I’ve had a bit of a play with the Empire: Total War demo and have had a few thoughts on it.
So far it looks like it will be a fun game, though there is none of the campaign mode in the demo which, for me, is the most important part of the game.
The demo itself has two battles to play – a sea battle and a land battle. They get a little repatative after a while, but it allows you a glimpse at the game.
Firstly I’ll start wit the naval aspect of the game, something completely new for a Total War game. I had high hopes for this, looking forward to taking ships of the line into battle, with cannons roaring and boarding actions.
Unfortunately I am a little disappointed. The naval side of the game is very arcady. Ships can sail directly into the wind. Ships stop on the spot when their they finish their movement orders. Ships sink far too fast and often. That may sound a little unusual, but in reality these ships could take huge amounts of punishment and rarely sank – they were more likely to surrender or be boarded than sink. If you look at the Battle of Trafalgar, the combined French/Spanish fleet lost 20 of their 33 ships, and of those only one sunk outright. Some sank later, either deliberately scuttled or lost in the storms that followed, but they didn’t sink as easy or as fast as in this game. It could have been much better.
The land side of the game is much better, as you would expect from the long line of games that predated it. It has the feel of the era, of long lines of men volley firing muskets, of cannons blazing away, of mad cavalry charges. It doesn’t have enough smoke though – battlefields became shrouded in it, but in this it is barely noticeable.
Cannons are, not surprisingly, nasty. Even the light 6 pounder horse artillery you have in the demo can cause serious damage, and if the enemy gets close enough to be subject to canister, it gets brutal. Skirmishers and those with longer ranges of fire are annoying – you have to close in and take your losses before blasting them away with massed fire.
The downside is that the AI seems a little lacking, at least in the demo. I hope it improves in game – in one game the main body of the enemy just stood their doing nothing as I pounded them with cannon fire, killing hundreds before the survivors decided to retreat. They didn’t seek cover, and nor did they march forward to engage me, which would have been a more logical thing to do.
Certainly I plan on getting the full game, but hopefully a few minor things like these are fixed before then.