Empire: Total War
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|WARNING: This article may be Overly anti-C.A. and/or Overly anti-SEGA. Any mention of or links to this article on the official Total War forums will be removed. Apologists of the company will dismiss this article as a pack of horseshit and a load of bollocks. Those who were disappointed with the game on the other hand will agree with this article. Those who are planning to buy this game will be able to see through C.A. and SEGA's fog of lies and know the truth. Don't change a thing to remedy this.|
|Empire: Total War|
Box art for Empire
|Release date||Public beta version: March 3, 2009; Final developer version: April 1, 2010; Final stable 1.0 version: Ask Chuck Norris|
|Genre||Real-Time Tactical/Turn Based Strategy/First Person Shooter|
|Platform(s)||Windows XP, |
|Rating||E for Everyone|
|Would Albert Camus play it?||Maybe - depends on when you play|
“Begun, the Clone War has.”
“Men, forget the fact we have ranged weapons... I say... just charge into the storm of bullets and attack only with sharpened steel!”
“It isn't as good as a finished game, but its a damn awesome beta.”
“God damn it, they turned our country into a black hole.”
Empire: Total War (abbreviated ETW, E:TW, or whatever) is the fifth game in the critically acclaimed Total War series (you know, the series which can show more than 10,000 troops on your screen without any problem?). Developed by CA
("Con artists? Absolutely") ("Creative ASSembly"), it was an ambitious project set to accurately recreate the warfare of the 18th century in a computer (and only in a computer). While it was an instant hit amongst critics, the game divided the fans of the Total War series. One group became so frustrated at the mountain of bugs the game had that they are unable to do anything else other than bashing the game and fighting its supporters on the web like a group of people who have been ruled by a tyrant for more than a hundred years; they also burned 25,000 copies of the game at a rally in front of CA's main headquarters on May 10. Another are a group of fanboys who are oblivious to the game's defects and are defending the game to the death with any means necessary. Despite the outraged fans, who were denounced by some extreme supporters as "insane", "emotional", "overtly critical" and a whole lot more of insults for "warning" would-be buyers about the game's "true" quality, the game became the #1 best selling game of March 2009. It is generally considered by anyone with a brain and/or who played any of the previous Total War games to be the worst game in the series the best game in the series the worst game in the series the best game in the series a game in the series.
Empire is a game where you are given the ability to play God by being able to control the fate of a nation either on a freaking map of the world (well the areas that CA believe is real) or an entire army on a recreation of some field somewhere in Europe, North Africa, or Asia or a collection of 20 boats out in the middle of nowhere.
On the battlefield, the army you control are composed of guys who all look the same and have very little accessories but have different movement styles. All regiments are led by Blackbeard lookalikes who, by virtue of having facial hair, make the guys they are leading's occasional moustaches look plain goofy. Troops recruited in India and the beyond are white, because white people rule the world. This is the first game in the series where most infantry on the battlefield do nothing but just shoot, shoot some more, shoot one more time at the enemy army or get shot at all the time or shoot yourself. On the bright side, cannons shoot cannonballs that take a fiery piss on enemy (or your) troops. The strength of cavalry units in the game has been reduced to the point that its suicide to charge head on an ordinary infantry line (even "elite" cavalry units face this problem) - a huge contrast with previous Total War games where cavalry charges were extremely deadly. Units can now deploy traps on the battlefield like stakes and mines.
How sieges work in Empire is best described by one fan who wrote:
...you have your star fort, you garrison it, the enemy appears, and there he is, scrambling across the map trying to attack it from as many sides as possible, within range of your guns and muskets. Ultimately, your guns and muskets only manage to inflict a token amount of casualties, and before you know it several regiments of spidermen are climbing up the fortifications and engaging your men in protracted melee fights. Occasionally, one takes a piss and falls off the wall. With a bit of luck, the spidermen manage to open a gate, which allows the rest of the enemy army to pour inside the fort with the goal of grabbing the magical ownership circle in the center.
