As well as the long awaited improved visuals, Empire: Total War – Gold Edition slaps on another layer of unprecedented depth and scale to the turn-based and real-time gameplay. Whilst some added complexity may alienate newcomers, longtime strategy gurus will only find delight in this modernised Total War.
Empire: Total War’s core lies in its mammoth Grand Campaign. There may only be one map, but it’s packed with over 50 factions playing at one time and spans over 3 continents – including the whole of Europe, North America and India. The scale of the campaign is just astounding. You can choose to play as 11 different major and minor nations within the map, ranging from the naval-experts of the British Royal Navy to the upcoming Prussian Empire in the east, each with their own diplomacy statuses and individual goals. Lack of direction from the beginning can leave you at odds at what you’re meant to do next, but stick with it and you will come to appreciate the open-ended nature of the game.
Empire Total War Gameplay
You can imagine it can be somewhat overwhelming having to recruit and manage armies, construct and upgrade buildings, keep tabs on your population’s religious devotion, set research tasks and negotiate with other factions for trade or military access, all spanning over 3 environments. Those who are new to the Total War franchise may find it hard to get into the turn-based aspect of Empire, and I would suggest playing as one of the more manageable nations based in one continent before branching outwards.
Turn-based gameplay on the main map remains the same formula you have come to know and love from Rome. But instead of each region having just one main city, there are now separate buildings spread across the region such as farms and factories that provide wealth and resources to the area. Each little construction is controlled separately rather than being linked to the capital, meaning there is a lot more micromanaging required.
As the main campaign can span over many centuries, you get to see the development in technology and military discipline. You can research new skills ranging from improvement in farming techniques, to enhancing combat and weaponry. Probably one of the most useful early research opportunities allows your linemen to duck when they are reloading, so those behind can fire above them, effectively tripling your rate of attack. Seeing your men evolve over time to become stronger and adapt to new techniques keeps the gameplay fresh and gives it a sense of progression.
Troop management on the battlefield has always been a bit of problem in large scale squad-based strategy games. But the new precise movement options allow you to finely tune you troops’ positioning or orientation in a flash, making them more responsive to your orders. This is even more important in Empire: Total War because of the invention of gunpowder. The once knights in shining armour have been transformed into musket-wielding soldiers that form defensive lines. I can’t deny that I harken back to the brutally physical combat of Rome, but Empire’s set-up means there is a lot more room for strategic placement of troops and the need for a strong frontline.
One of my most celebrated additions in Empire: Total War – Gold Edition are sea battles, which fills a gaping hole that was left in Rome. But whilst unleashing deadly waves of cannonballs at your enemies is fun, sea combat doesn’t come anywhere near the flexibility of land conflicts. Ships are sluggish and tricky to manoeuvre, there is not much variety in combat and with larger fleets, way too much work is required to make sure each individual ship is aligned and on course. There are many good ideas executed here; such as different shot types to take out a ship’s mast or crew, changes in speed depending on the wind direction and the ability to board routing ships, but it’s too much to manage all at once.
As well as the main campaign to play through, players also have access to the Warpath Campaign, which takes place in America, with you playing as one of the Native Indian tribes trying to protect your homeland from the eastern invaders. It’s much easier to sympathise with your nation’s cause this time around, but the simply overwhelming odds against the weak, inexperienced tribes people who have yet to discover t-shirts compared to the Spanish army who are trained in the use of firearms makes it a very difficult play-through. Beware, the Warpath Campaign should only be attempted by those who want a real challenge.
In all, Empire takes many strides forwards in developing this powerful franchise, without much thought for consideration of those that have yet to jump on the Total War bandwagon. Its huge campaign allows for much flexibility in your offensive against your enemies, and the Complete Edition of the game only adds more replayability. Feral’s job at bringing this true gem to Mac stands strong, with only a few framerate issues when initiating an end of turn. Just make sure you meet the system requirements before purchasing.
Publisher: Feral Interactive
Genre: Real-Time and Turn-Based Strategy
Pros: Huge leap from Rome in scale, depth and graphics, modernised setting with new weapons and fortifications, research provides progression.
Cons: Sea battles are clunky, intimidating to new players, a lot more micro-managing.