Napoleon: Total War Impressions - First Look

We get our first look at the next Total War game, which will put the glorious career of Napoleon under a microscope.

For years, the Total War series has offered enormous, epic strategy on a scale that has only become greater over time. That's about to change. The next game in the series, Napoleon: Total War will, in the words of developer Creative Assembly, "put Total War under the microscope" because it will focus on the somewhat shorter, but legendary, career of one Napoleon Bonaparte instead of offering lengthy campaigns that last through decades of time. We recently had a chance to take a first look at the game and see some of its new features in action.

You will relive the glorious rise of Napoleon Bonaparte in Creative Assembly's next strategy game.

While Napoleon: Total War was originally intended to be an expansion for Empire: Total War and will still offer the distinctive combination of real-time battles and turn-based strategy in the series, Creative Assembly apparently felt over the course of its development that the game would simply be too different to shoehorn into Empire's current systems. While previous games in the series let you assume the role of one nation's ruler and attempt to conquer the known world over campaigns of many years, Napoleon will focus much more heavily on a single story: M. Bonaparte's glorious rise to power. However, representatives from the studio were quick to point out that the game will absolutely build on the progress made by Empire to date--up to and including all content in the version 1.5 patch. This includes, among other things, numerous artificial intelligence enhancements that make computer-controlled enemies much more aggressive and realistically challenging.

The demonstration we watched began with the Battle of Austerlitz, which was a historically crucial victory for Napoleon. This battle will be part of the campaign, which is primarily intended to showcase the extensive story (and history) of the titular general-turned-emperor, but like in previous games, you can play as any other nation in the game if you prefer. The demonstration we watched showed the Russian armies perched on a hill with rifle-bearing militia, cavalry, and a handful of heavy-duty unicorn cannons. Unlike previous games in the series, Napoleon will offer some 355 different types of military units. Every single unit will also be unique with distinct statistics, abilities, and firing ranges--even analogous units from different nations (for instance, British militia will have totally different statistics from Russian militia or French militia). This change adds more depth to the game and encourages players to more fully explore the individual strengths and weaknesses of their forces. The studio has also increased the number of random unit faces in the game to a minimum of 64 for low-end systems on up to "a non-infinite but extremely high number" for state-of-the-art computers, so it's less likely than ever that you'll see two soldiers that look identical.

Over the course of the battle--which played out on a wintry, hilly Russian map--the hundreds of virtual soldiers died horribly in the name of their respective rulers as you'd expect. During the carnage, we had a chance to see some of the game's new features, such as enhanced particle effects, which will come in the form of weather effects, such as snow. This effect also has a morale effect on units and obscures visibility. And we saw cannon smoke, which also obscures visibility, as well as, in the words of the representative from Creative Assembly, "somewhat deformable terrain" that includes smoking craters left by errant cannonballs. The overhauled engine will also include enhanced height maps that more clearly indicate which units have high ground (an important tactical advantage that adds to visibility and to unit morale). The user interface, while not final, was much smaller and cleaner, as well as took up only a portion of the bottom of the screen.

There will also be more visual feedback in general during battles--units that have gained experience levels in battle will now be marked with hovering chevrons above them to indicate their progress. You can even expect to see more subtle details that are intended to clarify things for newer players and to simply liven up the game. For instance, if a cavalry battalion is sent to charge a densely packed counter-infantry unit, the cavalry's horses will rear back and attempt to toss their riders--an alarming development that will hopefully drive home the folly of the tactic to new players. And if your cavalry begins taking heavy fire, you may see the rider of one horse die in the saddle and be dragged around with his foot in the stirrup by his panicked horse.

There will be new strategic elements on a much more intimate scale.

The battle also gave us an opportunity to see some of the new gameplay and visual feedback features that will be added to the game. For starters, the game will feature on-field generals (to reflect Napoleon's own propensity to ride out on the field, rather than hang back in a manor house as most aristocrats did during the turn of the 19th century), which will emit a command radius that offers a powerful morale bonus to any friendly units nearby. Generals can also use special "general powers" on friendly units within range--these powers must be used judiciously because they can potentially turn the tide of battle. For instance, Napoleon has both a "rally" ability, which can immediately reverse the broken morale of routed units, and an "inspire" ability that provides powerful combat bonuses to target friendlies. While these bonuses will definitely come in handy in battle, the obvious trade-off for bringing your generals to the front line will be the danger in which you put them.

