We Just Played Empire: Total War

If you hadn't heard, Empire: Total War is coming. This massive game will build on the foundations of the Total War series, which combines turn-based strategic elements (like managing your cities, oppressing peasants, establishing trade routes, oppressing peasants, researching new technologies,...

by

If you hadn't heard, Empire: Total War is coming. This massive game will build on the foundations of the Total War series, which combines turn-based strategic elements (like managing your cities, oppressing peasants, establishing trade routes, oppressing peasants, researching new technologies, researching new peasant-opressing technologies, and diplomacy) and massive real-time battles. This time around, Empire will offer the huge land battles everyone has come to expect from the series (but with more emphasis on muskets and cannon), along with real-time naval battles that are genuinely affected by the realistic physics engine that developer Creative Assembly has built for the series.


These cannons were made for firin'. And that's just what they'll do in Empire: Total War.

We started our session with a few quick real-time battles that are started from the game's conventional multiplayer interface, which lets you host, join, and search for games from a single screen. Empire will support networked play as well as online play over Steam and will actually take your Steam ID into account and let you sync up with players on your Steam friends list and such. Quick multiplayer battles seem to run about the same way they have in previous games--prior to diving into battle, you'll pick and choose from whichever forces you care to bring into battle using a weighted point system to make sure each player is bringing in about the same amount of firepower (unless you're one of those manly men who prefer to give your opponents a handicap). You then set your armies in place in a timed deployment phase, and after that, you're off.

Prior to starting up a match, you can also set weather conditions; things like wind direction may affect the way ballistics work on land. But wind direction and wind levels, as well as general sea conditions, can have a profound effect on naval skirmishes. Because Empire's physics engine models the weight and mass of ships, as well as the effect of wind on the size and number of sails on a ship, speed and maneuverability become a lot more important on choppy seas. Of course, it's ideal to have the wind at your back filling your sails, while attempting to sail straight into the wind will bring your ship almost to a standstill. Standing still in water isn't always a bad thing, though. Based on what we can tell from our limited time with the game, Empire's naval battles seem to do a good job of capturing the feeling of being on a ship that's powered primarily by whatever winds happen to be blowing. Since there were no nuclear engines or turbo boosts back in the Age of Sail, your best bet is to drop anchor to stop your ship's forward motion, and you'll need to do this if a damaged enemy craft is on a collision course for the hull of one of your prized ships, because a good, solid ramming with a heavy battleship can do serious damage.

Our naval battle went fairly well for us; the highlight of the match was the utter devastation of our opponent's smallest ship as we first killed off his admiral with a grapeshot volley, then encircled our foe with our two largest craft, delivering simultaneous broadsides to both port and starboard hulls with standard cannons that smashed up and crippled our target. We felt pretty proud of ourselves going into our land battle, so much so that we decided to go easy on cannons and load up on swift cavalry to overwhelm our opponent, who may or may not have been a polite and accommodating British staff member of Creative Assembly, and who may or may not have let us win the naval battle. And in the land battle, our opponent may or may not also have been polite enough to show us how effective long-distance artillery is on clustered squads of faraway cavalry (here's a hint: It's really effective in killing your cavalry), after which point we may or may not have dropped out of the game, probably not due to bad sportsmanship or anything, but probably because of some kind of network issue. Yes...yes, that sounds believable.

From there, we headed off to try out a single-player campaign, which includes all the game's many nations with the exception of the United States of America (which must be unlocked from the Test of Time campaign's third chaper--a chapter that tells the tale of the American Revolution) and of the Native American nations, which won't be playable in the game out-of-box but will likely be made playable in short order, considering the industrious and clever fan base for this game (a fan base that's clearly clever and handsome enough to leave many positive comments on this blog post). Native American tribal nations...a naval superpower? It's more likely than you think, apparently.


You'll be able to choose a variety of different ways to hoodwink and oppress your citizens.

In our single-player game, we started playing as the royal nation of England, a well-balanced faction with holdings in both Europe and the New World, specifically island nations such as Jamaica and a tiny trading post in modern-day Canada (then known as "Mooseland"), along with a tiny, obscure protectorate consisting of, like, 12 or 13 colonies (or something). Empire has three primary theaters--Europe, the New World, and India. At the start of the campaign, Britain doesn't have any inroads into India, though other sides, such as the Dutch, have access to the near East (and its trade commodities, such as spices--all tradable goods, whether spices, sugar, coffee, or tobacco, will trade on an in-game commodities market whose prices fluctuate each turn and are determined by geographical, technological, and social needs).