— Some random user on Empire's sieges
The biggest difference from previous games in the franchise was the inclusion of sea battles. In a desperate attempt to attract Pirates of the Caribbean fans, CA included battles at sea with big wooden boats that have no propellers what so ever that sail on water that looks more like oil than water. Speaking of pirates, CA even included an entire pirate faction in the Caribbean to please Pirates fans. Right clicking an enemy ship to attack isn't as effective as manually moving one since ships don't have some guy steering the ship (no kidding). And oh yeah, if a ship sinks, all of its crew is good as dead since there are no lifeboats on board the ship (and this applies to all vessels, from crappy and highly volatile galleys to gigantic but slow first rates); even if a crew member doesn't get trapped because he-can't-find-the-way-out-due-to-becoming-afraid-of-dying-syndrome, he'll drown after a few hours because he doesn't know how to fucking swim and all ships nearby don't have the knowledge of how to pull a man from the water (it appears 18th century sailors aren't good at rescuing shipwreck survivors as the Romans -- don't believe me (?), just ask Ben-Hur...).
The campaign is just a free form game where you control one of 12 lucky nations on an exact replica of the
known entire world. And the map is simply fucking huge! Its so huge that your computer might suffer excessive lag when moving the camera around the world. The world is divided into theaters (not the places you watch plays or movies), which are further divided territories which are in turn have one city and many towns in each. The difference between a town and a city is that the former you can only build one building on and you can't recruit a single unit while the latter allows you to recruit any unit you can recruit and can build from 2 to 5 buildings. One neat feature on the campaign is the ability to change your government. To do so you have to piss off one of the two kinds of people in your home province. If you pissed them off enough they'll revolt against your current leaders and you'll be given the option to fight with or against them. If the revolt wins you get to change your government; if the revolt is crushed like some annoying bug crawling on your favorite carpet the opposite occurs. It's possible to have a revolution that changes only your faction leader while maintaining your current government type, which is the only way of getting rid of leaders in a monarchy. There are three types of government. One allows you to act more like God on earth while oppressing the majority of your country's population. Another type is one where you give the people so much freedom that you have almost no control in the affairs of state. The third type is a combination of both but with toned down features of the previously mentioned governments. You also get to control a group of guys called gentlemen. These wigged men are to be used as a form of entertainment by dueling with a gentleman from another faction. When they duel a short but very hilarious clip appears which allows you to see what happened in the duel. Gentlemen also make your nation more technologically advanced when they are forced to live in schools. Another kind of agent you get to control is a rake (not the thing you use to collect leaves that have fallen onto your yard during fall). Rakes are the guys you use to eliminate anyone who you don't like for whatever reason. Well not everyone actually; unlike previous Total War games you can't eliminate rival faction leaders by assassination - faction leaders are practically immune from assassination. As with previous Total War games you also can't assassinate someone within your own faction, no matter how annoying that character may be. Rakes can also be used as peeping toms to know what's in an enemy city, town, or army or what traits some characters have. Diplomats have been removed from the game, due to micromanagement reasons, and have been replaced by a static diplomacy screen which allows you to do diplomatic actions to your neighbors - from giving gifts to making peace with an annoying foe who has not attacked for almost 50 years. The removal of diplomats though has made it impossible to bribe characters into working for your faction. For the first time in the series, you can finally recruit generals in cities. Retraining units are much easier now, since all you need to do is just to select all depleted units in an army and click the "reinforce button" on the interface; you don't need to be in a settlement to do this. You can also recruit units from generals - a general with a recruit order will order the nearest settlement/s with a sufficient building level to produce the required unit/s. If a faction loses all of its territories in the theater where its capital was originally located, it is as good as dead. Its overseas colonies though will rejoice the fall of their distant overlords and that they are going to experience what it's like to rule under their own banner.
A list of playable factions in the game:
- Great Britain - the poshest nation in the game. It has the best all round army roster, the best navy, and the best position in the campaign.They have a tendency to have very well dressed troops with good moral. They are so superior that they are easy when being used by the player in the campaign. It is a bit annoying that their grasp on India and america is so weak in-game when compared to the historic truth. If you wish to rule the world play Britain and you will have a fun journey.
- France - is the second best overall faction in the game although they get the best starting leader. However the faction suffers from "instant surrender syndrome" when the state is ruled by a monarch. This can be removed when the state is a republic and units fight under the French tricolor instead of the white Bourbon flag. Also hilarious: They start with about 50 million people, by the end of the campaign in the 1790's, they can easily exceed 100 million citizens, just in the France region. (Modern France has about 60 mil.)
- Prussia - a nation with an awesome selection of normal troops but with very little starting territory. Must expand ASAP to create more Lebensraum.
