Empire: Total War

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Thread: Empire: Total War

  1. #1
    Hammerhead Shark Geforce255's Avatar
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    Empire: Total War

    I've waited a long time for this game. I was not instantly a Total War fan. I found Shogun to be a very difficult game that was heavy on minutia and light on fun. I bypassed Medieval Total War completely.

    But when Rome:TW was released, all the reviews said that it had vastly improved upon the play dynamics and offered a more approachable game - the reviews were right and I soon became a Rome:TW junkie. When Medieval II was released, I jumped on it the day it was released. The only criticism of MEII was that it was TOO much like Rome:TW - which isn't much of a criticism since Rome was such a phenomenal game.

    So I picked up Empire:TW yesterday and decided to dive right it. I instantly ran into problems. Like most geeks, my C: drive is stuffed full and I have a host of other drives with loads of space on them and only keep C: at about 10gb free. I virtually never put anything on the drive anymore.

    The install starts with Steam, even though I bought the game on DVD. No big deal, I already have steam and the activation was instant with no hassle. But then the game informed me that I didn't have enough disk space. So I looked for the option to change drives - nothing in the interface, no advanced install - NOTHING. So I started examining .INI files to find the install path - NOTHING. This was starting to piss me off at this point. I scoured on-line help and still no pointers on how to get the blasted game to install on a different drive. I finally gave up and cleared a bunch of old games from the C: partition to one of the large drives and installed to C:. The install itself took over 20 minutes. Once the install finished, I launcher the game to have it promptly crash. I went to my event viewer and found that the issue was a starforce driver from GTAIV that I had played earlier, Hmmmm.

    Anyway, I rebooted and the game fired up without issue. I went into the graphics setup, as is my habit with new games and was pleasantly surprised to find that the auto detection actually had done a good job. The display was set to 1920 by 1200 with everything set to high. The 9800 GTX I run is far more capable than vast majority of games seem to think it is.

    I bypassed the tutorials and jumped right into the grand campaign, figuring that I'm a TW veteran so there wouldn't be much to learn. In retrospect this may not have been the wise course. I left all settings at default and played as the British.

    The first thing that hits you is the campaign map - it's a TW map, but quite different. The funny thing was that I recognized a lot of nuance to the graphics, but they didn't seem "better." This is really subjective. The reflective surfaces are a technical improvement - yet don't do much to improve the visual quality of the campaign map. As I said, this is subjective.

    The main thing about the campaign map is that towns have changed. Instead of self-contained settlements, now things are spread out with farms and other commercial ventures outside of the main settlement. This adds a LOT of extra management work. To offset this, there are a lot less settlements. Still I found the micromanagement of all of the various elements to take far longer than in the previous game.

    The next thing that hits you is the tech tree. Empire has adopted a Rise of Nations type tech tree, where upgrades are dependent on research rather than on other tech. No longer does building a blacksmith open up new units, instead you have to "research" the technologies needed for units. This is a daunting task, as even simply research to allow productive farms take 5 or more turns. You can only research a single tech at a time in a game with only 99 turns available, the 4 to 500 techs leave you scratching your head as to how to actually use them? You are told that "Gentlemen" will increase the speed of research, but you can't recruit them, they show up when the game detects enough of the right kind of buildings - which you can't build. Schools just sort of "show up" when the population and happiness reach thresholds. This makes it a real pain, and takes control away from the user. I REALLY don't like this change.

    Gone also are merchants, this further takes control away from finances, however the upgradeable farms make up for it, were it not for the blasted tech tree which blocks the upgrading of farms. Over all though, the finances are easier than previous games, you don't spend the entire game on the edge of economic collapse.

    Turns are a major pain. Cycling a turn is 5 minutes of tedium. In prior games a left click would speed you through opponent moves. Not any more, now you are stuck watching every opponent. The space bar will speed things up a bit, but you still might as well go make a sandwich when you cycle turns. This makes the tech tree even more daunting knowing that the 5 turn research is going to consume an hour or more of your time.

    Land battles are classical Total War. Here the graphical improvements shine. Using the SpeedTree engine as usual, Total War shows all the new bells and whistles with excellent lighting effects and high poly models. Oddly though, Empire has reverted to a single model for each unit type. All of your Dragoons will be identical. While the models are good and more detailed than in MEII, they no longer show any variety at all. This is still a rock, paper, scissors affair. It will take time to understand which units work best against others.

