Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Empire Total War - F this game

A review for those who actually play Total War.

Oh, god. Where to start with this release. Maybe an intro paragraph entirely unnecessary because the title f the game is self-explanatory . It's the 18th century, a period of colonization and mass emigration, ideological revolution, theological revolution. Revolution, in other words. So obviously the game encompasses the entire western world and leaves the other four continents to serve as land for the raping.

Empire started, in the minds of Total War players at the least, as a dream after Medieval included musketeers and cannons at the end of the game (which i might mention were 100 times more reliable and lethal than any unit in Empire Total War with the exception of quicklime and grenadiers and percussive exploding shells). Everyone went "Oh, hells yes. They should make a game with real guns. And Napoleon." In the mean time, Imperial Glory came out, essentially a carbon copy of total war but with much smaller units, and of course, realtime naval battles, completely identical to the ones later implemented in ETW. Then they showed us pretty screenshots of ships on fire on the high seas and whatnot, showing us that we needed new computers if we hadn't gotten them already. It looked awesome and everyone thought it would be great because, after four successful total war games and and four expansion packs, how could they possibly go wrong this time?

Oh.....creative assembly. I used to believe in you. To put it briefly, I wouldn't buy this game if Sega sent a truck full of games, girls, energy drinks, Pocky, enough materials to build a BD's on my street and staff it from which I would receive all profits, and my own personal contingent of Creative Assembly developers to both a) Give me a job as either a programmer or a game media designer with their company and b) stand gaurd while i play the game and endure me throwing stones at them every time something pisses me off and c) a sixteen thousand dollar Alienware machine to play it on. Unless of course my friends peer pressure me into doing it so we can kill each other and strangers online, which is granted.

Empire Total War is without a doubt the biggest pile of fail I have ever seen come out of the gaming industry in 20 years, and trust me, I'm including incredibly nightmarishly awful games like ET, Cyberia, Shenmue, Summoner 2, Mechwarrior 4, you name it. And no, it's not because it's a terrible game, it's because it's a horrible misrepresentation of what Creative Assembly is truly capable of, which is to say briefly, far greater than this game.

Don't get me wrong: It's good enough for me to make 15 gb of room to install it, and spend a LOT of time playing it because my game for whatever reason ran as slow as possible, to the extent that as I did in every total war game, I took over the entire campaign map and then purposely incited revolutions and whatnot just to have someone to fight. Having said that, it's a disappointment and it absolutely does not improve over the first four games in any way at all.

There are new features: Naval battles, garrisoned buildings, DLC, the Road to Independence campaign (which is fun after you're finished literally assaulting forts every turn and losing 800 men for no reason), the technology research tree, which rather makes the game a pain in the ass because the only way to learn it peacefully and quickly is through diplomacy, requiring you to have lots of money, meaning you have to take over everything to get money, negating any point in advancing your technology or in being diplomatic if by the time you finally get rifles you already control the world and the only enemies left are your allies, the united provinces, who have supported you honorably for 200 turns, and achievements.

Unfortunately, this game is likely to be infinitely better for newbies to the franchise than it is for die hard TW fans. We've endured the same relatively awful AI and awful glitches for years and years and assumed they would be fixed to make the new game enjoyable. They weren't and they still haven't been in the three month since I wrote this review.

At least 5 times out of 10, your units will entirely ignore your commands. The other five times, assuming they even attempt to follow orders, they'll likely get themselves killed, such as marching towards an enemy you tell them to shoot, but instead of shooting when they're in range, they just keep walking straight into them. Or grenadiers, which although they are an incredibly useful and awesome unit, are retarded all the same. They have to be within 10 feet to throw their grenades, which is fucking stupid, because they lob their grenades 100 feet in the air and drop them down on an enemies head, entirely unnecessary when you can overhand through a grenade at them from 100 feet away and still kill just as many. Because of the arch, trying to throw grenades at units that are running away becomes a pain, although admittedly using grenades on routing units or moving units is just trying to be mean to them.

