Napoleon: Total War Review

By Darryl Kaye on March 11, 2011

The Total War franchise has really made a name for itself over the years, by allowing players the chance to take part in history's greatest battles. This iteration is no different either, as it allows players to step into the shoes of one of the greatest revolutionary figures in history - Napoleon Bonaparte.

Many people are aware of who Napoleon Bonapart is, and he is of course most famous for the Battle of Waterloo. However, Napoleon: Total War's campaign takes players right back to the beginning, as the tutorial breaks players in by telling them about his early life and upbringing in Corsica. It's a tutorial that has a purpose, and that sets the scene for what's about to come - the conquering of a significant amount of land in and around Europe.

Each of the campaigns involves a mixture of turn-based strategy and real-time strategy and they compliment each other well. The turn-based strategy action involves deciding the next area of conquest, choosing battles, keeping the morale of the population at a suitable level and the expansion of buildings in certain territories. All this has to be done alongside the management of funds, and diplomacy agreements. It gives plenty to think about outside of the actual combat, as plotting the correct warpath to achieve a certain goal can make all the difference, as can securing a powerful ally. Each of the building choices benefits the Empire in some way, but it can also hinder it in others, but it's possible to either alter a building type, or simply destroy it if resources become an issue.

Napoleon: Total War Campaign Display

As well as controlling the various armies on the map, it's also possible to control various agents and scholars, who can help with espionage and research. When thinking about invading a neighbouring capital city, agents are extremely useful as they can help disclose exactly how many troops the enemy has garrisoned. Useful information, since the goal of Napoleon: Total War is to conquer - which leads nicely on to the combat options. Players have the choice to automatically simulate battles, but one of the huge draws of Total War is actually engaging in the battles and acting as the general.

For those unfamiliar with how combat works in Total War, each of the regiments can be individually controlled, and of course, they all have their advantages and disadvantages. Troops are generally used to hold the line and launch forward offensives, while artillery isn't overly mobile, but can deplete opposition troop numbers quite effectively. Learning how to use each type of unit effectively is the key to success and while the automatic battle simulator works on probability, the real-time battles allow players to stretch their tactical muscles and win under even the most insurmountable odds. It's not without its faults though, as there is still some bad AI plaguing proceedings. The time limit also means that when defending, players simply have to hold out until it expires to attain victory.

Although the game is about Napoleon as the main focus, the other generals that can be recruited actually have quite a big part to play. They can go off with their own armies, independent of Napoleon, and they give different advantages to the troops they're travelling with. After battles, generals also allow for the replenishment of troops, if they are within friendly boundaries, so resting in a town isn't mandatory. It means that the death of a general in battle can actually weigh quite heavily on the advancement, or defence, of the Empire and it's an aspect of the game that will cause players to consider their actions more wisely. Replacing a good general isn't that easy.

Napoleon: Total War Battle

In battles, the game looks superb. It's possible to get really close into the action, and the attention to detail is very impressive. British troops have small marching bands to accompany their advances, while the artillery properly reload and go through the motions with everything they do. Obviously this isn't the best way to manage the battle, but it's nice to know that no concessions have been made to try and cater for the large-scale battles. Outside of battles, the landscape becomes suitably affected by the different seasons, like snow fall or blistering heat.

The game actually has a ton of replay value. Alongside the main campaigns, and re-enactment of the Battle of Waterloo, there's also an extra mode called "Campaigns of the Coalition" which allows players to take up arms against Napoleon. If this isn't enough, certain battles, like Trafalgar, or Dresden, can be undertaken. Further to this, it's possible to take part in battles throughout campaigns online, or simply to just play battles against other people around the world. Each campaign isn't exactly short either, especially if battles are played out, so this game has plenty to offer in the long-term.

Final Thoughts

Napoleon: Total War offers a truly engaging experience and it further cements Total War's dominance over its chosen genre. While it doesn't stray too much from the tried and tested, there are still some new innovations scattered throughout and even the AI won't hinder the experience that much. There is also plenty of content to enjoy, with multiple campaigns and of course, the option of multiplayer.

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