- Spain - a nation with lots of colonies and decent troops. Its starting faction leader though is simply damn awful - he's a freak of nature who is horribly disfigured and a drooling idiot who gives this country a bad name at the start. What ever you do, don't stick with him as king for too long or else suffer the consequences... Oh and the kicker, this fucker dies in 1701 in reality, in the game however he is immortal and can live well into the 1770s
- Netherlands - a nation that is filthy rich. Has the second best navy in the game but limited initial territory. Players of this faction must milk their treasury to the death in order to succeed. Warning: homeland may flood constantly and is very vulnerable to be eliminated early if player only focuses on expanding overseas.
- Sweden - full of blonde (and good looking) but average troops who wear yellow pants. Arguably the most talked about faction in fansites (besides Britain) due to the mass number of gay Swedish gamers playing the game.
- Russia - the one faction that has the largest (lie, ottomans) number of starting territories. Poor quality but numerous dirt cheap troops who are given a daily supply vodka to keep morale up. Can build vodka factories and gulags to keep public order high.
- Poland - mostly ordinary troops but awesome unique unit (see below for more info). When playing this faction, Prussia is the one faction not to be trusted; they'll attack you early on like hell releasing a horrible plague on an unsuspecting country. Despite being poor and weak in real life, Poland usually manages to destroy both Austria and Prussia- leaving eastern Europe as a huge pink blob.
- Austria - poor quality troops but superb long ranged infantry. Be warned when fighting against this faction, better keep your generals in a safe place lest they be sniped out almost immediately.
- Ottoman Empire - a faction that mostly relies on numerous but severely outdated troops. Suffers from a severe lack of sword wielding cavalry. Their artillery though are something not to be taken lightly. When controlled by the computer, this faction doesn't give a shit to whatever genocidal, land grubbing acts you are doing - even if you are just right next door to them.
- India - another faction that also has a lot of outdated sword troops. Has no "elite" troops what so ever. However if left to their own actions they can easily take over the whole of india which then turns them in to a steam roller. only halted most of the time my the Ottomans...
- United States - what a surprise, America gets attention before its time on the world stage had arrived. Anyway, this faction has loads of infantry units but has very few cavalry units. Mel Gibson emerges as a hero if the farms in South Carolina have been burnt down. America even gets its own campaign, a campaign depicts the time from the establishment of the first English settlement in the Eastern Seaboard to the Revolutionary War. George Washington is also a hero unit that appears in two of the 4 American campaign scenarios. It is a disappointment that their sheer lack of training and actual Britishness isn't shown to greater effect. They usualy come around and no-one likes them, and their AI seems to play like a retarded squirl even when on hard difficulty.
- Native Americans- The weakest factions. Includes Iroquois, Cherokees, Mohawks, and Apache. Fights only with axes, bows, and missiles, and screams shitty warcries. Available only in Warpath pack (Yes, they charge money for a beta expansion to a beta game).
- Prussia-If Prussia becomes a republic, this guy will suddenly seize power and double your income spontaneously, but also automatically declares war on Poland, France, and Britain. He is also the reason Judaism isn't featured in the game despite numbering in the millions, because Sikhism was somehow more important (Warning:the preceding sentence was written by angry Jewish kid). Also, he does not build church schools to up his own religion, he builds Concentration camps to kill all the other religions!
This is a basic list of the land units in the game, with a couple of unique units thrown in:
- General's Bodyguard - mounted human shields who have one purpose only: to make sure they take a bullet/cannonball/lance/spear/sword/bayonet that is meant for the army's general. India in the game gets a special version of this unit - guys riding elephants! WITH GUNS!
- Pegasus Riders - a unique unit for Poland. They are the most powerful horse cavalry unit in the game. The wings attached to riders aid in huge leaps that greatly increases this unit shock impact. Because of their airborne nature, they are extremely difficult to detect in the campaign and the unpredictability of where they'll pop up (as well as appearance and the sound they make when charging) makes these units extremely terrifying to other units. Note that since this is the only "flying" unit in the game, they come at a very high price and in very limited quantity.
