View Full Version : Empire:TW review

20-03-2009, 19:08:24
One week after starting Empire:Total War I find myself sitting at a PC writing a review. Didnít expect that. With previous TW games I would be busy conquering Spain about now. Donít know why itís always Spain but for some reason marching my armies around the peninsula always appeals. Maybe itís the Rioja. Hmm RiojaÖ

So one week and a bottle of Rioja later why am I writing instead of playing? God knows. This review really hasnít started off well. Maybe itís the wine, maybe itís a subtle comparison with the game. Probably the wine. Better start again.

E:TW takes the now familiar campaign/battle map setup from the previous games and drags it kicking and screaming into the age of muskets and artillery. We start in 1700, Europe is (surprisingly) peaceful, the Americaís and India beckon and youíve got an empire to build. If you like the Sharpe novels youíll be itching to have your greenjackets marching all over Spain immediately. (See - Spain again) The first thing you notice is the scale. If you thought the MTW2 map was large you ainít seen nothing yet. Youíve now got three main maps, covering Canada to Brazil, Iceland to Arabia and the Indian subcontinent (you can actually march an army from Portugal to Calcutta if you feel like it) plus three smaller maps representing trading regions elsewhere in the globe. On top of that scale the old one province one city model has gone with each region capable of having one main city + several smaller towns and ports. The cities are still your production centres while the towns can be developed to give bonuses to production, trade, farming and research. On top of these there may also be farms and mines, both upgradable features and all of them need defending. Yup, you canít just sit in your cosy defences anymore. The computer will often raid your provinces, burn down your farms, loot your ports occupy a town or to and completely fail to engage your nice big stack of units sitting behind the walls of a fort. Guess thereís going to be more field battles than in MTW2 then. The number of buildings found in a city is much smaller than previously as many of the functions have been farmed out to the other structures in the region. A welcome change is that you can now recruit multiple units in a turn, allowing you to reduce the size of your standing armies in safe areas. Another new feature is research. While the previous gameís tech trees were dictated around the size of your castles in E:TW we have a simple Civ style tech tree and if you are going to stay competitive with your opponents you will need to pay attention to what your academics are doing. When you see your first army torn to pieces by a cavalry charge because you forgot to research square formation and bayonets you will see the importance of keeping the universities well stocked. Other changes to the campaign map include a reduction in the types of agent. The spy and assassin have gone, replaced by the rake Ė a slightly shady chap who looks like a highwayman. Diplomats have gone altogether Ė you can now contact any faction at any time. The gentleman unit is new, and can be used to boost your research or steal others as well as duelling against other gentlemen or rakes. There also a missionary character taking the place of the old priests but I havenít found any major use for them yet.

The battle map is as good looking as ever and the new gunpowder units have nice smoke effects although some of the tracer rounds they fire are a little blocky. The variety of terrains you encounter has improved as has the presence of cover. Infantry can now shelter behind walls and in buildings allowing many more options for tactical play. The maps also seem larger than in MTW2. The sea based battles are spectacular and the ships are brilliantly modelled. You can scroll right in to see the crew running around and out far enough to see you entire fleet sailing in formation. Graphically this game is excellent.

Sadly thatís where the positive part of this review ends and the disappointments start to become apparentÖ

The joy of MTW2 and the previous games came from the sound campaign map married to a rock solid battle section. From the last weeks play E:TW has lost out on both fronts, sometimes due to bugs, sometimes from what appear to be design mistakes. What E:TW doesnít have that MTW2 did was the addictiveness, that grab hold and wonít let you go until 2 in the morning-ness. This week I have weeded the garden, been shopping twice and even phoned my parents. That didnít happen one month after MTW2. Most of my friends thought Iíd died. So the problemsÖ.

First the campaign map. Itís just too blood big. Trying to play an empire spread across three maps makes it impossible to cope with the logistics. The scale is too big for me Ė I can cope with Civ games and even GalCiv scales but trying to micromanage provinces that are so flimsily linked together makes playing as the British Empire a real headache and not fun. I tried again as the Swedes, determining to stay just in the European theatre. That helped but the usual xenophobic AI and a horde of tiny one region minor nations with big allied neighbours makes even this tiresome. Then comes the first bug and itís a show stopper. You canít starve out a garrisoned city. Yep, the very first thing you learn to do in the other TW games doesnít work properly. You can siege the city, and it will give a 2-4 turn limit for when it will surrender but what actually happens is that in the last turn the AI will sally and even if you win the siege is broken and the survivors get to retreat to the city ready to repeat the process. This means you have to assault every city, making every military adventure very expensive in manpower. This many have been fixed by now but as of the first update this was still in the game. So we assault and what do we find?

