I was never a huge real time strategy fan – until last year. That’s when I first layed my hands on Empire: Total War. Creative Assembly’s eighteenth century war simulator completely blew me away with its insanely detailed visuals, robust and engrossing gameplay and intuitive AI. To this day it’s not only one of my personal favorite games, but one of the highest scoring on Cheat Happens.
You can understand then why my expectations were so high for the developer’s follow-up --- Napoleon: Total War. Does it meet those expectations? That answer is fuzzy at best. While the game is fun and challenging, it somehow lacks the imagination and inspiration it’s predecessor brought with it.
If you’ve played any of the Total War series before, Napoleon is bound to feel familiar to you. You control the miniscule general in an attempt to gain influence in Italy, Africa and Europe. Of course, this isn’t just a military effort and you’re going to have to divide your time and resources between diplomacy, technology and trade research. There are some great additions to the series here, but there’s also a ton that seems to be missing.
It is important to note though that this iteration of the series seems much more streamlined and narrow than previous titles. For instance, there are only four campaigns (with one of those four being a tutorial) and each of those campaigns winds up feeling similar. Where games like Empire: Total War were a literal goldmine of replayability, Napoleon feels a bit short (pun greatly intended). Once you finish the campaigns, you’re unlikely to go back and want to play through again.
One thing that surprised me is just how scripted the majority of Napoleon: Total War is, which is perhaps a result of the game’s singular focus. It does tend to feel a bit different than previous games in the series (you’ll have far less choices in most campaigns) and it does allow the developers to craft an interesting – albeit educational narrative. Creative Assembly does a great job changing each campaign’s objectives, based on the historical narrative. While the ending is often similar, playing in one theatre of war is often different than another.
Visually, Napoleon is just as impressive as its predecessor. The formations and animations are impressive, but it’s the atmospheric effects that really stand out. The stylized graphics are a great way to pull players into the game but there’s really no visual step-up here. Everything seems to be on par with the games that came before it. When previous games had such an impressive leap in graphics, you can’t help but feel a bit cheated here. That being said, Napoleon does run a lot smoother than previous titles.
As much as I praise it, Empire: Total War was not perfect, and Napoleon does little to fix those problems. You’re still going to have immense frustration moving large armies and there’s a ton of pathfinding and AI strategy problems here. This perhaps is Napoleon: Total War’s biggest fault, there’s no real innovation here, and Creative Assembly didn’t bother to fix some of the previous game’s issues, at times it feels like it’s more of a reskinning than a proper sequel.
On the multiplayer front, Napoleon: Total War takes a cue from the Civilization series and does away with a lot of the annoyances that usually come with the genre. Rather than having to wait idly by while your opponent makes their move, Napoleon allows players to use their time more wisely by giving them the freedom to make diplomatic decisions while waiting. It’s nothing new, but it does take a lot of the monotony out of the multiplayer aspects.
Napoleon: Total War is a fun addition to the Total War series; it’s just not as momentous as previous entries. There are a number of cool additions here, but they’re all overshadowed by the fact that Creative Assembly has neglected to fix the issues that haunted the previous games. Napoleon: Total War will be a great addition to the library of any fans of the genre, but it won’t hook new gamers in.
CHEATS USED: Unlimited Gold, Resources, One Turn Recruiting, Construction
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