- Guards and Household Cavalry - while their names don't sound tough and badass (the former sounds like the guys in front of a Wal-mart store wearing a security force uniform and armed a pistol while the later sounds like the ponies that live on your grandpa's farm), they are your finest land units. They are limited edition units though - you can't have more than 6 of each at the same time... Household Cavalry in Britain are called "Life Guards" even though they aren't a group of David Hasselhoffs on gray horses. In France, the guards are called in French "Household of the King" despite not including the king's wife, kids, maids, butler, slaves and the like. French Household Cavalry are called, in French, "Body Guards" although they aren't assigned to guard the general (or apparently anyone for that matter). Turkey gets a crappy guard unit while not having Household Cavalry at all. India gets neither (although some might claim that elephants are the faction's equivalent of Household Cavalry in spite the fact that elephants aren't domestic animals).
- Elite Infantry - cheaper but more rare equivalent of guard units. Such units are exclusive to France, Britain, United Provinces, Prussia, Sweden, and the United States only....
- Heavy Cavalry - cavalry that can kill infantry when charging. Bad in prolonged melee with infantry that weren't weakened.
- Grenade Throwers - guys who throw those exploding black balls that kill a heck lot of units instantly. Be warned, don't put them in the line of fire or you'll get a less dramatic fireworks. Also note that these guys have, for no reason unlimited grenades.
- Grenade Launchers - similar to grenade throwers except they fire their grenades from a hand held cannon.
- Line Infantry - foot soldiers that aren't too expensive but aren't too crappy that they'll run away at the first volley of bullets. They are your normal infantry units.
- Lancers - similar to heavy cavalry, they use lances instead of swords. Weaker but cheaper than heavy cavalry.
- Snipers - units that are good at aiming from a huge distance. Keep them far from massed enemy fire or they'll retreat almost immediately. Bad in melee as well.
- Ranged cavalry - shooters mounted on horses for a quick getaway if the enemy becomes aware of their presence. Bad in melee.
- Dragoons - Like ranged cavalry, these soldiers ride horses and carry guns. However as a cost-cutting measure they are recruited straight out of "special education" schools, and are just too retarded to be able to use both their horses and their guns simultaneously. Instead they ride around, then dismount, then shoot, then get back on their horses again. They make good policemen, for exactly the same reasons.
- Light cavalry - good for chasing down cowards running away from a horrible death (on the enemy side of course...).
- Cannons - used to create breaches in enemy fortifications and cause the death of several troops all at the same time. Crews manning the cannon are extremely vulnerable in melee though.
- Militia - the worst type of unit in the game. Good for only preventing radicals from revolting. Horrible in the battlefield - poor aim, slow reload time, easily frightened, and the like.
- Minutemen - Poorly and ill equiped units that lack dicipline which are unmatched for the fearsome redshirts.
- Gundam - Once a Japanese unique unit, plans of the unit were stolen by Rasputin's penis and his Russian spies and were given away to all nations just to make war more cooler because they were getting tired of that gunpowder bullshit. Gundams pretty much consume every one of your spending points, but they can dash towards your enemies and destroy a bunch of English Man-O-Wars with their laser swords.
- Armed Citizenry - OK we lied, militia aren't the worst unit in the game. That honor goes for armed citizenry. These guys aren't recruitable and only appear when a city is being besieged. They are like militia - only ten times worse. These guys are so horrible that they are begging to be used as "cannon fodder" and human shields if used along side any of the previously mentioned units. Avoid using them like the plague on the battlefield. When fighting enemy armed citizenry, show them no mercy as they give the term "soldier" a very bad name. They also don't have uniforms by the way. But if you are forced to use them and you have no other choice, well good luck...
This is a simplified list of the naval units in the game, with a couple of unique units thrown in:
- Three deckers - the biggest and most badass ships available to any faction (except Native Americans of course), these ships are massive floating platforms used to turn enemy ships into Swiss cheese with one or two volleys of cannonfire. Their downside is their lumbering speed and cost.
- Two deckers - the backbone of most navies, ships in this category are the result of a compromise between speed and firepower.
- Single deckers - the smallest of all ship types, vessels in this category are extremely fast and agile but are very fragile compared with higher tiered ships. Naval commanders using these ships must exploit their speed and small size to evade enemy cannon fire while slowly making holes in the hulls of enemy vessels.
- Rocket Ships - the ship that you spam, you're gonna win with. keep them far from the enemy and they would burn the shit, and explode enemy
ships in to the far depths of hell.
- Galleys - A variety of ships built with technology that outdates the Roman Empire. They are mainly powered by rows of rowing rowers, and so can move against the wind as easily as with it. Their primary purpose is to provide practice targets for anything bigger than a lifeboat.
