faster if we build a branch or a supply warehouse on this site.

In a bygone era, the then government spokesman, Jerzy Urban, made the famous line that "the government will feed itself." In Napoleon, each of the ministers sitting in the cabinet has some negative or positive qualities. They can affect, for example, the prestige of a given country, diplomatic relations or the cost of recruiting units. In order to govern well, such a cabinet must also enjoy adequate public support. If it is too low, we as Napoleon can call new elections immediately. But nothing prevents us from waiting until the end of the term of office.

In order for the state to have a full treasury and to keep people satisfied, it is also worth fumbling with taxes from time to time. According to the Orwellian principle that they are equal and equal (liberalism is just beginning to crawl), we tax separately two classes of society: those who have something and those who do not, but would like to. Low taxes protect against unrest, but not maintain a large effective army, and vice versa. The appropriate balance between the construction of cultural buildings, factories and courts in cities also contributes to social satisfaction. Of course, the clash of two cultures in North Africa creates a tide of constant discontent and notorious rebellion, so keeping additional garrisons in the rear becomes imperative. In the name of freedom, equality and fraternity, you can also completely exempt a region from paying taxes. Besides, I suspect that militarists will simply "tick" the box responsible for turning on the auto-management and deal with what the Total War series really exists for, i.e. army skirmishes.

The most important person in any army is its general. As I mentioned, in Napoleon it ceased to be just an obstacle in clicking on more important units. The changes begin before the battle begins, during the deployment phase. The first unit is placed by a less experienced commander, which is visualized by the number of stars on his portrait. I don't think I need to convince anyone that deploying your own troops, being the second best, is essential to the success of the battle. When you see the formation of enemy troops, you know how to set your own, and above all, where to place artillery to make it as effective as possible. Generals also gained other useful traits besides the influence on the morale of the troops. An additional circle appears around them (the higher the rank of the commander, the greater), symbolizing the range of direct influence on nearby units. Additional icons appeared for a slightly redesigned and more convenient interface than its predecessors. The general can now encourage one of the units to act, further increasing its morale and increasing melee and accuracy characteristics, or order a regrouping to collect soldiers escaping from the battlefield. Thanks to this, the commanders focus much more attention on the player, forcing more activity and constant monitoring of places where the role of the general may change the unfavorable course of the battle, even for a moment. Anyway, these actions are clearly visible on the computer side, when the unit and the commander are trying to follow their own lines without interruption, as far as possible. In addition, it is worth knowing that generals are immortal in the sense that if they are knocked down on the battlefield, they reappear in the capital of the region they come from after a few rounds of convalescence.

Artillery divides and rules on the battlefield. I am not an expert on realities or a huge fan of militaries, but even to me it seems that the authors have exaggerated a bit with its effectiveness. It certainly has a bit too long range, and in the event of an attack by vulnerable units, it massacres all soldiers from the cannons. The reach of kartacze also seems to be too large. A novelty is the ability to conduct barrage fire, thanks to which the battery shoots a bit faster, but later it becomes necessary to cool the barrel, which causes a stoppage in its operation. Unfortunately, the guns are still pumping at full speed even when an allied unit is facing them, which meant that the so-called Due to my carelessness, friendly fire has often caused more losses than enemy fire.

The speed of reaction to the orders given has been slightly improved, and undoubtedly a big change is also the improved system responsible for the fatigue of units. Heavy cavalry can now gallop a much longer distance without much effort, although performing more than two charges and getting involved in a skirmish can be more exhausting.

The enthusiasts of the series are probably most interested in the operation of artificial intelligence. Unfortunately, a lot has not changed in this matter, although perhaps it is a matter of choosing a higher level of her skills. An example of extreme stupidity is a dragoons parade in front of a building manned by enemy infantry and doing nothing about the fact that one of the gentlemen is kicking his horse to the ground. Or the lackluster shelling of the same building by a squad of grenadiers, instead of throwing grenades through the windows and quietly retreating to a safe position. Light cavalry can charge our cannons regardless of the fact that within five seconds they will be eliminated by fusiliers standing nearby. But mostly these are extreme cases and most of the time I had a lot of fun playing. It is also worth emphasizing that the ships were able to anchor and make immediate repairs during the sea clashes. While in inland or coastal waters such an operation makes sense, in the middle of the sea it seems to be at least troublesome. I realize that true fans of the series and experts of the period will probably find a million errors here, but for the average player, for whom the difference between the cuirass and the crucian carp, these battles will become great fun on spring evenings. And fans will either accept Napoleon as he is or wait for the right mods. Or try out a new option to play a campaign battle with a live opponent.

Visually, the game has been incredibly pampered. This is partly due to the new rendering engine, which allows for a greater variety in the appearance of the soldiers' face. It's just a little thing, but it's nice that it doesn't feel like fighting the clones in the end. Musket shots are not only wisps of dispersing smoke, but also real clouds. When several firing units stand in front of each other, this cloud almost completely covers them. Various environmental effects, including a sandstorm and vibrating hot air, also look great.

Napoleon: Total War should be on the shelf of every strategy fan. Especially that as a standalone supplement it costs slightly less than a full-fledged product. Which it basically is anyway. The changes that have taken place in the way the campaign is played on the general map have been very well thought out and fit perfectly into the historical realities of that era. Land battles also became more attractive thanks to the new skills of the generals, the graphic design and, above all, Napoleon himself.

During the tests, the game was completely stable and never crashed or went to the desktop. After the horror, the surviving players after the premiere of Empire , it's probably a completely new quality. It is true that the loading times are still long, but downloading the game to the bar with the Alt + Tab key combination is not a problem. Polonization is on a decent level and I have not noticed any serious mistakes. In addition, Napoleon uses the Cloud system on the Steam service, thanks to which we will not lose any save, because they are all stored on the Valve server. Anyway, Lodi, Arcole, Pyramids, Austerlitz, Borodino, Ligny, Waterloo… Does anyone really need more encouragement?

Przemek "g40st" Zamęcki