June 3, 2009

Game Review: Empire Total War


I know it's already been a few months since this game has been released. But a game this massive and complex needs some serious play time before it can be fully reviewed. Not to mention that I had to wait for a few patches to update the game before I could truly play it.

So I'm sure by now you've all heard about the excellent reviews Empire Total War has received. Across the board, websites, magazines, and other sources of game news have given this game top scores. Many of these game news outlets are also saying that it is the best game in the series so far.

I'm here to tell you right now that Empire Total War is one of the most over hyped games of all time, right up there with Fable 2 and Spore.

But I'll start out with the positives of Empire Total War before I tear in to it.

First off, does anyone remember that really big faction at the start of the game? The one that takes up 90% of the map and it's national colors are dark gray and white? Yeah well it's gone now. Empire Total War has completely gotten rid of the "Rebel" nation. In Empire there are over 50 factions in the game (however only twelve are playable without modding. The increase in factions adds to the realism of the game and further deepens the complexity of the diplomacy aspect of the game.

The new diplomacy system is leagues better than the old system. No longer do you have diplomats that travel half way around the world to obtain alliances and trade routes. All diplomacy is handled on a separate screen where you can negotiate with any major or minor nation any time during your turn. There are many more diplomatic options as well and the A.I. isn't as simplistic and stupid as it was in previous titles. Getting a trade route and alliance usually requires you to have a high reputation with the other fraction, which getting in the first place can be difficult to obtain. Even then there is no guarantee the A.I. will accept your offer. Of course you can always try to threaten them into accepting your terms, which is equally as difficult. You also have the option to ask a nation if they want you to become their "protector". I haven't tried this option out myself, but I can see it as beneficial if you want to raise your standing with a minor or major faction. Any move you commit against a nation must be though out with great care however since usually an attack on one nation ends up being an attack on several of its allies. It can also affect your reputation for better or worse (i.e. if you attack the Dutch you can bet the English will hate you, but the Spanish will be rather pleased, hell they might even offer you an alliance! Don't hold your breath though).


The economic system has improved as well. Within each territory is one major city surrounded by minor cities, mines, farms, and other cash earning buildings or resources. You can also have to make economic choices (i.e. should I build a cotton farm, or a tea farm? Maybe cotton sells for more, but the next year cotton fails and so does your economy if all you have is cotton farms!). Trade routes are more key than ever, you must have a navy to protect them or risk having your economy crippled. Blockading ports not only cuts down on the enemies income and trade, but also angers the populace.

Which bring me to my next subject: the new faction management system. I hate my people, I really do. If I raise the taxes a bit to much on the poor they go on strike. If I raise it on the nobles they send my angry letters. Doesn't sound scary at first until they rally he poor and form a rebellion. Or worse a revolution, which you can choose to oppose or support by the way. If they revolution wins, and you're on their side, the form of government changes to a republic. If you lose the revolution game over, or if you oppose the revolution and lose game over as well. The new faction management system can be frustrating, but it is much more realistic and satisfying than it's previous installments.


Sea battles obviously can't be over looked, after all this is their premier appearance in the Total War series. While it does take a while to get used to, sea battles are quite entertaining and realistic. Maybe a little bit slow at times, but overall a satisfying experience.


Land battles are absolutely intense. Cannons are blasting, men are charging the front lines, being shot down one by one. Then the two line of men collide and start parrying, dodging, and returning blows. You have always been able to close up on the action in the Total War series, but the men often moved like plastic and it was hardly realistic. I can't even explain how realistic it is, so I'll show you instead.

Graphic wise obviously it is superior to previous Total War games. The map layout has been changed and now includes three major "theaters" as well as a variety of minor "theaters" (Theaters are maps that you can switch in between. The main theaters are Europe, India, and the New World. Minor theaters include locations such as the straits of Madagascar and the West Indies).

Now you're probably saying, "Wait you just made this game sound great! It has amazing graphics, an excellent fraction management system, a new improved economic system, a better diplomacy system, sea battles, and for once the soldiers don't fight like malfunctioning robots! What's wrong with it then and what more could you possibly ask for?"

To start off the map as fancy and shiny as it looks it pathetic. There are now multiple continents that I can travel across, yet Empire's map feels minuscule compared to it's predecessors maps. Territories are too bunched together and boring to look at.