Equally as annoying is the fact that, just like the Aztecs in MTW2, the natives are insanely overpowered. They run far faster than your units, and do far more damage, and their cannons actually work better than yours a lot of the time. However there fortunately is a bright side to this as they do tend to break morale without too much effort, whether they are your own units or enemies. The natives are way overpowered and too fast, but occasionally so are the other factions. Like the Sarmatians in RTW, the Marathan units easily raped so many of my units the first time I went to India, it got to a point where I literally had sent an expedition to India (as it is a requirement for Britain's victory), three full armies with my two best 10 star generals, full of top level elite troops, thinking they could at least gain a foothold and hold off until I sent reinforcements, seeing as it is a ways away. They all got systematically raped by the AI's new perseverance. The same thing happened in France, but worse. I sent an army to place-hold my position for 1 turn before i could get more armies there to support it, across the English Channel, and as soon as the turn ended, the French attacked me 9 times in a row, losing each battle until they finally killed my army by attrition.
The AI is far more aggressive this time around, though still somewhat retarded. As I said, the same thing happened in India, which finally pissed me off. Losing three 10 star generals and thousands of troops made me rather angry: I literally sent 30,000 men to India after-wards, and trained over 10,000 more after conquering it. The first 30,000 conquered all of available Asia, 10,000 of them dying in the process through battles and through strategic blunders on my part, such as splitting my fleet into multiple single ships to carry so many armies (a strategy that worked well in previous Total War titles, unless there were ships right near your fleet). Speaking of, shipbuilding is an arduous process this time around and you simply can't wait 4 turns for two ships. Unfortunately, as the AI is far more aggressive, it also literally violates the programming of the game.
The AI will, at whatever point, literally spawn armies on the spot if you invade them. You'll march on Paris and you'll be able to SEE the city and see that it only has 2 armies, and then they will attack you the next turn with 10 armies. Granted Paris can train about 5 units at once in the beginning, that's no explanation for 15000 troops coming out of nowhere. It's like Barbarian Invasion except that the entire tribe springs forth from the nitrogen in the air or something this time on the spot.
It's pretty though, that should make up for it, right? Despite the common sense needed to realize how much better the game looks, some reviewers seem to overlook the fact that the graphics engine is very much revamped from MTW2. I play all the Total War games regularly and I can easily tell how much better ETW looks than MTW. The smoke effects, heat distortion, explosions, quick-lime, musket fire, cannon fire, fire fire, shading, and water look beautiful, even on low graphics, which I'm using. However this comes at a price because the performance of the game is notably awful.
For those using AMD processors, I wouldn't even bother installing. You be the judge, as this makes no sense to me: The first time i played the game, and the machine I'm currently using, is a Pentium D 805 dual core running at 2 ghz, with 1 gb of DDR2 667 and a 7950 GT OC 512mb GDDR2 card. The game runs absolutely fine NOW on this machine, but the first time I did my Britain campaign where I took over the world, the AI turns (with ai move turned off obviously) would literally take MINUTES. The battles run fine of course, but the Campaign map is god awful. The computer I'm writing this on is brand new (though by no means a monster) - Turion X2 2ghz, 4 gb DDR2 800 mhz, geforce 7150 with 1900mb ram. The game runs absolutely horribly on this computer, on low graphics. The campaign map however runs perfectly fine - on this machine. Frankly, the campaign map is absolutely stupid in this game. Every single object on the map has a shadow and moves with the wind, that's thousands of trees, making it laggier than hell.
Speaking of the campaign map, it's actually much better this time, from a game-play perspective, ignoring the performance. Instead of everything being in the city, the parts of your region are spread out. Colleges and churches and shipyards and farms and the like are their own towns. and you control everything that develops. Also, new towns automatically grow in your regions according to the growth rate in the region and nation, which is affected by technology and tax policies and your government. The campaign is now two turns per year, i assume it was the only way to make the game last relatively long, since it seems to crash at 1829. The campaign map is the same as always, with the addition of those great changes. There are the same stupid quirks about it, as well as new ones. For example an army will still, instead of marching straight to a spot right in front of them, decide its better to go in a 5 turn march in a circle to get there. Or for instance, when an army gets off a ship, they have no move points, which is also stupid. There are some neat things now, like if a fleet is carrying an army, you can tell that fleet to attack anything on land and it will know to tell the army to do it. Unfortunately, the campaign play seems stifled this time. It is a race to control trade resources and make money and its hard to make money it seems now because everyone already has dibs on the trade theaters by the time you get a trade ship there, and you don't want to declare war on the entire world at once, do you, especially without any money. The first time i played and took over the entire world, by the time I had 50 or so provinces, I was raking in serious money. I make about a million per turn on my old Britain campaign. I don't know how i did it: all i did was gain the colonies first and then capture Paris, which eventually had a population of 200 million. In my new campaign, I'm lucky to make 5000 money in a turn. I have no idea what the deal is.
Also unfortunately and imo, downright stupid, you can't cheat in the game anymore. At all. You don't necessarily need to cheat, but cheating was in the first 4 games and frankly it was nice to be able to increase the population of your towns in less than 500 turns, or actually have an army. Another stupid thing missing since MTW2 is AI controlled reinforcements. Granted that in RTW the AI would often get your 10 star generals and elite troops killed, the fact that you could have EPIC battles with tens of thousands of men was amazing. That's how i played all of RTW. I actually used realistic legion sizes of 12000 men and marched several armies around as one army, the way it went in real life. It's so retarded now that your reinforcements WAIT for your first 20 units to die before they enter the field, when the enemy can have 30000 units or more if they want.
The absolute worst part of this game is the fact that it's based entirely on Steam. Valve and their quest to control the gaming market is frankly pissing off everyone I know very quickly, and now I'm pissed off too. The only purpose Steam serves for this game is to piss off those people who pirated the game, as all patching and xfire use is done through Steam. Total War players have downloaded their own patches and taken care of their own game for over a decade, we don't need steam. Fuck steam. Also, the Special Forces pack became available for free, as did the Elite units of the west pack, like a day after they announced it. Or it will be free when the new patch comes out. They didn't think it through when they put the game on the steam network, especially if DLC becomes free after people paid for it.

If you have a 5000 dollar computer with three way SLI each using a 2000 dollar video card and liquid nitrogen cooling and 12+ gb of DDR3 then I recommend this game. Otherwise, fuck that. Wait till it's like 15 bucks on Steam sometime. In 2011. After Napoleon has come out and thoroughly disappointed everyone again.

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