Well normally the enemy is camped in some sort of fort. Well I say in, a lot of the time they camp outside the fort instead. Initially I came assumed this was an AI error but now I realise the AI is smart enough to realise that the fort is practically useless. There are three main reasons for this. Firstly every 18th century army has cannon, making the walls no real barrier. Generally 18th century forts countered this with earth glacis in front of the walls to soak up the fire but for some reason most E:TW forts donít (maybe the later ones do but Iíve not seen any). The other problem is that every infantry unit seems to come with built in grappling ropes which allow them to scale the walls without any trouble. You donít even need to build them (like MTW ladders). Just to add to the problem even though the forts are bristling with cannon they rarely seem to fire at all. You can even get defending infantry units to form up properly on many of the walls as the troops donít seem to be able to cope with the angles in the wallsÖ On a similar note why to the Cherokee Indians have massive stone forts. Iím sure John Wayne never had to fight his way into one!

Even open battles have lost their edge Ė while Iím well aware of the inaccuracies of muskets if they were this poor the generals would have given their troops pieces of fruit to throw instead. I think I could take out most of a line infantry regiment with a bunch of loganberries if they were this inaccurate. Well maybe I would need a pointed stick as wellÖ The battles look the part especially once you have infantry squares defending against lancers with horse drawn artillery charging around but they just lack the impact you got from longbows and heavy cavalry. As for the sea battles, well they look great but they are impossible to control. The ships are unresponsive and unwieldy and the effect of a broadside or a boarding action often seems unrelated to the size of the ship. Sometimes your frigate will sink a merchant man in one volley, sometimes he can blaze away all day and have no effect. As the size of the fleets increases it becomes increasingly difficult to play. Forget re-enacting Trafalger, half your ships will be sailing the wrong way.

Iím not saying E:TW is a lost cause. Many of these problems are fixable and (hopefully) will be. Itís just at the moment Creative Assembly have missed the boat. It may have been a beautifully rendered boat bristling with cannon and muskets but itís sailing off into the sunset and Iím still firmly at the docks watching it go. If you love the TW series give E:TW a go. But wait for the bugs to be ironed out because at the moment thereís more bugs in this than in an East India companyís uniform after 6 months in India.

Greg W
21-03-2009, 02:30:12
Originally posted by Beta1 loot your ports occupy a town or to and completed fail to engage your nice big stack of units sitting behind the walls of a fort.

There also a missionary character taking the place of the old priests but I havnít found any major use for them yet.

That helped but the usual xenophobic AI an a horde of tiny one region minor nations with big allied neighbours makes even this tiresome.Was this supposed to be posted as a proper review? Just thought I'd point out a few spelling mistakes before it's posted. :cute:

Doesn't inspire me to buy the game (at least until it is on the cheap shelves), that's for sure.

21-03-2009, 08:44:57
Fixed - well I think I got them all.

I can't remember how to get into the site backend to publish it properly so if the managment is watching and wants to upload it that would be great. Could probably provide some screen shots as well.

25-03-2009, 16:08:16
Maybe a part 2 to this.

its starting to grow on me.

and with a hotfix and a "major gameplay update" coming there may be life in this game yet.

25-03-2009, 18:53:18
an off the shelf vs. after the game is actually done comparison?

25-03-2009, 20:08:29
sounds like a plan. hotfix went out this evening, fixes a load of crashes (I've had 1 crash and 1 slowdown since installing so its actually pretty stable out of the box for me). gameplay update is due next week apparently so maybe over the easter hols I'l knock something together.

27-03-2009, 18:49:19
Its updating agin so maybe this is the game play update...

nope another hotfix

07-04-2009, 17:35:07
I bought this game for $49.95 and it is fairly fun but it badly, badly needs a patch. The AI doesn't land any armies using its fleets while the trade system is royally fucked up. If you try to reorganize any of you fleets in trading ports then you lose the trade not just for one turn but for all time because some 3rd world Indian power sneaks in and steals the port. What is worse is it seems nonEuropean powers are totally able to keep up technology wise with European powers and that is just unrealistic during the period 1700-1800.

07-04-2009, 23:20:37
The whole game is shit.

08-04-2009, 21:28:55
Not to mention the native americans with stone forts with cannons. And forts missing the glacis that would have made them useful against cannon. Btw to fix the trade bug move all bar one ship out of the fleet, scuttle the last one and reestablish the route. You lose a ship but it means you save the route - as long as noone else moved in first.

14-04-2009, 09:13:48
Hmm a sobering review. I was seriously thinking of purchasing this, but a wait and see approach now i think.

29-04-2009, 18:22:10
Big update out today. Claims to fix a lot of crashes and some of the game breaking problems (e.g. seiges not working properly). AI still can't perform a Naval invasion though (apparently this is still being worked on)

Am updating now - I'll start another game and see how it goes.

29-04-2009, 22:11:26
well an enjoyable and crash free evening of total war.