- Steamboats - Flagships of the Disney fleet, they are piloted by none other than Mickey Mouse (going under the pseudonym "Willie", to confuse enemies). They appear late in the game, but still centuries earlier than they should. They use both sails and steam power to get around, making them faster than almost anything else. Their purpose is to make life miserable for all the backwards nations that are still playing Empire Total War instead of getting time machines and magically leaping to the end of the 19th century like the player does.
There are several unique naval units in the game, like the HMS Victory and the USS Constitution. The former is a an overpowered British three decker that can fire faster and harder than any ship in the game as well as take a heck lot of punishment while the latter is an extra ordinary two decker for the US.
The game supposedly started development after the first expansion for Rome: Total War was released back in 2005. For about 5 years, CA attempted to make a game with graphics that are so damn realistic that players can't distinguish them from reality. On October 22, 2007, Empire was made known to the world. In the first official press release, CA's director said that:
Empire: Total War is a huge revolutionary step for the series. We’re delighted to introduce true 3D naval combat, something that adds a totally new dimension to Total War games. We’re genuinely excited about what we’re achieving with the naval battles and also by the scale of the improvements being made to the core of the game – the land battles and the campaign. This will undoubtedly be the biggest and best Total War game we’ve ever made.
— CA's director boasting of how good Empire would be upon release
After the announcement confirming the game's existence, rabid fanboys demanded for more details on the game. SEGA in a large
indoctrination mass marketing campaign of awesome looking videos, screenshots, and boastful interviews promised an AI with the brain of HAL 9000 (making the AI a formidable opponent on land, sea and on the campaign map), talking soldiers with actual moving mouths, slavery, the ability to build colonies, a working family tree, battlefields that are an exact replica of the campaign space two rival armies are standing in, the ability to make a faction declare war on a third party faction, AI generals who have different tactics and unit preferences, military marches being played by soldiers when marching on the battlefield, forts that are all but impenetrable, troops that are different from one another, the ability to capture enemy artillery, realistic and brutal combat (blood, dying and dismembered soldiers), injured moving men, fully destructible battlefields, ships that can ram other ships, multiplayer that includes player leagues and ladders as well as completely new gameplay modes, and a whole lot more promises (promises that could be summed up by the claim that boasted ETW to be the richest and most dynamic PC strategy game of all time) that they didn't initially deliver or didn't deliver anyway because they made the game just to make themselves and their overlords richer and were comforted by the fact that they can quickly deliver patches to fix any problems "found" after release.
The game was the first in the franchise to be a Steamworks only release. The reason for this was to "make multiplayer slick and sizzling, it also frees up a huge chunk of [CA's] time which helps make the whole game better" as well as "to create and fulfill unique pre-order campaigns at retail and online with exclusive content offers such as special units and offering incentives" and to "develop a better product that...can easily [be] extend[ed] with updates and downloadable content post launch". The usage of Steam though was a convenient method of ensuring that returns would be impossible (since games purchased via Steam are permanently tied to the buyer's account) in case the game was actually not up to expectations and people wanted a refund for buying a sub-par product.
Initially the game's publisher, SEGA, knowing that regardless whether or not the game was finished on release it would be a financial success due to the mass propaganda campaign of false promises and pretenses, wanted the game to be released in November 2008. CA though begged the game to be released on February 2009; the deadline was eventually moved to March 2009. A month before the game's deadline of release, it went into beta. When the game's release date was moved, CA said:
The extra development time will allow us to finalize and polish Empire, making it the most accomplished and epic of the Total War series. There is a great deal of anticipation around Empire: Total War and we want to ensure that it is the benchmark for strategy games upon its release.
— CA on what Empire's state would be on release
Just before the game was released to the public, the game's lead AI programmer, Richard Bull, fled from CA. Although CA's director said that he left "to return to his family", rumor has it that he left because he was disgusted on how greedy the company became.