Seriously we went from this:


To this?


Look at all the empty space, the lack of tradesmen on the roads, very few trade ships at sea, and the terrain looks bland. It's difficult to grasp just how small the new map feels from this picture, but take my word of it, it feels tiny.

Medieval Total War 2 made a huge step in getting rid of armies comprised of clone troops. Soldiers had different faces, and if two soldiers happened to have the same face, their armor was differed in some way. Very rarely would you find a soldier with the same armor and face combination. It was a nice addition to the game that I was expecting to see as well in Empire. I mean it's only logical, if it was in Medieval, and if it was a good idea it should be in Empire as well right?




Besides the fact that everyone looks the same on the battlefield, all the factions have nearly identical troops! There is very little to no difference between faction units, and there is a complete lack of variety between opposing armies. Each faction has the same troops, except with their own national colors and perhaps a different name (French militia instead of English militia for example).


Yeah you see the two men that look different in the picture with the silly hats? Those are the opposing generals, and they even look similar to each other!

Why did they get rid of general speeches anyway? Those where some of the best parts of the game, the units don't even say anything anymore when you click on them! Hell the factions don't even have different voices this time around. Also my men don't cheer after winning a battle, what gives? Wait, there's no general kill cam either! This game has no soul and lacks the detail both Medieval and Rome Total War had.

The reinforcements system is horrendous. In Medieval, you where able to summon reinforcements with the click of a button from a certain side of the map. Now reinforcements just come in randomly at the beginning of battle, usually a few steps behind the enemies main force. They end up getting destroyed by the enemy while your army rushes to try and help them. Usually you can't even reach them in time so you just sit back and watch your men get slaughtered. Fun!

All these small details might not sound like much, but in the end they take away from the campaign. I have honestly not been able to complete a campaign in Empire simply because the game is extremely monotonous. Battles are fun at first, but in truth they require less strategy than previous games. Sometimes the A.I. is just plain stupid as well. Really are you going to charge with your pike men into four lines of musket fire?

Hey British and Dutch players, do you want to take out the most powerful Empire during the 18th century in 10 turns? Just LOL BLITZ Paris with everything you got and France is dead. It's impressive really, probably the single most influential and mightiest power during the 18th century is also the easiest to kill. Also, I'm pretty sure France had more than two territories during this time period.

Click the link above. Do you see the blue, green, yellow, read, and teal part of the map? That's one of France's territories in Empire where Paris is located. The purple part is France's second territory. If the enemy takes Paris he or she automatically gets 90% of France. What the hell where they thinking!?!?

I hate the new tech tree system. Why can't I just upgrade my troops through buildings? It's much easier and faster. Seriously some upgrades take 19 turn to complete, that's just ridiculous.

Despite being a powerful leader of an Empire you somehow lack the ability to hire assassins, scholars, or gentlemen whenever you want. You have to wait for them to spawn on their own by meeting certain conditions. This makes no sense at all and isn't even realistic.

Navies are too powerful and too much of the European game play revolves around naval warfare rather than land battles. Seriously you can win 10 land battles but if you lose one navy battle and get your trade routes blockaded you are pretty much screwed.

Oh one last thing, their is no blood in this game at all. Medieval was never a violent game to begin with, but if you got stabbed at least it made your armor become blood strained. In Empire someone gets ran through with a bayonet and they simply fall over, no blood at all. Seriously is that even realistic at all?


Yes it is difficult to tell with this picture but look closely at one of the front line men on France's side (blue) and you will see that he is stained with blood.

So like I said before, Empire Total War is a good game, but not a great game, and definitely not a 90%-100% scoring game. In my opinion, it has so far been the weakest out of all the previous Total War games.

Visuals: 9- Probably best part of the game, graphics are great if your PC is strong enough to run them

Controls: 5- I'm not a big fan of the new interface, and it's more complicated than previous Total war games. Still once you get the hang of it it's not too bad.

Gameplay: 5- Campaign is long and monotonous. Battles are fun at first but become rather easy after the first few times. Sea battles are sluggish and slow. Economy and Diplomat system are better however.

Sound: 2- Seriously, this was the worst part of the game. Muskets sound like air guns and cannons sound like muffled blow dryers. The music is repetitive and never changes, there isn't even any victory or defeat music like the previous titles.

