by Sergio Brinkhuis
reviewed on PC
It is hard to fathom that yes, another year went by since Sega released Empire: Total War. That game took the franchise into the age of gunpowder. Finally armchair strategists were able to partake in series' characteristic epic scale using the Line Infantry units that changed the shape of warfare forever. As we have come to expect from a Total War game, an expansion was announced not too long after and was recently released in the form Napoleon: Total War.
As the title suggests, this stand-alone expansion focuses on the battles of Napoleon Bonaparte, one of the most successful and illustrious generals in history. I have often said that, living in Holland, we would be speaking French if Napoleon had listened to his generals and not attempted to invade Russia. Napoleon took Europe by storm and showed himself not only a magnificent general but also an outstanding administrator. With that in mind, I can't think of a single person to be the center of attention in a Total War game than him.
At the heart of Napoleon, we find the engine of the original Empire: Total War. As before, players will be forging an empire on a large map littered with cities, production and learning centers, ports and – of course – armies and fleets. When opposing armies or fleets meet the player is able to choose to either micromanage his forces or to have the AI auto-resolve the battle and display the results. While most battles will probably be fought between AI generals, it is tremendous fun to command the ones that matter yourself. A confident human general can make a great difference in the outcome of a battle, especially since, even after years of tweaking by developer Creative Assembly, the A is not always all that I.
To infuse 'Napoleon' into the Total War series, the developers put together three different campaigns and one large battle at the end of those. You would either have to be drunk or dead not to be able to guess the battle in question is the Battle of Waterloo. It has been recreated fairly accurately, even if the Coalition armies are more numerous than they were in the historical battle. Without that numerical disadvantage though, I am sure the final battle would be too easy so this is easily forgiven.
The campaigns center around Napoleon's Italian, Egyptian and European campaigns. These campaigns provide a larger map than the one before, with a map of Europe and a small part of the Middle East for the largest, European campaign. After having conquered the world in Empire, the map of Europe felt a little restrictive but not enough to hamper the overall experience.
The cut-scenes that are shown just before and immediately after each campaign complete the 'Napoleon Experience' and I must say that these are well made. They feel like paintings come to life and are accompanied by a dreamy voice with an authentic, believable French accent. The voice appears to be from a historian who is documenting Napoleon's life and while the starting cut-scene is always the same, the end depends on whether you win or lose.
Napoleon. Drop-in multiplayer for campaign battles.
No relation between the individual campaigns.