The ultimate dream for strategy gamers has always been that blend of Civilization-esque micromanagement and complete overview, and Age of Empires-a-like brutal battling action. And though numerous titles have come close in the last decade – including titles in this very series - Empire: Total War finally has brought those long held dreams to fruition.
While previous titles in the series have stuck firmly to era’s that consist mainly of large men wielding sharpened sticks, Empire: Total War takes a hefty step towards the modern day.
The astonishingly lengthy campaign, starting in 1700, and progressing right the way through to the end of the eighteenth century, is the real meat to get firmly stuck into. Your first task is to choose your nation. Each packs a wildly different set of objectives and ways to go about achieving what has been set as the ultimate victory.
The variation truly is epic. Choose one nation that’s completely land locked and surrounded by fellow nations and you’ll have an entirely different way of spreading than say a nation such as Britain. Whereas the former may see you progress in stages, building a powerful land army in which to first pick off the weaker of your neighbours before taking on the bigger enemies, the latter will find you ploughing in all your cash towards a superior navy.
“Epic” is one word to describe every facet of Empire: Total War. These campaigns can easily devour whole chunks of your life. If you think the Football Manager titles are a drain on your free time, then Empire is going to find you determined to find a way to play the pair simultaneously.
The game is essentially split into two parts. First, there’s the Civilization style overview, where you’ll train units, move armies around the globe, set up money spinning trade routes to the far reaches of the world, and simply take part in the kind of micromanagement PC games are famed for. Yet if all of that doesn’t sound for you, and you’re more of an on field general than overall strategist, you can let the game AI take care of that for you and concentrate on the field of battle.
Once you have two armies face to face, this isn’t a case of merely rushing towards the enemy Command & Conquer style and hoping for the best. Your strategic mind will be tested to its absolute maximum, as you consider the lay of the land, unit types, experience, and even escape routes at all times.
For the first time the fight can be taken to the sea, as the game box is proud to shout about. And unsurprisingly enough, there’s a whole new batch of strategic options and pondering to contend with once you possess a navy truly worthy of taking to the seas. Though admittedly, battling out on the high seas isn’t quite as enthralling as the land types. There’s just something a little, well, dull about cannons blasting when compared to true scraps and musket fire.
So not only do we truly have a combination of all these facets of strategic gaming that have been honed over the years, but there’s even the promise of Campaign gaming online. Yes, the developers Creative Assembly have assured us that online Campaign gaming is on the way. Yet another way to steal a whole chunk of your time on this earth.
And even then there’s some of the most sumptuous graphics ever witnessed. Assuming you have a powerful enough PC to keep everything ticking along at a fair old lick, Empire: Total War will astound. Battles take place in the kind of surroundings that can cause jaws to drop. It’s one quite beautiful game.
Empire: Total War is so vast and complex that any one error could have brought the entire thing tumbling down. Instead, everything’s been polished to such an unnerving degree that Empire: Total War stands tall as one of those games that makes PC gaming worthwhile.