GC 2008: Empire: Total War Impressions - Land Combat

Sega and The Creative Assembly show off land combat in their upcoming historical real-time strategy game for the first time.

Earlier today, during a visit to Sega's booth at the 2008 Games Convention in Leipzig, we had an opportunity to check out the latest work-in-progress version of Empire: Total War. Currently in development at The Creative Assembly, the ambitious real-time strategy game set in the 18th Century is the first in the series to feature naval combat, which we got to see at the E3 Media and Business Summit a couple of months ago. We didn't get to check out any combat on terra firma, though, until today.

For the purposes of today's demo, a member of the development team was commanding a Prussian army and attempting to capture a small European town from the British--just two of the 12 playable nations that will appear in the game, alongside a further 38 or so that you can wage war against. Besides the aforementioned naval warfare, the most obvious difference between Empire: Total War and its predecessors is that the upcoming game is set in a time period with access to gunpowder. Riflemen and cannon units are quite different from anything that you've had to work with in a Total War game before, and it wasn't long before we got to see them in action.

Having spotted the Prussian army's approach, the AI-controlled British had come out into the fields surrounding the town to face off against them. The developers stressed to us that none of the British Army's actions were scripted and that the AI in Empire: Total War is extremely sophisticated where military tactics are concerned. What the AI didn't know was that the Prussians had anticipated this move, and set a trap for them in the form of a minefield. That made short work of the British cavalry charge, and as the British riflemen took up defensive cover positions behind a wall, the Prussians mirrored that move on the other side of the field between the two forces. The controls required to do this will be simple--no more complicated than moving a unit between two points, in fact.

Impressively, every projectile in Empire: Total War is a 3D object with realistic physics, so there's no trickery involved when it comes to opposing riflemen needing line of sight to hit one another. Individual musket balls aren't always easy to see in the thick of a battle, and if you zoom in close enough to seem them, they won't be the only thing that impresses you. Given how many units (hundreds, maybe even thousands) are under your command, the level of detail on every individual is pretty mind-blowing. They wear different uniforms, they have different faces, and the cavalry ride different breeds of horses. The animations add even more variety to the crowd, which is especially evident when two armies collide and resort to hand-to-hand combat. That's what happened when, sick of the stalemate, the Prussians equipped their bayonets and charged across the field.

It wasn't long before the AI decided to move back toward the town in the face of the Prussian's offense. Actually it moved into the town and to the far side of it, but not before it had opted to garrison some riflemen in a nearby farmhouse that the Prussians would have to pass if they gave chase. That gave the British an opportunity to put their artillery to good use, and once the cannons had been pulled into position by horses (protected by infantry en route), they made short work of the totally destructible farmhouse. Incidentally, cannon balls (and just about everything else in the game) will be affected by weather conditions, so you'll have to keep that in mind. For example, when the ground is hard cannon balls will bounce and roll, and our cavalry will be able to zip around the battlefield at a good speed. If it rains, though, the ground will get muddy and cannon balls will sink into it as the cavalry rides by at a more sedate pace. Rain can also cause your gunpowder to get wet, and if it gets too cold there's even a danger that weapons can freeze.

With the garrisoned British riflemen out of the way, the Prussians were free to advance on the city. It would've been relatively easy for the Prussians to level the place using artillery at this point, but evidently the city was worth more to them intact. Not only do damaged cities cost a lot to repair, but if you cause too much damage to a town that you then go on to capture its inhabitants aren't likely to respond well.

Inside the town, the two armies again appeared to have reached a stalemate, until the British AI decided to attack the Prussians from one street and then, as the fight got underway, send more infantry in from both sides. It was a clever and well-timed move for sure, and the Prussians might have lost the day if they hadn't had reinforcements ready. Their arrival took the British by surprise, and moments later they retreated out of the town. Interestingly, this doesn't necessarily mean that the AI had decided it was impossible to win. Rather, it might simply have decided that, in the context of a large and ongoing campaign, this small town simply wasn't worth the effort or the losses that would inevitably have been incurred.

With AI this sophisticated, around 325 different types, and all manner of different locales and weather conditions to consider, you could certainly be forgiven for thinking that Empire: Total War is a daunting prospect. The Creative Assembly is determined to make the game accessible for newcomers to the series, though, and so will be including a relatively forgiving campaign titled Road to Independence designed specifically for would-be generals looking for a way in. The main campaign will purportedly be the biggest to ever appear in a Total War game, so while what we saw today was certainly impressive, it's really just a tiny fraction of what's going to be on offer when Empire: Total War is released early next year. We'll bring you more information on this one as soon as it becomes available.

