I know how this works. We need to take out Sean Bean first, then the rest of the army will crumble.
Napoleon: Total war is not a sequel. Neither is it an expansion to last years Empire: Total War. What it is instead, is somewhere between the two, meaning that the game does not have enough content or innovation to support itself. This always feels like a half effort to my mind. Either make a full game or allow the player to enjoy extras within the original game. Still, whatever your view on this partial sequel, no-one can deny that Napoleon: Total War is a great game. Like the diminutive Corsican after which the game is named, N:TW may be small, but should not be underestimated.
N: TW contains three different types of gameplay experience, all of which combine to create what is possibly the best strategy game series available today. That is not to say that these experiences are perfect and, although Napoleon has made some improvement over last years Empire, there a is still plenty to be done. However, being that I have watched and played this series from the early beginnings of Shogun, it is quite easy to see how the game has changed over the years and it would take something seriously special to remove this series from the number one spot on my, and many others, best strategy game list.
The first type of gameplay revolves around the battlefield. 3D real-time battles were the first innovation of the Total War series and offered armchair generals the chance to get down onto the battlefield, amongst their troops and view the conflict from a unique vantage point. Flying around the map and commanding units during the chaos of battle is certainly challenging and will take some getting used to for newcomers. Napoleon offers a short tutorial to give you the basics, the majority of which consists of camera controls and how to select units. The player will have to bring their own tactical genius though.
It is during this mode that N: TW really shines from both an audio and visual point of view. The battlefields themselves look stunning. But watching your troops make their way across it, to engage the enemy, is simply awe inspiring. Each individual unit is kitted out in authentic uniforms and looks great. Although the variety does come up short, the detail really cannot be faulted. The sounds of battle add to the immersion, with cannon fire all around and the sound of melee when things get up close and personal. The level of detail in the battles is really incredible.
Battles are generally chaotic affairs, and it is here that players will find the game to be the most difficult. Experienced tacticians will likely find the battles to be an improvement over Empire. Creative Assembly have taken a lot of the criticisms from Empire to heart, and put a lot of effort into improving the games AI during battles. Whilst still not perfect, it now offers more of a challenge with less stupid mistakes being made.
As an interesting addition to this installment of the series, players now have the option to engage another human in battle, during a single player campaign, using the games drop-in battle options. This can add a much more interesting level of challenge to a campaign. Players can also indulge in up to eight player battles from the multiplayer lobby. Each battle fought will give the player experience and improve their global ranking.
The campaign mode allows all of the battles to be joined together into a much larger story. Not too dissimilar to the famed Civlization series of games, campaigns are turn based and will involve moving around a map, capturing towns and cities, developing technologies and enlisting armies. This is, of course, vastly under selling the games campaign mode. There is a huge amount to do and to take into account. As you move your troops around the map, conflicts can either be resolved by moving into battle mode or automatically. Choosing to battle through each conflict will result in an incredibly long game.
The tutorial for the campaign mode will take the player through the early years of Napoleons life and introduce all of the basics needed to take your chosen nation to victory. Three mini campaigns are available, each one following a particular campaign in Napoleons career. Players will take command of Napoleons armies during the Italian, Egyptian and European campaigns. Although these campaigns are short, in comparison to the grand campaign, they allow players to expand their experience and really get to grips with the game.
The campaigns of the coalition allow players to take control of Napoleons biggest adversaries, in the form of Britain, Prussia, Russia and Austria. Each nation plays slightly differently and will require the player to engage new strategies. These campaigns will last much longer then the miniature Napoleon campaigns and will provide a more varied challenge.
Again, Creative Assembly have taken efforts to improve this mode from Empire: Total War, with varying success. The inclusion of Attrition, where a player will gradually suffer losses if leaving troops in harsh conditions for an extended period, and Replenishment, where, if in friendly territory, an army will slowly replenish, are great additions. Not so great is the fact that the campaign AI remains rather, for want of a better word, stupid. This has been a common problem with the last few Total War games. One can only hope that CA get around to fixing it before too much longer.
A special word should be added, at this point, regarding the multiplayer campaign. This epic undertaking is available for two players and certainly makes for an interesting experience. It does, however, boil down to defeating the other player, which limits the gameplay and the appeal. It is a nice feature though.
The final, and newest, gameplay experience to be found within Napoleon: Total War is the naval battles. Introduced in Empire: Total War, battle at sea has not been greeted with as much enthusiasm as was expected. These battles look stunning and are polished to the high standard that can be found in the rest of the game. But the reality is that Naval warfare is slow and difficult to control, especially if large numbers of vessels are involved.
Not much change has been made to this mode, with the exception of self repair. this allows damaged ships to disengage from combat and reassign crew members to repairing the ship. This is a nice addition, but doesn’t detract from the fact that the naval warfare is not that great. There are other games that perform this type of encounter far better.
With a few worthwhile improvements over Empire, Napoleon: Total War is certainly the best installment so far in the TW series. Looking and sounding great, the game really does immerse the player into the warfare of this era. Although not as large as the previous game, it is priced to reflect this, and so offers real value for money. Napoleon: Total War should hold pride of place on any strategy lovers game shelf.