Being unable to immediately find the "Oppress Peasants" button (hopefully Creative Assembly fixes this problem immediately), we settled on a plan of economic expansion by way of building up each of our holdings along dual lines of agriculture/population growth (researching such technologies as animal husbandry, which increases food production), and also civic happiness (by building structures such as opera houses), with the thinking that a happier populace early on would provide an early-game production boost and would also experience even more-severe, more-crushing misery and oppression when we clicked and dragged on the "increase taxes" slider and cranked it all the way up later.

You may have noticed that the overland map view in Empire has changed from previous games in a number of ways. Civic structures such as farms and trading posts now appear outside of your main cities, rather than being hidden inside the walls of a single, central location. This change was apparently made to encourage defensive players to be more vigilant and to encourage aggressive players to be more proactive about harrying their rivals, since farms, mines, and other juicy targets of opportunity now lie outside city walls. We dutifully sank all our cash into expanding and improving our holdings' economic infrastructure, with the result being gradually increasing cash reserves and some "trait" enhancements for our military officers, whose inactivity caused them to seek entertainment (and +1 morale bonuses) at the local tavern, though from the looks of it, further inactivity would have caused them to develop somewhat less-savory traits. Fortunately, military training has been streamlined in Empire such that once you research new formations and tactics, you won't have to march your armies back to town to train them; they'll have automatically acquired your new strategems, and you can continue to confidently march forward to war.

We figured our path of peaceful self-development was a can't-fail proposition (after all, who would dare oppose the mighty crown of England? France? Portugal? That little group of 15 colonies, or whatever? Not likely!). Britain starts off in a fairly strong diplomatic position, being either neutral or friendly with a great majority of the Old World powers and already having existing trade agreements with them. Empire's diplomacy interface lets you peacefully negotiate (or threaten for) whichever diplomatic condition you wish, such as trade of goods/territories/technologies, open borders, military alliances, and so on. The interface has a color-coded world map that shows your standing with other nations at a glance. Nations that are bright green are quite friendly, and nations that are bright red are quite hostile. You can hover your mouse over any nation on the map to receive an at-a-glance status report on the various conditions that contribute to your neighbors' attitude; if you have trade agreements, military agreements, or have helped them in the past, you'll have a certain number of positive points. If you've committed hostile actions such as declaring war or declaring allegiances with your neighbors' enemies, you'll have a certain number of negative points, and the total of your points determines how well-liked you are or aren't.

Unfortunately, the wandering pirates of the Carribean, the game's most nonpolitical faction,disagreed with us and hijacked one of our smaller merchant fleets in the Bahamas. Sadly, because this was the early part of our game and we hadn't made any significant investments into our navy, we were easily defeated, though we went out with a bang. In the real-time naval battle we fought, the pirates had our capital ship on the ropes, smashing up the hull with cannonballs and then opening up another fusillade that happened to hit our ships' powder kegs--this is a random event that's much more likely to happen to a severely damaged ship. But as it turned out, even though our ship went up in a fiery explosion, the prevailing wind currents spread the fire to the other pirate ships, which were already severely damaged. One actually routed (retreated due to a morale break); the other sank our final ship. So, at least we went out in a blaze of glory. We're told, however, that in every campaign, the pirates will have a hidden, randomly located base somewhere in the Caribbean that thorough seafaring players can attempt to seek and destroy.


Pirates off the port bow? We'll be sure to take that under advisement as we flee madly in the opposite direction.

Empire: Total War will finally be released in the next few weeks. Keep an eye on GameSpot for a full review in the near future. We'll also have a new trailer for you shortly.