In the case of M. Bonaparte, the campaign is being built around him, thus a critical wound will send him back to Paris for a good long while and a second will kill him permanently. Any other general in the game who is wounded enough will permanently die if struck down in battle. Should such a catastrophic event occur, that army will take an enormous morale penalty--much larger than in other games. This particular tweak is all part of Creative's attempts to build a more convincing AI. For instance, defending a stronghold in siege combat will be tougher because AI enemies will be more aggressive about sallying forth into siege combat. They will also more aggressively seek out and exploit gaps in your walls, as well as other weak points.

Napoleon's AI opponents will be at least as tough as anything you see in Empire version 1.5.

We then briefly jumped out of Austerlitz and switched over to a real-time strategy battle in Cairo. Battlefields in North Africa will look considerably different from those in Europe--this battlefield took place in a sandy desert under the searing sun at the edge of what appeared to be a sandstorm. The sandy environment and intense heat will apparently pose severe morale penalties to any armies unfamiliar with the climate--only local armies will be able to march through them with impunity.

As it happens, the game will have five campaigns in all: a tutorial that chronicles the ambitious French ruler's initial rise through the military ranks from 1778 to 1793; the assault on Northern Italy from 1796 to 1797; his conquest of Egypt and North Africa in 1798; his campaigns in Europe from 1805 to 1812; and, finally, the Battle of Waterloo on Sunday, June 18, 1815. The Battle of Cairo takes place in the game's third campaign and will be a good example. During the tutorial and Italy campaigns, Napoleon will be poorly equipped with lower-end militia and not expected to be particularly successful. However, after seizing Northern Italy, M. Bonaparte will begin the Egypt campaign as a high-ranking military officer who transports a large army of well-trained, elite French soldiers to Egyptian soil. But he faces the challenge of being unable to recruit any new French units and must befriend the local Bedouin population to seek military allies there.

We then switched to a more macro view--the game's turn-based strategy component, which will be alive and well but presented in a more in-depth manner this time around. Because the game's turns will be shorter (they'll represent only two-week time intervals, rather than six month), you won't be able to recruit or reinforce armies or move forces as quickly, nor will you be able to receive as much tax revenue per turn from your holdings. In addition, weather will play much more of an effect. For instance, during winter, your agricultural holdings will yield fewer crops and your armies will have more difficulty marching.

Your armies will have an even tougher time marching through enemy territory because the game will now model attrition--marching for long distances in enemy territory with no friendly rest stops in sight will decimate both their morale and their ranks. This is why it will be crucial to familiarize yourself with Napoleon's new supply line system, which will let you develop your larger towns and holdings into supply depots by researching larger granaries, as well as other food reserves. It's been said that an army marches on its stomach; thus, if you can keep your soldiers moving through friendly territory that will feed and supply them well, you'll have a much greater chance of success when you do reach your enemy's stronghold. You can also expect to see new tweaks in the game's special strategic units. For instance, rakes will be replaced with spy units that will possess army-hindering abilities similar to the shaman from the Warpath campaign from Empire, while gentlemen units can now be planted into enemy nation's cities and pose as radicals to stir popular unrest.

While these are all significant upgrades and tweaks, perhaps the most exciting new feature in Napoleon will be the campaign's drop-in multiplayer option, which you can simply check "on" or "off" as you play. If you elect to leave the option "on," this means you'll be able to play out any of the battles you face during your single-player campaign not against the computer-controlled AI as usual but against an actual human player online through Steam who may offer a much stiffer challenge. Creative is confident that this new feature and the complete randomness of potentially finding either an easy walkover opponent or a tough veteran adversary will add much to the experience. It's definitely an intriguing option and one the studio hopes will be engaging to the zealous Total War fan community.

You can become a part of M. Bonaparte's glorious story early next year.

And fortunately for those fans that would rather create than destroy, Napoleon will also ship with at least some editing tools out-of-the-box to let you customize your own units. However, it hasn't been determined whether the game will offer any other editing tools. Regardless, Napoleon seems like it'll have plenty to offer both new and veteran Total War fans in the form of improved AI, a totally new campaign style, and a highly unusual multiplayer feature. The game is scheduled to ship in early 2010.