Special Forces Edition and Downloadable Contenteven if the game was unplayable upon release primarily due to their marketing campaign of features that never existed upon release or were not rigorously tested, they wanted to further increase their profits. In a move that smells of "emptying customer's pockets to the bottom after they already been emptied"(so in a desperate bid to empty customers pockets), SEGA or CA (or both) decided to create two retail versions of the game. A "special edition" was made which is $20 more expensive than the normal version. The difference? 6 not so special forces (units), more like special farces. What is much worse is that these 6 units are also available in the normal version - except they can't be played without a special product key exclusive to the "special edition" owners. To top this all up, there are 3 other units which can only be obtained at selected stores. Like the 6 "special edition" units, these 3 units are also in the normal edition be can't be used without a code. Called the "Special Forces" scam, it was such a move that angered many fans; $20 for 6 units which aren't good looking to begin with while modders who work for free can make more than a hundred of far better looking and useful units, who wouldn't feel disgusted if he had a sense of morals? Despite a few suckers who were brainwashed to buy the special edition, CA mostly alienated much of their fanbase. The move in fact forced some fans who wanted all 9 "special" units to create mods that unlocked all the 9 units without product keys. Such mods still exists; a google search for "unlocking special forces units" or the like will produce download links to such mods. Better get them while you still can before the company Black Helicopters shut the links down.... There was an uproar in the fanbase because it was feared that these 9 units won't be available to all legally. CA eventually released them on October 5, 2009 - for the price of $2.49.
On June 22, 2009 the first downloadable content package (DLC) for Empire was released. Called The Elite Units of the West, this pack added "14 new units from all the major Western factions... equipped with the best weapons and having undergone the most rigorous of training..." Units in this DLC were mostly stronger (and more aesthetically pleasing) versions of some generic unit types. One notable new unit are the US Marines, the American equivalent of "Elite Infantry". Although it was dirt cheap, there were still people who complained that this was nothing more than a sad attempt by SEGA to further milk dry its customers wallets or that these units should have been in the game upon its release for free. Once again some underground modders went to work on unlocking these units for free. To make things much worse, this DLC, like the "Special Forces" and pre order units, are actually hidden inside every single copy of the game, which means these units are not as exclusive as they are said to be. People who "buy" these units don't actually purchase the units, they only pay for the "right" (in the form of a legal serial key) to use content that is already in their game. Simply digusting....
The second DLC package for Empire was announced on December 1, 2009 - Elite Units of America, which was released on December 7, 2009. This DLC adds 7 more units each to the British and American roasters (plus one French unit). One notable unit included is an in-game dragoon unit led by Jason Isaacs, a unit called
Tarleton's Tavington's Light Dragoons. This unit was made in order to counter the already overpowered Mel Gibson unit. Some complained that this DLC added too many units to the factions that already had a good enough unit selection.
After more than 9 months of waiting, CA finally released on December 7, 2009 the long awaited beta of the multiplayer campaign, which was given up by some of the fans as nothing more than a rumor or a plan that never materialized. This is basically the game's grand campaign, except that there is more than one person playing the game.
On February 4, 2010, CA announced to still loyal fans the much anticipated Elite Units of the East DLC package. It was released 4 days after the announcement (February 8, 2010). The DLC contained much needed units for the Ottoman and Indian factions, which had underpowered and butt ugly units prior to the said DLC. CA, in keeping with the tradition of including celebrities (both fictional and real) in the game, included a Jean-Luc Picard unit with facial hair for the Ottoman Empire.
In terms of more downloadable content, CA is purported to release more units(they are craving for our money) and the full version of the multiplayer campaign in the future. Fans are now currently craving for an "Elite Units of the North" DLC to add more units to Sweden, Poland, Russia, and Austria as well as an "Elite Units of the Sea" pack to create a little bit more variety to the almost identical naval rosters of all the in-game factions. It's rumored that Captain James T. Kirk will have an appearance in a future DLC pack (although we don't know whether the in-game unit will be based on William Shatner or Chris Pine).
When the game was released, CA's director stated that:
Empire: Total War has exceeded all our expectations. It's one of those rare "great works" that the team will remember with enormous pride for the rest of their lives, and the public will remember as one of the landmark games of the decade. Looking ahead, we're excited about delivering more quality content to Empire via updates and downloadable content and we're looking forward to taking the Total War franchise on to even greater heights.
— CA on Empire upon the game's "release"
Not all however, felt the same thing when they began playing the game. Thus, the game's reception varied from person to person upon its "release."
In its review, GameSpot claimed that "the other reason you'll want to play out most battles in real time is that the real-time AI is
weak and can be exploited to your advantage so realistic that it will drive you nuts when fighting against it" as well as "the AI seems incapable of managing the battle with much success on normal and hard difficulties". IGN felt that the game "deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as the greatest names in gaming history". PC Gamer hailed the game as "the grandest, most spectacular work of strategy gaming on the PC" and "one of the most playable, and therefore important and accomplished, games ever created."