Discussion

58 comments
stebus
stebus

Support for game is almost nonexistent. I have been unable to activate the Steam account when I uninstalled the game and then reloaded it into a new computer. Steam says it is sending the password to my email account but in fact nothing is sent. Selecting a new user name does not help because then I am treated as an intruder trying to use a copy that already has a user. No phone number to call. Such hostility to users is unprecedented in my experience. I give up. Never again will I by a product from these people.

mfa1486
mfa1486

now i well be king of the world with Empire: Total War

Retroman47
Retroman47

That's great! When it comes out, I'll be one of that first people there to buy it.

killik_123
killik_123

i just skimmed the preview but i can you play in the modern day??

rando22
rando22

does anyone know how to get the free RTW with the puchase?

thebiggunner
thebiggunner

They should have a Shogun Total War 2. I would like to see samurai battling to the death in 3D because the samurai were fierce warriors and would rather commit suicide than surrender so i bet the fights would look awesome. Other than that short history lesson i think a second Shogun would do nicely in the Total War family.

Aceiman
Aceiman

well...it's great to welcome another family of total war....i've played it since shogun total war....and i still like shogun total war till now....just a question is there goin to be another shogun total war 2...hahaha.....japanese culture is still strong in wars...haha....

Sarge6689
Sarge6689

I have an nVidia GeForce 8600 and a 2.2 GHz processor (Centrino Duo), so I'm pretty obsolete right now - but the game looks pathetic on my computer. Also, has anyone been irritated by the fact that the camera movement is exceedingly slow when you've zoomed in during a battle? I can't describe how frustrating that is. Anyway, I love TW so much I'm buying a new PC for this game - any recommendations for what I should go for (I need a laptop as I'm travelling a lot) ... any help would be great.

brodeek
brodeek

I've been playing Total War since Shogun, really enjoyed some of the major mods (Europa Barbarorum for RTW, Deus Lo Vult for MTW2) for a long time. After 3 days of playing this game I must say it is the most accomplished unmodified Total War game to date. And this is the firs Total War that uses all four of my Q6600 (@3000 Mhz) cores - runs better on ultra settings that MTW2, which is really surprising! Slightly better AI and really hard battles (already lost some major ones) that look great - I'm really happy about this release.

Midulf
Midulf

The game looks really great and promising, I hope the game maker really keeps his word about the history part, it's always fun to learn smth new...

Elfstrum
Elfstrum

The game maker dedicate to accurate history is sweet. Allowing players to interact with great moments in history like this is ground-breaking.

hesmene
hesmene

Will there be a review for the game?

dv137
dv137

bought it today, tried it already. still prefer dawn of war 2. lol

dodow1234
dodow1234

isn't this supposed to be out already, why there isn't real review yet on gamespot?

88mtman
88mtman

So most of you guys not having any problems with this game?

jerryschust
jerryschust

This looks like some great, (almost) historically acurrate gaming.

mango2002
mango2002

Sounds gr8. But may I ask what sort of specs the above is being run on? Am trying to decide on a new PC to get the most out of it. I currently have a Pentium 4 single-core 2.93 ghz, NVIDIA Geforce 7900GS 512MB and 2 GB RAM. Regarding the demo, when I run detail on medium detail/large the sea-battles run reasonablyokay, but the land-battles are sluggish - including when on high detail/medium size. If you can't give that sort of info now, I would appreciate it if you could in the review, because most reviews don't really go into the recommended specs.

gfile
gfile

Well written first impression! My score for this game so far (2 days of gameplay) is 9.8 ...it would be perfect if developers had put more effort in land battles like they did with naval ones. As a devoted fan of TW series i must admit this game is everything i hoped for, from micromenagement and diplomacy to real time battles ... all is improved but i somehow liked Medieval 2 engine in land battles more (don`t ask why) ...it maybe only my opinion but i feel like they were more detailed with more textures on. Probably (playing on ultra settings) if they made more textures it would be unplayable and laggy. Turn based map is heavily detailed and perfect in every aspect. Ai is the best in TW games so far (playing on normal), land battles are hard to win if you are outnumbered. Gamefreak@ I agree with you about the campaign map part ...the last quad core processor, 4 gigs of ram, 4870 and still laggy map and unlike other TW games settings CAN`T be change separately for real time battles and campaign map which is kinda strange:(

zorkax
zorkax

GameFreak501, I must disagree with you. The game plays extremely well and loosley, without any lag or "unplayability". Many people have said similar things, but you will find they have computers with poorer graphic capabilities and hardware, or they do not have a terrific internet connection. (Which is needed thanks to the addition of 'Steam".) Anyway, I think it is one of the best Sega games I have played and I loved it! Terrific job!