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134 comments
mad_man_cg
mad_man_cg

"syler4815162342": Rome is the 3rd one, there's shogun and medieval 1 which were amazing before it

syler4815162342
syler4815162342

I played all of the Total War Series and i like only the first one I mean Rome Total War! they should revise the Rome Total War and Improve the A.I and better Game play rather than the Graphic!

aceball69
aceball69

idk about this campaign. So you play as the French and thats it? So there is no Grand Campaign anymore? I like Total War for the long extensive campaign... i hope thats still here.

hiro3457
hiro3457

Gief Shogun 2 : Total War tbh

nekered
nekered

Awesome, I hope the editor tool will provide more freedom when editing soldiers etc, How cool wouldnt it be to create a own country with belonging troops with propper clothingcolours....

awetzel
awetzel

Wow i hope its not as bad as it sounds. it sounds very linear and campaign based. Hope im wrong but it sounds to me like they couldnt think of what to do next so they turn an expansion into a stanalone to buy more time to think. I hate linear and i hate campaigns if i want to learn about history ill grab a book i wanna rewrite history not relive it. thanks but no thanks.

PrussianWarrior
PrussianWarrior

I agree with you FLAMEZV2. The one question i have is will you be able to command your battles against the ai in the multiplayer campaign?

FlaMezV2
FlaMezV2

I thought that Sega (just like windows when the realised that Vista was sh**) They would stick to the stuff they knew, go back to the beginning and tweak! Oh but how wrong i was... Instead I find another potentially disappointing title "Napoleon: Total War" in the mix! Seeing as i love to criticize, i will purchase this game just so I have MORE ammo to use in my cause for making them make a Rome: Total War 2 but i promise everyone on here. If this game is anything less than an 8.5 I am no longer a Total War Fan!!!

FlaMezV2
FlaMezV2

Every Total War Title after Shogun, I have purchased in the hope that something would come close to the magnificence of that game. Rome: Total War was a quality game and I stand by it to this day, it is probably the best in the franchise. From the second the Alexander Expansion pack to Rome Total War was finished, with a few exceptions the Total War Series has been disappointing to say the least. Medieval was reasonably buggy but brought some graphical wonders to the table such as spurting blood, armour that increased as you built better weapon smiths, espionage videos, unique individual characters and the first show of animated choreographed fighting. But Empire: Total War, OMG! First and most infuriating problem... You couldn't unlock any factions! That may just be me but I HATED that fact! Units were samey among the European factions and the naval battles got tedious, and it almost seemed like a step backwards in terms of animation! Where was the blood? Where was the increase of armour (minus the pikes on the guns), where were the individual soldiers!!! Seriously that game just annoyed me.

JimmyJimJim
JimmyJimJim

If they fix the AI then the game should be pretty damn good, the main problem was the stupid AI... and boy do I mean stupid.

Electr1c-Shot
Electr1c-Shot

This game just seems like a rip off, giving a few campagins that will probably run dry in a few days. I'm gonna wait for a few reviews before even looking at this game.

phantomphan1990
phantomphan1990

@UnionofV: Wellington was actually more of a soldier than a statesman; his premiership as Prime Minister during 1828-30 was anything but successful and he made himself quite unpopular with his stance against reform. Though probably not as brilliant as Napoleon in terms of offensive strategy and manoeuvring, Wellington was an excellent defensive general in his own right.

Mcapekatt
Mcapekatt

Gonna buy this as soon as it comes out :D

Abberon
Abberon

I won't be buying this. I got about 10 hours out of Empire before I uninstalled it. It was the worst game purchase of 2009 for me and turned me away from SEGA published titles pretty much for good. Perhaps if CA fixed ETW first I might take a look at NTW, but I'm sure as sh** not going to spend money on a patched version of the game I already bought.

jonwia888
jonwia888

Total War - am Anfang war das Spiel einfach genial. Rome war cool, Medieval war beeindruckend und vielfältig. Empires? Ich war so gierig darauf, und dann kam etwas, was ganz anders war. Es war unvollkommen, nicht ganz ausbalanciert, zu viel und jedoch nicht genügend Inhalt: wie enttäuschend! Jedoch, liebe ich diese Art von Spielen; eine tolle Mischung aus Rundenbasierte Spiele und Echtzeit-Drama. TWE war aber ein schwaches Glied - Themen? Interessant und ganz in Ordnung. Ausführung? - Schwach! Als Historiker, mit Schwerpunkt Europa in den 19.JH freue ich mich insbesondere auf dieses Spiel. Ich kenne viele Schlachte innig - alle Einheiten und Alles, was sie gemacht haben. Jedoch, nach ETW, bin ich äußerst skeptisch, ob dieses Spiel wirklich fesselnd sein kann; ob wir uns wieder hineinversetzt vorkommen werden - wie es einmal in der TW-Reihe der Fall war. Ich hoffe darauf - mich in dieser Lage hineinversetzt füllen zu können. Victory is the means and the ends.

