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.
Napoleon Bonaparte once said, “One must change one’s tactics every
10 years if one wishes to maintain one’s superiority.” The talented
team at The Creative Assembly would be wise to heed the words of their
latest game’s namesake. Like the European conqueror, The Creative
Assembly’s signature blend of turn-based conquest and real-time battle
ranks among the elite in its field, but as Napoleon: Total War
demonstrates, persistent legacy issues have started to weaken the
The centerpiece to the latest chapter in the
Total War series is the Napoleonic campaign, in which you assume the
role of the French conqueror as he develops an influence through
theaters of war in Italy, Africa, and Europe proper. In addition to
managing armed forces, players must juggle diplomacy, building
construction, trade, and technology research in classic Total War
fashion. Much like the Road to Independence campaign in Empire: Total
War, each scenario takes place on a smaller tract of land without
sacrificing the map scale players are used to with the series’ famed
global theaters. Concentrating on smaller segments of land is a smart
move, as it allows the developers to deliver much more varied terrain
for battles and stress the importance of maintaining supply lines for
frontline armies. If your platoons stray too far from home or march
through uninhabitable land, units won’t replenish and attrition will
compromise their effectiveness.
The challenge of meeting the
objectives in each campaign is heightened by the strict timeframe in
which Napoleon must triumph and the variation in tools at his disposal.
The African map, for instance, robs you of all diplomacy as an invader
in a foreign land, tasking you to make your way from Cairo up to the
heart of the Middle East under the constant barrage of insurgent
resistance. These enjoyable twists forced me to leave my comfort zone
and employ new strategies to accomplish the goals laid out before me.
campaign’s pièce de résistance is the European theater, where every
prominent nation is gunning for your head as you stretch the French
influence across the continent by adopting protectorate nations,
pillaging fallen cities, and threatening those who oppose your
expansionist goals. Managing a large empire is a delicate proposition,
and unfortunately the diplomacy options aren’t up to the task. As in
past Total War games, negotiations with opposing and allied factions
still don’t offer meaningful feedback, leaving you to guess in
frustration as to why your cease-fire agreement or request for military
access is being rejected.
The campaign culminates in the near
impossible finale at Waterloo, which challenges you to succeed where
Napoleon failed in a battle tilted heavily in Britain’s favor. It’s not
easy. After a dozen unsuccessful tries, I sullenly resigned myself to
Napoleon’s fate in the face of the overwhelming odds.
game mode features 10 historical battles that let players relive some
of Napoleon’s biggest triumphs. Players can attempt to match
Bonaparte’s military process by mimicking his tactics, or strive for
personal glory with more unconventional strategies. These battles were
sculpted with real-world tactics, and they feel more rewarding and
realistic than the more spontaneous skirmishes found in the campaigns
that are sometimes plagued by dumbfounding AI. In a couple campaign
battles I watched in disbelief as the opposing general ran for the
hills toward my army before the infantry even clashed, making
it extremely easy to cut the head off the opposition and break their
morale before the cannonballs started flying. None of these flaws
reared their head in the historical battles.
If the questionable
enemy AI drives to you auto-resolve almost every battle like me,
Napoleon offers another solution. The new drop-in battles now allow a
human opponent to take the reins of an opposing army in your campaign
provided the number of troops is relatively even. Players interested in
pick-up matches can join the queue through a multiplayer menu, but be
forewarned. The matchmaking doesn’t convey any information about your
army’s composition or the battle terrain beforehand, so you won’t know
what you’re getting into until you accept the match.
biggest addition to Napoleon: Total War is the multiplayer campaign, a
Risk-like mode that pits two players against one another in the
European theater, each vying for unquestioned reign over the continent.
The mode thankfully includes customizable settings that allow you to
turn on or off real-time battles and adjust the difficulty for both
players before the match starts, which helps to speed up the turns and
even the playing field, respectively. Since one turn in a game this
detailed can take a player a considerable amount of time, Creative
Assembly smartly allows the other player to peruse the map, check out
building queues, and even schedule more construction while wait their
turn. Our campaign ran relatively lag free, though the game hiccupped
and froze a few times in between player turns.
War may not rewrite history, but its subtle gameplay refinements,
tactical variety, and new multiplayer campaign do more than enough to
offset the litany of legacy issues hindering this otherwise impressive
strategy game. If Creative Assembly wants to match the strategic legacy
of the famed French general, however, it’s time to address battle AI
and diplomacy feedback before they compromise the franchise’s integrity.
Email the author Matt Bertz, or follow on Twitter, Google+, Facebook, and Game Informer.
Few games pull off the sense of scale and epic conflict that Total
War does so well. Reliving the exploits of Lord Nelson as he struggles
to clear the west coast of Europe of Spanish and French navies is an
amazing experience – and that’s a tiny part of the ongoing struggle
against Napoleon’s aggression. I love the feeling of true
continent-spanning conflicts that I get when I play Total War, and the
stories that any grand campaign spawns. This installment captures this
epic feel as well as any. At the same time, I lament that a game that
does so much so right can also be so unforgivably wrong in other ways.
The AI is still hilariously broken at times in both the battle and
strategy layers, fortress sieges are as buggy as ever, and legacy
issues with the interface slowly drive me berserk every time I play. I
like Napoleon for what it is, and I’ll have a good time with it now and
again until the next Total War release; it’s improved enough that I’ll
play this over Empire, Rome, or Medieval. However, I don’t know how
much longer my tolerance for the constant bugs and AI issues that have
plagued this series is going to last.