    Sea battles are stunning. Fog is rendered supremely, adding an air of tense intrigue to battles as you try to figure out where the enemy ships are so that you can position your ships to prime firing placements. Anyone who played "The Ancient Art of War at Sea" will love the way the battles are done. You have a huge amount of control over the ships and they act as you expect. Fighting a head wind makes even small Brigs tough to maneuver while positioning a ship of the line for a broadside is the difference between success and defeat. These battles can only be described as "masterful."

    Overall the game leaves me a bit cold, the main campaign map is drudgery, and it shouldn't be. It's driven by the lousy tech tree which makes you dread the next upgrade. Still, both land and sea battles are loads of fun.

    Over all, I give it a 6 out of 10.
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  2. #2
    [Insert witty title here] Spaceman Spiff's Avatar
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    I find the new tech tree to actually be a welcome change.

    It places much (historically accurate) importance on colleges and universities for the advancement of technology and philosophy, as well as being able to use "gentleman scholars" to aid and speed the research. The more colleges/universities in your provinces, the more technologies you can research at once. And the more scholars at each school, the faster those technologies are discovered. While you can't outright "buy" gentlemen scholars, you can easily build the types of structures and improvements to make them spawn more frequently.
    I find it to be quite straightforward and logical. it's nice to be able to research multiple techs at once, and decide which tech the college/scholars should focus the most attention on, on which maybe you can wait a few turns for.

    There's also not that much more micromanagement, I didn't think. In fact, it could be argued there is less overall. Yes, things are more spread out and individual towns and villages can look daunting, but they are also more streamlined as well. Each town or city that has a structure that can be upgraded will display a little spinning, golden icon above it, so you don't waste your time clicking on towns that cannot yet be upgraded. Basically, instead of like Rome and Medieval where EVERY upgrade to a province needed to be done in the main city of that province, now, its more realistically spread out, but still easy to keep an eye on with the little "upgrade" icons.
    Other streamlining includes no longer having to babysit each province's tax rate...it's done by one simple slider move for the entire empire. And problem provinces can be calmed by briefly choosing to "Exempt from Taxation" for a turn or two.
    I found the merchants from Medieval II an utter pain; sending them out turn after turn and watching them be competed away by other nations. I'm glad this is more streamlined.

    Also, a huge improvement in streamlining over previous games is doing away with diplomats. No longer having to crank out individual diplomat units and send them across the map to propose simple trade agreements cuts down tremendously in micromanagement.
    All in all, I found it to be rather "give-and-take". There's more MM in some areas, and less in others, so on the whole, I didn't feel like much more work at all.

    urns are a major pain. Cycling a turn is 5 minutes of tedium. In prior games a left click would speed you through opponent moves. Not any more, now you are stuck watching every opponent. The space bar will speed things up a bit, but you still might as well go make a sandwich when you cycle turns. This makes the tech tree even more daunting knowing that the 5 turn research is going to consume an hour or more of your time.
    Of course, like previous TW games, you do realize you can simply click off the "Follow AI characters" in the options menu, and it will only show AI movement that in or within sight of your provinces, right? This makes turns go by in under a minute, depending on how much of the map you control, and only shows enemy movement that might actually be relevant to you.

    So far, my biggest complaint with the game is probably still the diplomacy, which IMO, has plagued the series since its inception. I realize it's called "Total War" and not "Total Diplomacy", and the emphasis of course is on warfare. But already in the 8+ hours I've been playing the game, I've encountered several head-shaking diplomatic events, usually suicidal, destitute factions that would rather be destroyed than make peace...even with incentives! This is a bit disappointing. I really had hoped they would beef up the diplomacy aspect and make the AI a touch more balanced.
    There are also a few niggling little tactical oddities from the AI. I'm not expecting Sid Meier/TalonSoft/Battlefront caliber strategies and tactics, but sometimes I've noticed, the AI can make some really bone-headed tactical decisions that make the game a little easy. Perhaps raising the difficulty helps this, I don't know (I'm playing on Normal), but much of the time the AI seems to be running around like a chicken with its head cut off....with no discernible strategy.
    Last edited by Spaceman Spiff; 03-08-2009 at 12:33 AM.
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  3. #3
    Reef Shark Nik00117's Avatar
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    I found Empire:TW to be an utter waste of money I'm sorry but I enjoy the ways of MW2:TW far too much.

    I am not a RTS junkie, I perfer FPS however MTW:M2 and Rome TW are two different animnals.

    If the devs wanted to make colleges more important then why not require colleges to be built etc?

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