The lights are on
What new ideas the game brings to the table and how well old ideas are presented.
How good a game looks, taking into account any flaws such as bad collision or pop-up.
Does the game’s music and sound effects get you involved or do they make you resolve to always play with the volume down?
Basically, the controller to human interface. The less you think about the hunk of plastic in your hands, the better the playability.
Flat out, just how fun the game is to play. The most important factor in rating a game.
Vying for power in the 18th century isn't easy. Neighboring European nations are sending skirmishers across my border, spoiling for all-out war. Pirates are hijacking trade routes, disrupting the fragile economy funding my colonial war in the New World. To top it all off, my monarchy is under fire at home from a populace embracing Voltaire's teachings on civil liberties. What's an armchair monarch to do?
To say Empire: Total War is a deep experience is an understatement. The latest game in the famed strategy series combines thrilling real-time battles with turn-based 4X empire building and outshines its predecessors in every possible way. The studious attention to historical detail, ambitious web of political intrigue, and spectacular battles place this game in the pantheon of strategy greats alongside Civilization and Age of Empires.
Empire features an expanded world map that extends from the European mainland to North America, the Caribbean, and India. Trade routes also incorporate ports in Africa, South America, and the East Indies, giving players an entire globe to conquer. With three theaters of war and five continents at play, your master strategy is put to the test as you manage wars on multiple fronts, protect precious trade routes from seafaring pirates, forge alliances, and improve your nation with new technologies.
This game throws more at the player than any previous title in the series, but the impressive streamlined management system keeps Empire from becoming an overbearing mess. All diplomacy and building management is handled in easy-to-use centralized menus, players can recruit new soldiers directly from generals, and the game wisely separates money-generating buildings from hub cities so players have a visual clue to how their economies are growing. Even the agent classes are simplified; rakes handle all sabotage, assassinations, and spying missions, while gentlemen give research bonuses to universities and can impair rival nations apolitically by challenging their leading thinkers to duels.
Total War veterans can jump right into the fantastic empire building, but newcomers should start with the new story-driven Road To Independence campaign. This four-chapter experience, which chronicles the United States' struggle for sovereignty, deftly reveals the many sophisticated layers of gameplay incrementally so noobs can wrap their heads around the grand concepts at play.
On the battlefield, the tactics shift drastically with the introduction of muskets and cannons. Players must consider friendly fire and cover positions as they orchestrate their symphonies of destruction. By decentralizing cities, the game thankfully avoids becoming a repetitive siege sim like in Medieval and Rome -- battles more frequently take place on farmlands, prairies, and forests. Squadrons take directions competently, but their pathfinding and formations frequently break down around cover positions, leaving many soldiers inexplicably open to fire.
Empire also introduces naval battles for the first time. Watching your deckhands prep their ships for battle is awesome, but as the frigates and sloops move in for the kill they often engage in an awkward tango of shifting sails over which players have minimal control. Since every real-time battle is an opt-in affair, not even these battle deficiencies can take away from the fantastic Empire experience. This is one of the most sophisticated, entertaining, and historically accurate strategy games ever made.
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World domination and the colonial era are two of my favorite flavors in gaming, and they taste best together. Empire: Total War adeptly combines them into one of the better war games around. The streamlining of some of the menial tasks that the Total War series traditionally saddles players with is great. Pulling elements of a region's prosperity, like ports and farms, out of easily defended capitals is a fantastic change that dramatically expands strategic possibilities during open warfare. However, despite its spectacular presentation, the real-time battle component is fraught with legacy issues that would make a Madden fan blush. Pathfinding over and around obstacles routinely breaks down, and the enemy AI falls apart from time to time. Naval battles, the shiniest new feature for this entry in the franchise, are similar affairs ? the astonishing level of detail and audio work are a spectacle well worth watching, but the battles themselves are often problematic messes. Once you learn to avoid the tactics that cause these issues, the battles are enjoyable enough ? but that doesn't excuse the fact that there are serious problems with environmental interaction and broken, abuseable AI. Even with these flaws, though, Empire is an outstanding title that wages war like no other.