So far seems good - sieges seem to work better now. The AI did manage a sea born attack. It still can't figure out how to land troops on the coast but it can sail a fleet into an ungarrisoned port, unload the troops and attack from there. The AI managed to nab a couple of carribean islands off me until I figured out what was up!

01-05-2009, 03:48:36
Do you have the Steam version?


01-05-2009, 20:35:42
shop bought but steam activated.

Takes me too long to download that amount + I just like having the disks and boxes and stuff.

01-05-2009, 21:28:14
Apparently they have been updating the steam version as well.

I might purchase it now.


12-05-2009, 18:23:35
Played through a game as Maratha Confederacy - seems pretty stable and sea battles much improved by new ship AI (they don't shoot at their own side any where near as much or crash into each other so much). Small ships now lose to larger ones in boarding actions, have taken part in a few large actions (8-10 ships of the line v 15-20 pirate galleons) and managed to keep everything going so you might struggle with trafalger but should be able to manage anything you are likley to encouter. for those who are interested you should be able to take out 20 pirate galleons/fluytes with 8-10 2nd and 3rd rate battleships and maybe only lose 1-2 of your side. Actually enjoying fleet battles more than land battles now.

Far fewer crashes as well although playing as brits I still crashed occasionally towards the end game - seemed like certain units got bugged and would crash the game when moved.

As noted above AI can invade but only through ports - not seen a proper landing attempted. Land based attacks seem more deliberate than before although the AI still spends too much time on raids and doesn't attack cities enough. Units in forts are now much more likely to fire the cannons properly although the lack of proper glacis/ravelins etc on the larger forts and the cannon being arranged poorly still makes forts more for decoration than utility.

Game now plays as well as MTW2 on the strategic map as long as you are playing a single theatre power (indians/prussia/poland/ottomans etc). The dutch play OK because their interests in the colonnies are your's to decide but playing a real multi-theatre power like Britain, France or Spain isa pain in the neck - the required victory conditions are so at odds with the need for international trade that the fun is removed. For example to win the long campaign as the British you would have to be at war with the French, Spanish, Ottomans, both indian factions and likely the US when they emerge. And thats just the major nations - you would also have to be fighting the native american factions, malta, the barbary pirates and probably the carribean pirates. Now when you add on the allies for each of these powers who exactly am I meant to be trading with?

(and thats without the Austrians, poles and russians randomly declaring war on you - not quite sure how these mostly lnadlocked countries intend to attack me but it doesn't stop them trying!)

Can't help feeling a few Napoleonic missions would have helped - allowing you to pickup the gibralter territory by assisting spain agasint the french rather than having to take it off the Spain/France alliance that always seems to form. How hard would it have been to program in a change in the French stragetic AI when Napoleon is meant to appear, give them a few full stack armies and set them off on a European campaign. Otherwise the French are very dull - they tend to sit there for a few turns, lose Lousiana to either the natives, the 13 colonies or the US (if it emerges) and then make no effort to annex anything more than Savoy. not really the military machine it should be for the era. Equally unless human controlled the brits do bugger all as the AI can't move its armies off shore - and all the provences it has at the start are islands or very remote canadian areas.

The only AI factions that really get going tend to be Austria, the ottomans, prussia, poland and russia (and probably only 1 of these will do well in any given game. Occasionally the swedes go a bit mental around the baltic and I once saw portugal annexe spain (that suprised me). The two indian factions tend to just fight each other to a standstill and the dutch just sit in their starting provences until either the prussians roll over them or the game ends. Still thats pretty much like the MTW2 AI. Either asleep or xenophobic...

so worth now a play if you liked MTW2 but still not really a major advance for the series.

12-05-2009, 18:36:12
I got Europa Universalis 3 instead.

It was good, too good.


12-05-2009, 20:42:00
I played EU2, never got into it as without a decent manual I hadn't a clue what was happening!

Greg W
13-05-2009, 01:34:54
Did you get Napoleon's Ambition and In Nomine as well, Jon? I have been playign them for months now, great game. :beer:

13-05-2009, 01:35:40


13-05-2009, 07:32:31
I loved EU2 but never could get into EU3. I did buy Empire:Total War but found it a buggy mess and have barely played it.

Greg W
13-05-2009, 14:26:25
Na and IN make it a completely different game if that's any help Oerdin...

18-05-2009, 04:41:48
I never bought the expansions so maybe I should download them and find out what they change.

22-06-2009, 18:18:02
new Empire update downloading through steam now.

14 new units, loads of bug fixes and stat tweaks. Allegedly diplomatic Ai is less xenophobic and eratic.

23-06-2009, 13:22:31
If it truly fixes a lot of bugs and the AI problems I might be interested in getting this. I want to play with gun powder units.

23-06-2009, 15:56:31
Yeah, I held off on getting it, but woudl still be intrested.