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128 comments
SpaKing111
SpaKing111

MTW2 is my favourite game, RTW was my favourite game, I hope ETW will be my favourite game. Too bad development couldn't get it ready for Xmas, guess i'll have to wait till Feb. and just buy it myself. PS: Long live the total war series

jahjeremy
jahjeremy

This game looks like the sweet sauce! I am incredibly impressed by the detailed graphics and especially the ship battles. I am optimistic about the AI. I read that there are 3 full timers programming this part of the game, so it should be way better than MTW2 (where the AI was questionable at best). But I'm worried about performance. What kind of monster setup are we going to need to play this beast? MTW2 has occasional performance/framerate issues even on a pretty good rig (8800 gtx, dual core 3 ghz), and this looks way more intense graphically. Hopefully, it won't slow down to 5 FPS from all those particle effects when all the guns go off. Or maybe just scale down the detail. It is always nice to turn on all the effects and put settings at high, but something tells me no computer in existence will be able to handle ETW at full detail settings when 2000+ soldiers are involved. Hopefully, my worries = total wrong.

Nxss-effa-sim
Nxss-effa-sim

My most anticipated game and can't wait to play it, just thinking about it interferes with my studies :lol: . I wish it was coming out in January instead February so I could play it during my winter break.

Davideko
Davideko

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

Davideko
Davideko

can't wait!! I'm dieing for this game and saints row 2 ad left 4 dead and resident evil 5 and Lotr: Conquest....

UUUMMM184
UUUMMM184

Empire Total War is going to be awesome! Can't wait to fight with armies full of cannons and musketeers!!!!!!!

Pavski
Pavski

lol, i wonder if you've ever heard of kamikazes?

adamalton
adamalton

I wonder if the computer will learn the lesson about not making suicide attacks against a heavily guarded bridgehead?

thewilyranger
thewilyranger

I love the total war series, been playing it since the first medieval and loved it, the AI sounds amazing, this game is going to be amazing.

ragerancher
ragerancher

Looks brilliant. Can't wait to try it.

dennis8
dennis8

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

Adomonkey
Adomonkey

I'll take two, woooooooooooooo

pcgamer522
pcgamer522

One of the best empire-builder series ever. This looks sweet.

erickv
erickv

i can't wait to buy it!!!!!!!

Mar044
Mar044

I cant want to play this game, Im hoping that the AI lives up to the hype because im getting tired of death marches and random attacking, i want a adaptive at that can think for a change and not just issue a attack order.

gameboy360
gameboy360

way to be the biggest douche in history danmajor

rugbyrules78
rugbyrules78

wow wowo i just cant wait it looks soo awsome WOOOOOOH!!

sdauz
sdauz

awesome RTW - M2TW and now Empire TW yeah cant wait for this - system specs r going to be high, guess i need a new graphics card sigh

DanMajor
DanMajor

WOOP! im gonna RE-CREATE the British empire! and butcher any american that even hints at independence!! but first im gonna cut through the french! should be easy... the surrender monkeys!

GravyCrazy
GravyCrazy

I can't wait for this game! But, what are the minimum system requirements going to be? guess I'll have to save up for an upgrade.

tal0780
tal0780

I cant wait for this game this game going to be perfect

tal0780
tal0780

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

jazilla
jazilla

Way to pick an era where the dumb AI fits the awful tactics used in war. The only problem is that The Revolutionary troops won't use guerilla warfare the way they did in The American Revolution. Why? Because the AI will be too dumb! Oh well, I will just have to play France vs. Britain.

kweeni
kweeni

ever since i played rome demo i got in the serie, gotta love total war(only one i missed after rome is alexander, now i might get kingdoms), hope this wont be the last one, another shogun would be awesome...

jopickard
jopickard

I like the cannonball bounce rules!! I have played similar rules In Napoleonic miniatures!! Sounds great!

cru3
cru3

@ forhekset, These armies START with gunpowder and move up from there. Medieval armies did not have gunpowder until late periods so they had to focus on hand to hand combat for the majority of the time. These armies are switched so gunpowder and artillery are the main weapons, and hand to hand is secondary. Completely different ballgame.