GameFreak501
GameFreak501

It's horribly glitchy/buggy and overall poorly optimized. Regardless of settings, the campaign map lags something terrible. I was really looking forward to this, but until they patch it, it's unplayable for me and for many, many others. Just take a look on the official forums. The support area is being flooded with reports of poor performance or even trouble with installing the game in the first place. It's a mess. Shame on CA.

Gater85
Gater85

I have played every gam in the series but i must say it looks like they have managed to make the game better once again.Cant wait to annihilate the french once again lol :)

dennis8
dennis8

i need to buy this... NOW!! :D

chris9545
chris9545

anyone know if multiplayer "hotseat" will be available later on?

balrogthane
balrogthane

The naval battles alone look just fantastic. Honestly, that probably wouldn't be hard to break out into a separate game of its own... I would love to see that.

K_M82
K_M82

to SR71halo: look at the date this article was posted! 20th February 2009. this game is out now, but it's not out yet on the 20th of February 2009!

Angre_Leperkan
Angre_Leperkan

I don't really like how the campaign map looks now, I really liked the Medieval and Rome campaign maps. Still, Naval battles are a must for me :]

UmbrellaMaster
UmbrellaMaster

God I cant wait for the grand campaign. The little battle skirmishes are fun to a point, but if they mean nothing in the grand scheme of things I dont care. I just cannot wait to get my British army of 400 musketeers up against the Native American armies of thousands. Mmmmmmm...

gijas
gijas

this sounds old to me.

SR71halo
SR71halo

In the next few weeks? I thought it was already out.

8smokes
8smokes

Wow, that looks great.

brecht165
brecht165

I can't wait for this game to be released - sounds like it contains much more than currently ever done in a pirates game and that's a good thing.

Schmidt1942
Schmidt1942

Nice article. Very funny and interesting. Played the demo, looks awesome, plays awesome. Definitely getting this!! Hope the campaign map is as good as the real time game play...

daabulls23
daabulls23

Just played the demo, and it's great! Can't wait for this!

FreddoX12
FreddoX12

omg omg omg omg omg omg omg omg omg omg omg omg omg omg omg omg omg omg omg omg omg omg omg omg omg omg omg omg omg omg !!! :D :D :D :D :D :D :D :D :D :D :D :D :D :D :D :D :D :D :D :D :D :D :D :D :D

kzoneoo1
kzoneoo1

Tried the demo tonight, graphics are fantastic, but wait, all the houses have blue dots all over them for me and on max settings when your at ground level it crawls, I have vista 64 prem quad core with 4870 x2 video and had to turn down to medium settings to get it to run smoothly, blue dots still did not go away. They will release a bugged game no doubt, I'm hoping this is a steam issue, if you look at their forums its full of problems of all kinds, but I have no faith in Sega, they just as greedy as the rest of them.

horneyalien
horneyalien

Good preview, can't wait to play this game blah blah blah.. A little pissed that Portugal aren't playable but i still think ETW will be one of the best Strategy games of this year and also a GOTY nominee. Derek_3 to answer your question go to he total war forums and there is plenty more pictures of the campaign map. Also the only factions they are detailing on the official website are playable ones out of the box.

WastedOne111
WastedOne111

Yeah jeff it is a little buggy from time to time but its a hell of a start I agree. A couple of patches and it should eat my soul.

xack10
xack10

These cannons were made for firin'. And that's just what they'll do in Empire: Total War. lol

jeffreythethird
jeffreythethird

haha, wastedone111, i agree the demo was hella good ... i noticed there was good animations but also some unfinished lags in the animation, but I really just attributed this to the fact that it was the demo and not the real version (demo being just the basic coding and such) but eitherway loved it!

WastedOne111
WastedOne111

The campaign map looks gorgeous. I've also had some brutal fights in the demo. The melee fighting is very real (no blood). I actually saw one of my guys trip and fall on top of an enemy soldier then they both got up and went at it. I also saw a dragoons horse get killed out from under him, he got up drew his sabre, and started fighting on foot. GIMME Campaign!

FlashCharge
FlashCharge

First to this series I hope that I am capable of playing it. It has caused a lot interest and positive comments.

ghostwolfalpha
ghostwolfalpha

Well I don't have a Steam account, when can we non-members expected to get this demo from a normal download site?

FPS_Gamer123
FPS_Gamer123

The demo was absolutely amazing! I can't wait until the full version is out!