Replay Value: 4- All European nations are too similar. The India factions and Ottoman Empire offer a change of pace though. There are no unlockable factions despite there being 38 other factions you cannot play as. The Road to Independence Campaign is basically just a tutorial. There's only 2 historical battles to play out, seriously wtf?

Overall: 5.5/10


  1. I re-sized your doom pictures. That was quite a long review. Disappointing to see you didn't like it all that much, especially compared to the last game.
    By the way, is that box for, like, the Dutch version or something?

  2. You rate the game lower than medieval 2 because the campaign map isn't as cool looking and there isn't as much blood? And, really I couldn't care less if all the troops in my army look exactly the same, how often do you find yourself zoomed in to your line infantry examining their facial features?

    Of course France falls when you take Paris, you can't run a region when you don't have control of your capital city. Of course parts of the province still occupied by enemy military could be considered to be under enemy "control"

    How can you even complain about the European map being too small? The rest of the game is massive, overall there is probably more land space than there was in medieval 2 anyway. Seems like a small sacrifice to pay to have the added depth of two more colonial theatres each with its own tax system and unique resources.

    Honestly, do you really find that the lack of blood and clone armies outweigh the games merits? Do you really need a massive Europe, especially when the game already has so much to take over anyway? This game has the most strategic depth of any total war game, and probably any strategy game. If every developer spent more time in making games more engaging, involved and thought-provoking and less time pandering to people like you, we'd probably see a lot more excellent games (and less gears of war).

  3. The comparison between the Empire: Total war campaign map and the Medieval II: Total war campaign map is unfair. The Medieval screenshot is from eastern europe and the northwestern area of Asia minor, while the Empire screenshot is of the british isles. You took a screenshot of the worst area of Empire's campaign map, and the best area of Medieval's, and then tried to compare them? that doesn't even make sense. Also, who honestly spends there battles getting close-ups on their soldiers? If every soldier looked different the computer couldn't treat them as it does, and the game would be much harder on our operating system then it already is. And despite the apparent lack of a zillion provinces in europe (although Central europe has at least as many as Medieval II) there are two other subcontinents to take over...or did you forget about India and America?
    Paris was the capital city of France...if Paris was taken then France would degenerate OBVIOUSLY and the people are less likely to stand with their obviously crippled leaders then the strong foreigners who basically control their lands anyway.
    And the point of 'decentralizing' the building system was to make the huge provinces more bearable, so that having a large province (with numerous towns, mines, and other resources) was more valuable then a small one (with too little space to have as many towns etc)
    The new tech tree system is clearly important. Do you think that simply by building a random structure a nation could just create better units with better equipment because the spirit of the building taught them how? no. They researched possible ways to improve their knowledge...this is what we call advancing technology...generally displayed in games using...wait for it...tech trees!
    Also throughout this review you kept writing 'fractions' where i believe you meant 'factions', unless there are approximately 50 fractions in Empire: Total War?

    And finally, to the Anonymous commenter who doesn't like gears of war; Gears of War, and Unreal Tournament are both good games, they are just very different to Total War games. During the short time i played them, i found them very enjoyable, although i must admit they do get old rapidly.

    p.s Your not a big fan of the new interference? what interference? OH you mean Interface? Seriously, if you have to 'review' a game at least learn to spell first.

  4. honestly i can hardly believe that you didn't complain that it was too hard for you. Of course the Road to Indepence is a tutorial...other titles had this thing called a 'campaign tutorial' that you did, which had a grand total of no effect on the greater game, while RtI at least lets you play as the USA in the Grand Campaign.

    Spell check for any apes in the area, for example Doegab. The douche who rote dis aritcle meant Faction where he wrote 'Fraction' and interface where he wrote 'interference'.

  5. Wow lots of angry responses! I was hoping I would get at least one reader who would agree with me. Thanks for pointing out the spelling mistakes I'll fix them right now.

  6. I also wanted to quickly point out that I would have no problem with France falling as an Empire if their Capital got taken. But this doesn't apply to the rest of the nations which can still function easily without a capital. I probably should of been more clear in the article.

  7. LOL I would say that this had something to do with AnalogHype to get back at us for all we've done, but the comments are too old.