sextus1
sextus1

It seems that each new TW game is a quantum leap in graphics and I have stated for years now, at least since Rome:TW came out that I would love to see a remake of Shogun if for no other reason than to complete the circle

furryfrump
furryfrump

i can't wait to re-create sharp or Hornblower battles

aussie_gamer13
aussie_gamer13

Im looking forward to the atmosphere they will create in different parts of the world... Fighting elephants in the hot, colourful land of India... Galleys in the freezing seas of the North... or British redcoats in the (once) open green land of New York Im so excited for this game :)

hampton2003
hampton2003

A comforting thought; even if they screw up the land battle AI, it wont really be screwed up because most infantry will be 1st a rifleman and 2nd a bayonet soldier. Think about it, all those times in previous TW games when infantry just stood there taking missile firing from archers till half their army was gone. They finally choose an era where warfare actually was that retarded, people lining up and shooting each other till one side is dead. LOL its perfect!

gametzu
gametzu

WastedOne111 you have the point...Cant wait to see this game in stores... We could expect a WWI and WWII Total War too =) Great would be a remake of Shogun, dont you guys agree?

tudyniuz
tudyniuz

can't wait for this game:D

WastedOne111
WastedOne111

I agree with moc5. I've played a lot of games from Commodore 64 to warcraft 1 orcs and humans. These total war games mix depth, strategy, and brutal combat in ways that no other developer even attempts. I can't wait to hear my men let out a scream as they charge with bayonets fixed.

BenBenBen93
BenBenBen93

Yes but they were rubbish because other nations wouldn't create them and that would make the battles to easy It is real time strategy and it is also turn based because you fight battles in REAL TIME and their is STRATEGY in what you do. It is also turn based on the campaign map you have to think about your argument before you type it.

Zee666
Zee666

Makh, they need to just make rome 2, that was the best one, i'm seriously not looking forward to naval combat, hope fully the amaericas and india will be a nice touch.

forhekset
forhekset

Real-time strategy? Am I missing something here? There was gunpowder in Medieval 2. I wish people who wrote these show previews had any idea what they were talking about.

mihipihi
mihipihi

wow. the weapons can freeze. im impressed! TOTAL WAR RULES!

moc5
moc5

Thank you Creative Assembly for such a great series. I'm very critical about the games play. I have high expectaions. This series has been and still is an instant classic and all round best video game series I've ever played. Hats off to you. That is no small accomplishment. I've little doubt the next installment will blow the socks off all total war fans. Thanks for the hard work Creative!

hsvwa
hsvwa

I hope this isn't one of those historically inaccurate games where you invade Mongolia only to find out that they're equipped with phase plasma rifles.

bart723
bart723

looks good... i dont no if n e ones mentioned this yet, but someone should change the line "That gave the British an opportunity to put their artillery to good use, and once the cannons..." to "That gave the Prussians an opportunity to put their artillery to good use, and once the cannons..." cos its talking about the wrong team there... hope this gets along to admins/moderators...

Majinssj2Vegita
Majinssj2Vegita

True the AI was stupid ,but still worth playing. Empires maybe the last total war game but who knows I do see a chance of it having an expansion maybe.

Kubilius
Kubilius

I love Total War series since i first laid my hands on Shogun. I always give them 10/10, couse they deserve it, I always play them 100s of hours. But PLEASE let the AI overview in this preview be true, couse Total War games are always so damaged by stupid AI. The game is complex ofcourse, but AI (at least in previous games) was realy bad - non-realistic diplomacy, armies standing while you shoot them down with long-range artilery, charging and retreating without any reason, etc. etc.

JinoFTW
JinoFTW

with this game i think i can say "goodbye social life!!!" cause i'll not go out of my house anymore... LOL. though it seems i will need an Über pc...

eddy_purpus
eddy_purpus

www.twcenter.net come and sign up to discuss Empire Total War :D

91987
91987

this looks like its gonna be good - America to arms! hopefully they also added in our pride and our "we love winners and hate losers, losing a war is a disgrace attitude" graphics sound good

91987
91987

this looks like its gonna be good - America to arms! hopefully they also added in our pride and our "we love winners and hate losers, losing a war is a disgrace attitude graphics sound good

Bauholzwolf
Bauholzwolf

18th century, eh... that would put the whole planet up for grabs, pretty much.