Petter has stepped into the boots, and hat, of the Emperor of France - Napoleon Bonaparte. The French were probably better off without him...
When I reviewed Empire: Total War once upon a time, I mentioned that the time frame that game was set in felt pretty boring to me. It's of course a matter of taste, but quite a few commenters let me know how wrong I was. Now Creative Assembly is back and while the background is pretty much the same as in Empire: Total War, they have now decided to focus on one the most interesting character in the 18th and early 19th centuries - Napoleon Bonaparte, also known as Napoleon I.
In some ways, it feels odd to focus a whole game around one man. The main part of the game, the Napoleon Campaigns, have you controlling him and his armies as he builds his empire; from being a minor general fighting against Austria, through Egypt and Europe and finally up to Waterloo. Even the tutorial focuses on Napoleon as a boy, where you lead him through his first steps towards power. While other game options are available, like playing campaigns focusing on Britain or Prussia (just like the main campaign in Empire: Total War vs the other single player options), it is no secret that the game revolves around him and the wars he started - after all, his name is on the box.
Napoleon: Total War is hardly a history lesson, of course, and if I had been an advisor to Napoleon I as he spread his influence he would never have left his own home town. The various campaigns come with their own specific goals that need to be finished though, and within a proper historical time frame. It's not like you can turtle up, defend your borders and wait for the French to develop space flight and win that way. This is war, and the game expects you to be on the offensive more or less all the time. As someone who usually play the diplomatic game in Civilization, it's always a hard lesson to learn when I sit down with a Total War game.
In many ways, Napoleon: Total War feels like Empire: Total War. You know what you get by now, and chances are that you have a pretty good idea of how a Total War game looks and plays. On one hand it's a great strategic simulator; diplomacy, troop movement, city upgrade and taxes all need to be balanced and maintained. On one hand it is a great tactical simulator and the series have always had some of the greatest and most epic battles in a strategy game...well, ever.
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Looking at the battles, Napoleon: Total War fixes a couple of problems that Empire: Total War had; the AI, if nothing else, has been improved and even the enemies on the easiest difficulty setting puts up a good fight at times. While the battles are skippable, and at times it is probably a good idea to do so, watching the different units move and fight is truly a treat in Napoleon: Total War. The graphics are top notch, the detail is incredible, and the amount of units are just enough to keep me interested.
New units to produce can be unlocked by finishing the wide assortment of missions that you receive during your campaigns, missions that either needs to be completed to win or side-missions that can be skipped if your plans are not headed that way or if you simply run out of time and need to rush your troops towards the end goal. And I guess this is my greatest problem with Napoleon: Total War - the time-limit that I constantly have to juggle my plans against.
In Egypt, I wanted push south past Cairo and deep into Bedouin territory before heading for Jaffa; the game did not agree with me and instead stressed me to attack Jaffa as soon as I could. And considering that no one wanted to open diplomatic talks with me, time soon ran out as I tried to keep the Mameluke under control while moving my troops towards the Ottoman empire. I have no idea how they expected me to take out the Brittish troops on Cyprus as well. A great French Emperor, I am not.
Don't get me wrong, though. That all comes down to my bad planning and my strategic thinking still stuck deep down in Civilization-territory. Napoleon: Total War is, just like other games in the series, a great piece of software. While I am not able to give you a deeper analysis of the intricacies of the game, stuff like only the most hardcore Total War-player would be able to do, I am as always impressed that Creative Assembly have the know-how to create a game like this. Other games settle for one of the two modes, Total War gives us both.
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One of the major additions to Napoleon: Total War is the multiplayer campaign. Sadly, this is nothing that I talk about or grade, as I have not had the opportunity to try it out. It should add a much longer life span to the game, though, with the ability to do drop in battles during some of the single player campaigns.
The amount of detail that has gone into making Napoleon: Total War is impressive, and while I am not always fond of the focus of the game it is hard not to pat Creative Assembly on the back for what they have accomplished once more. This despite the fact that they make me feel stupid, over and over again. I'll get back at you soon, Britain. Just you wait...
8 / 10
Impressive graphics, great strategic options, mind-blowing battles