bobmcguire
bobmcguire

I think almost everyone here is agreeing that ETW was a disappointment and it should be fixed before another game comes out. Even if CA realized that the game was incredibly buggy and is trying to redeem itself, why is it forcing the customers to spend a ridiculous amount of money on it? all of this new animation and new units really could have been a patch. then the napoleon expansion could have come out afterward for purchase for those who like that era. I personally waited and finally purchased ETW just a few days ago because it seems like finally after a year the game is playable enough to offer some challenge, and now, finally after all that CA is coming out with a new game? you now realize the game is too different to be an expansion? yeah frickin right! so basically what CA is saying is that Napoleon is what Empire should have been, WELL THEN REFUND OUR MONEY! I also agree with all of you with a return to Rome era. shogun got me into the series, Rome made me love it, Medieval II made me jaded, Empire showed potential but Napoleons release without empire being fixed is just irritating. I will NOT buy Napoleon and i don't think anyone should either for they would only be rewarded for a huge mistake they have made. Please your fans if you expect them to stick around to buy another one of your games!

PvtFreddy
PvtFreddy

I've been a TW fan since Rome, though missed out on the MTW I & II. I just bought one from steam so shall be sticking my nose into that soon. As for Empire, yes, when it works, well, IT WORKS. I stress that because it is a very good game, though as -Rommel- says CA did "betray" the fan base with the half finished release of it. I shall be getting Nap TW but if this if like Empire CA can say good bye to my future custom.

-Rommel-
-Rommel-

Empire Total War represented a betrayal of the fan base with the release of a half-finished, buggy mess that was a slap in the face to fans who had doted on Rome and Medieval total war. Let's hope CA don't stuff it up again - because we will not forgive them a second time.

filivanili
filivanili

I hope they have more than 1 on 1 multiplayer...they gonna have 4 v 4 or 8v8 ???

jahjeremy
jahjeremy

Hopefully, they fix all the broken and lame parts of Empire Total War in order to make it actually enjoyable.

ObiWan86
ObiWan86

this game will awesome if theres no bugs like in ETW

Hobbitslayer18
Hobbitslayer18

I hope we will still be able to play as other armies instead of the french one.

totalwar_Adam
totalwar_Adam

This game has potential as long as they dont mess it up! I will get the game but they need to think about going back to the Rome era!

FlaviusJulius17
FlaviusJulius17

hey mikees1. Napoleon won more battles than any other general in HISTORY, he led his people out of complete turmoil, and the only reason he lost was because one of his officers ordered a bad cavalry attack and because EVERYONE WAS AFRAID OF HIM!!!!!! he conquered pretty much all of europe, Doubled the size of the UNITED STATES and even though he was 5'7" the height requirement for the french army back then was 4'11" SO SHUT THE HELL UP YOU FAT LITTLE ASS!!!!!

mikees1
mikees1

playing as a little fat corsican loser??? Nah, il stick with Empire thanks...

mikees1
mikees1

True genius??? Not the word id use for someone who lost,lost his country then lost his freedom and died on a desert island in exile!!! Maybe if thats the case we'l have Saddam Hussein total war soon aswell hahahahahahahaha!

valent1n
valent1n

Indeed this game looks so great. Another Total War game that will make us happy.

rhyselupton
rhyselupton

This game looks awesome, and for all the morons that say "so what about napoleon he was nothing special he got beaten" he won more battles then Alexander and Hannibal and any other great commander put together, he was constantly fighting war after war, only beaten twice (the one that got him exiled and waterloo). Only reason why his only known for waterloo is because of the British/allied armies pegging him as a warmonger and to make them selfs as the good guys and him the evil tyrant. Documentaries even prove that at waterloo he should of been in hospital due to stomach sickness and in fact he was in exile for a while and maybe lost his edge and in fact being outnumbered wouldn't help. The battle was against him pretty much from the start hands down the guy was a true genius

UnionOfV
UnionOfV

@mikees Exactly, Wellington was more of a politician while Napoleon was a hardened strategist and altogether a more interesting character.

