by Keaton Arksey
previewed on PC
Yet another Total War
At its height, Napoleon's empire included Spain, Switzerland, Italy, parts of Germany and Holland. France was the enemy of Russia, Sweden, Great Britain, Ireland, Portugal, Scotland, Sicily and Sardinia. Needless to say, Napoleon was one of the greatest military leaders of the modern era, and the fact that he lasted as long as he did against all those nations is astounding.
The Creative Assembly, developer of such Total War games as Rome and Empire, has turned its focus to 19th century Europe. Set in the final years and the 18th century into the beginning of the 19th century and the fateful defeat at Waterloo, Napoleon: Total War puts players in the role of Napoleon. What made Napoleon such a successful leader was his unorthodox leading style, and other countries were never able to anticipate what he would do next.
The developers have taken the engine of Empire: Total War and are taking the extra time to polish it up. The artists have touched up on the light and smoke effects. Horses will kick up dust, and rifle muzzle leaves smoke hanging in the air, possibly affecting your view of the battle. There will be 332 new units to control, and depending on your system specs you can expect to see up to 10,000 units on screen at once. Also depending on your specs, NTW will have varying amounts of body parts to randomize and create unique soldiers. At the lowest setting, 64 faces can be used, so the mere thought of all the possible creations on a high end PC is scary.
Outside of the cosmetic changes, Napoleon: Total War will still be the same style of game. A mix of turn-based and real time strategy, armchair generals will be able to plan their battle before zooming into the battlefield and issuing orders on the fly.
While ground battles were Napoleon's forté, naval battles will also return. If you think you're up to it, trying to overthrow the British Navy and take the place as the largest naval power could be an interesting challenge. Luckily, you'll have some help if you decide to try it, as criticisms aimed at Empire's naval battle system have been taken to heart. The result is that new abilities like the ability to repair your ship mid-battle have been added. Of course, pulling your men off the cannons and fixing holes in the hull will mean you can't fight back, so you'll have to be smart about when you do it.
The generals will also play a larger role on the battle field; with an aura effect that will raise the morale of the soldiers in the area that the aura covers. These aren't your typical generals who sit at the back and yell out orders and twiddle their thumbs. No, the generals in NTW will be right in the thick of battle. Before battles you can pick your general, who each has their own special abilities. Some of them are stronger offensively, some defensively while others just aren't very good at all (the RTS equivalent of Dan from Street Fighter). You'll have to be careful with your general however; should he fall in battle he will be “critically wounded” and unavailable for some time.
Trying to match Napoleon's speed
The system of combat is being sped up to match Napoleon’s quick battles. Whereas previous Total War games had turns that would occur over four to six months in-game, the NTW turns only take several weeks. Meanwhile, various towns throughout the map serve certain purposes. Industrial towns produce guns and soldiers. Economic towns create Gentleman who aid in the creation of tech trees. Social towns provide the opportunity for some spy work, as spies can be unleashed upon enemy forces to spread Republicanism, assassinate generals or cause delays in troop movements.
Recreating history or revising it?
Overall, your aim in the story is to re-create Napoleon's time as general of France. Your options aren't limited, though, as you can choose to make allies or attack enemies by yourself, take the long way around mountains or cut straight through at the cost of reinforcements taking more time to arrive. The first campaign will be Napoleon's Italian campaign in 1796. The second campaign will have Napoleon heading out to the Middle East from 1798-1801. Finally, Napoleon's Grand Campaign from 1805-1812 will wrap up the story. Here is where you can dramatically change history, defeating the English and Russians and conquering all of Europe. Other changes can be made in the other campaigns, like conquering a city Napoleon was unable to. Achieving these optional objectives will reward you with new advantages. Rewards will also be given for playing aggressively and using more modern military techniques. The AI will be at a disadvantage in this respect, as it will be stuck with the rigid techniques of the time.
There will be a multiplayer mode as well. Most interesting aspect of this is the ability to play story missions competitively. Meanwhile, games can be played either one vs. one or four on four.
Improving the series
The Total War franchise has been around for a while, so entering an era where radical new developments in the art of war were made, naturally leads to the creation of a new version of the game. Luckily, it looks like Napoleon: Total War retains the franchise's classic gameplay while embracing new technology and setting.