Napoleon: Total War, the latest instalment in the Total War series, lets you play the role of the legendary French general, or lead his enemies to victory. From the early Italian campaign to the Battle of Waterloo, the course of history lies in your hands.
Following the classic Total War formula, the game is split between a turn-based campaign map, where you move armies about and manage your empire, and the battle map where you fight out battles in real-time. As in Empire: Total War, the game’s predecessor, you can fight both land and naval battles, taking the role of either general or admiral.
In contrast to previous Total War titles, Napoleon: Total War is split into three campaigns. The first is Napoleon’s Italian campaign against the Austrians, where your goal is to drive them back to Vienna. The second campaign focuses on the French invasion of Egypt and the Middle-East with the goal of bringing the treasuries from this land to France. The final Grand Campaign shows Napoleon’s attempt to become emperor of all of Europe. In all these campaigns your overall objective will be to do what Napoleon did, but you’re free to chose your own path to victory.
Under a microscope…
To allow for this more detailed approach some significant changes to give the gameplay more depth have been made. In the words of The Creative Assembly, the game’s developer, Napoleon is Empire under a microscope. Turns on the campaign map represent just two weeks instead of half a year, to accurately portray Napoleon’s blitzkrieg style of warfare. This means you’ll have to be more careful with your soldiers, as recruiting, training and transporting replacements takes more time.
Also new is logistics. An army marches on its stomach, and for the first time this is represented in a Total War game. Forces in hostile territory will suffer from attrition if supplies become low. To counter this you have to set up supply lines with depots along the way, and you’ll have to protect them from enemy attacks. Likewise, you can try and disrupt enemy supply lines to weaken their armed forces.
Not only will you have to worry about getting your armies supplied, getting your soldiers themselves to their destination also requires more thought as the terrain they’re in will affect their marching speed and the weather can weaken your forces.
The game doesn’t make Napoleon into the only important general: all generals now have an aura of inspiration around them which gives nearby units more courage to fight, thus making the commanders important tactical objects. You will have to be careful with them though, as each faction has only a limited number of generals at its disposal: if the pool of able men dries up armies will be in serious trouble.
…there’s more to see
The new gameplay mechanics are accompanied by an improved version of ETW’s graphic engine, which improves the game’s visuals without demanding more from your computer. You’ll have hard time finding identical soldiers on the field, as the game will mix different bodyparts to make soldiers look unique. Extended particle effects mean smoke from muzzle flashes hangs in the air before drifting across the battlefield, obscuring your vision.
The new graphical effects can also be enjoyed together with others, as Napoleon offers a selection of multiplayer options as well. Online land and sea battles aren’t new, but for the first time in Total War history you can also fight a campaign with or against a human player. If you don’t wish to go that far, but do like a challenge in your campaigns, you can use the new drop-in multiplayer option where a human player takes over command from the AI for one battle, giving you a more intelligent opponent to fight against.
All in all Napoleon is a prime example of CA’s revolution-evolution approach to making games: Empire was a revolution with naval battles, gunpowder being the dominant force in battles and improvements all over the place, but criticised for its bugs. Napoleon is the evolution: a more detailed and more polished game which will warm strategist’s hearts.