Hoon252
Hoon252

I kinda wish they would have done more with Empire Total War before they did this, but it is a welcome addition. By the way, did anybody hear anything on how multiplayer grand campaign was coming along in empire total war, or did they scrape that idea?

neonsuperstar
neonsuperstar

I wonder if you can rewrite the course of history by winning waterloo this time?

mikees1
mikees1

firstly fredgwatkin, simple typo'. Only recounting historical fact.He was beaten, and not only once, he died under British house arrest...end of story .UnionofV, its a war game first not a politics one!

UnionOfV
UnionOfV

@mikees1 Personally I'd find the tactics expert and war veteran Napoleon much more interesting than the snobish politician Wellington was.

fredgwatkin
fredgwatkin

@mikees1 Was your education bought or "brought" with money? Judging from your facile analysis of Napoleon's achievements, whoever paid for it clearly didn't get their money's worth.

fredgwatkin
fredgwatkin

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

mikees1
mikees1

sagrannus, i think it is you that is the fool.My education was brought with money, not from wikipedia! Also anyone who ends their days banished to a desert island by the nation who defeated him does not deserve to be called anything relating to"great general". He lost more than he won,end of story.Certainly not the basis for a game (i wont be buying anyway) of this type, Wellington would have been a much better characterto base this game on.

Sagrannus
Sagrannus

looks good...hoping it will make up for the disappointment that empire brought...it felt...unfinished? it lacked many of the things that made Medieval II great. @Mikee1...check your facts...Napoleon became Emporer AFTER the French Revolution...so there must have been a good reason for him gaining a totalitarian rule in a nation that had very recently disposed of its ruling classes. And he wasn't a tactical failure at all...controlling most of continental europe AND some of africa is a subtle (not) sign of military talent...no offence...but you are a slight fool

armchair_tacito
armchair_tacito

This sounds freakin' awesome. However, I can't help but feel a little cheated because this sounds like everything Empire should have been. But whatever, I'll check it out nonetheless. Empire-style warfare and gameplay, but refined and with more detail? Count me in.

dukedafeet
dukedafeet

jay_sonara Posted Nov 29, 2009 4:37 am GMT Not interesting like dragon age origins........ really? who woulda thought, a strategy game about napoleons campain is different about an rpg set in another of biowares IP's. well, dragon age origins is not interesting, unlike hello kitty universe.

maya1388
maya1388

Now lets see Shogun Total War 2....

jay_sonara
jay_sonara

Not interesting like dragon age origins........

Dynamo11
Dynamo11

I cannae wait! Although the MP campaign is a let down, I was under the impression it was "play with your mates as other countries"

woundedHand
woundedHand

I think I'm going to pass on this one. Not too interested in the era or Napolean, and the past buggy TW releases sums it up right there. Now.. a Total War : Dark Ages.. that would be something .... :D one can hope :)

TOMYDIMI
TOMYDIMI

The Empire was total sh*t. Full of bugs, stupid AI etc...I lowed the TW series, but with this...Hmmm I hope the next part will be about WW1 and/or Balkan Wars :)

The_Game_Jr
The_Game_Jr

Even if napoleon wins waterloo, France is too weak to recover econimically.

carp93
carp93

mikees1 I think the point is irrelevant considering that the tactics of 16th century infantry combat doesn't hold that much relevance nowadays.

metgredko
metgredko

So they're releasing an expansion with more limiting play thus isn't much of an expansion for the same price. They're boosting graphics again while also making claims of their AI being at least as terrible as Empire's. There really isn't any excuse for the AI being so bad when it's a turn based game. Though I'd love to see it go real time and with larger armies. I was going to ask when are they going to get their priorities in order and direct more funds to AI development but ever since the original RTW they've gone looks over content and their AI has suffered. They changed the dynamics by changing the map and never cared to compensate enough for the it. Fact of the matter is, the eye candy is what makes them all the money they have so they won't be actually making the desired improvements as they have almost literally no competition in this corner of the market. People will still buy it regardless so how about we all quit complaining, totally zone CA out and I'll just go back and play some EU III.

VALENTT
VALENTT

Napoleon!!!???.....Goodbye total war...Rather stick with the natives then the tiny napoleon.....

mikees1
mikees1

gwennaellp:They also learn how not to do it by using examples of his mistakes.Napoleon's place in history is only assured because of his emporership, nothing to do with his battles.He was out maneuvered by Wellington end of story, the whole reason we have a station called waterlooo in our country!lol