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Empire: Total War

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I picked this up out of a Wal-Mart bargain bin earlier this week.  As far as RTS games go, it is among the best I've played.

I haven't even gotten to the larger campaign yet as I'm still locked in the early history of America trying to make a foothold against the Indians in Jamestown, but even waging piddly battles against outnumbered bands of Native Americans is really fun.

The game operates in two basic modes.  There's the classic building/mining of resources and building/fortifying your towns on a large map that requires you to build things like farms then upgrade them to improve the status of your town.  In this mode, you'll also be able to alter taxes levied on your citizens, recruit soldiers for your army and use various other methods (such as diplomacy) designed to influence popular opinion in your favor.  It's from this game mode that you also expand your empire by laying siege to adjacent towns and taking them over.

Then you have your real-time battles which can take place on land or sea.

When you actually move to the battles portion of the game... holy shit.  These battles are EPIC.  Controlling the movment of 1000 troops in 15 regiments is really, really satisfying and fun.  I felt like I was watching Lord of the Rings as my troops thundered into Pocahontas's town and laid waste to everything.  Probably my favorite thing to do is highlight all my regiments, click the melee attack and sprint buttons and then unleash them on a tiny squad of indians trying to sneak up on me through a forest.  Watching thousands of British troops charge into the woods after 30 Indians is hilarious... the Indians just stop what they're doing, freak out and try to run away.  If you're so inclined you can even select all of your regiments except 2 or 3 and send the extras around back to block the inevitable Indian retreat.  Since I'm still at the beginning of the game, everything is fairly easy... I'm sure this approach won't work once I have to start fighting actual armies instead of people who shoot arrows.

The naval battles are equally as impressive and add an entirely new mechanic to RTS.  I'm sure other games have naval battles, but of the ones I've played (few), I've never seen anything like this.  Ships move very slowly, so there can be a little tedium, but Empire has given you the ability to not only steer your ship so that you can manually aim your cannons, but you can also press a button to load all your cannons and then press it again to fire them.  The added manual aspect of naval combat allows you to be deadly efficient with the shots you take and it really adds to your enjoyment of fighting on the high seas since you're not just highlighting a unit and then right-clicking the enemy unit to attack.

In addition to being able to control the movement and firing capabilities of your boat, you also have a select choice of ammo, each of which have certain desired effects.  Regular cannon shot is good for long distance shelling while the chained cannonballs can be used at relatively close range to shear off another ship's mast, paralyzing it.  The different types of cannon shot can be difficult to get the hang of though, as each type is assigned to a certain side of the ship... so if you're firing on an enemy ship and switch to your chained cannonballs and they happen to be mounted on the opposite side of your boat, it will stop firing and begin to turn to aim them at the enemy, leaving you spinning and vulnerable to attack.

If you're a fan of RTS games, it's hard for me to believe that there are many (if any) games that are better than this.  I believe it may have won PC game of the year from IGN.  Below is a link to the video review complete with gameplay footage and more comprehensive analysis.

Ah-ha!  I've heard bad, bad things about the game... So much so that I didn't even bother downloading it.  And, at 12 gigs compressed, it was the sort of download that would have made me crazy.

I loved the first Medieval Total War, and Shogun, and especially Rome Total War (with the Total Realism mod).  But Medieval II left me cold and all the fans said Empire was a POS waste of space.

But you've swayed me.  Bargain Bin, eh?  How much?

I think it was $29, so probably a bit expensive for a PC game, but compared to a PS3 port that wouldn't be half as good, it's a steal.

The learning curve is kind of steep and I get confused easily when I'm shifting troops around just because there is so much going on, but visually I haven't played anything that looks quite like this.  That said, it's probably not much different from Rome, only it has naval battles and cannons.

I have a secret hardon for naval battles.  I'm glad that aspect isn't as flawed as the prissy fans have made it sound.

And 29 isn't so bad for the typically way overpriced TW games.  Maybe I'll do some post Christmas shopping...

Now I'm curious about all the bad press this got.  What were they complaining about, do you know?  I mean, it's not a perfect game and it has some issues every now and then, but for the most part it is really great.

IGN and 1up both gave this game pretty high marks.


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