Other critics were not so happy. In his review on the game, Hitler pointed out how fucking dumb the allegedly awesome AI is. He also noted the severely annoying pathfinding in the game. Here is footage of his updated review (post patch 1.6):
A little known gaming site called Crispy Gamer published a rather negative review of the game. The reviewer said that Empire "is one of the most poorly documented games I've ever had the misfortune to try to play", supporting this statement with the fact that "The manual, which should pick up where the tutorial campaign leaves off, is a pathetic CliffsNotes travesty that might as well be a promotional pamphlet. The tooltips are moderately helpful at laying bare some of the game's mechanics, but they shuffle of their own accord between information and flavor text." The AI was, according to the review, " blunderingly stupid, relying on a handful of the same tricks, lots of shuffling and scooching, and long bouts of inaction". The review overall said that the game " is...a terrible mess from start to finish that makes me wonder if developer [CA] has contempt for its fan base and utter disregard for everyone else." This review is notable because it created a sensation on Total War fansites (more on this below).
The game was the cause for a schism in the fanbase. It divided the fanbase into several groups:
- The Fanatical Apologists - these players are guys who either had never played a game that is better than ETW before or became addicted to the game as though it is a drug or better than sex and because of these the Apologists will defend this game to the death. They are also oblivious to its flaws and make absurd claims about features that are working but are not. The most notable of such claims was the rumor of working sea invasions prior to patch 1.2.
- The Lenient - they are having fun with the game but not ignorant of its flaws. They are favorable in what works and are frustrated (but not too much like others...) about the bugs.
- The Cautious - are would be buyers who have delayed their purchase of the game due to the reports of bugs and the like.
- The Despisers - players who hate the game but don't attack anyone who likes the game. Some of these guys are hopeful about the game when it's fully fixed.
- The Extremist Haters - these guys are the polar opposite of fanatical apologists. The mountain of bugs, the mostly positive reviews from trusted critics who were bribed by SEGA, the mass marketing campaign, and belief that CA would actually keep its word to release a near perfect game on release was what drove these guys to into a state of total hatred for the game. These guys felt they were deceived and cheated. They'll hate this game to the death even if future patches will make the game bug free. They'll also hate the game's supporters even if a well constructed review that acknowledges and explores most aspects of the game but is mostly favorable to the game was written (no kidding...).
Special mention goes for the Anti-Steam Union. This group of fans may or may not like the game, but the one thing they agree with is their hatred for Steam. They hate the program basically because: you need an internet connection to play the game the first time around, you need to login online even if you were only going to play offline, it forces you to download patches that may have worsened a game's condition, its "malicious evasive DRM" or acts like malware or spyware, no way to manually activate the game and download the patches outside of the Steam system, Steam needs to be loaded first before you can load the game, even if you set Steam to "offline mode" it will require you to connect to the internet after 3 or 4 weeks, and much more.
A Paradoxical Incident
On June 9, 2009 in the official forum of another game developer that is not related with CA in anyway (we'll call them the Europa Universalis Productions or EU for short), a forum user asked EU the question in a thread:
Will [insert game name here] use Goal-Oriented Action Planning (or a variant thereof)?... [like Empire: Total War, which used the concept to great success].
— Random user on EU official forums
The company's lead game programmer replied:
Sorry, I don't have time to talk about our AI atm, but I was not aware of there being an AI in Empire Total War.
— EU's lead programmer replies to random user
What was initially an apparently harmless question suddenly turned into a faux pas. The day after the above posts were posted in thread, one of CA's employees wrote:
Forgive me if I cut to the chase, It's not particularly sporting (Or accurate) to suggest Empire 'has no AI'. I appreciate I may have misread your remark, but I note several other readers have taken it the same way and in two subsequent posts you haven't bothered to correct them, so I can only assume it was your intention to take a swipe at Empire. If I'm wrong, please do let me know. Otherwise meet me on Hang Man's Hill at midday, the weapon is swords.
— CA employee retaliating to a lie made by EU programmer
The lead programmer further later said:
Just was irritated after paying for the game at release date and basically winning every single battle first try. Then having the AI being unable to build armies that were challenging (even if you had no clue about the game mechanics, which the manual did not explain.) Basically I was able to knock out Denmark in 1 year as Sweden by just marching the troops i had at start to Christiana and Copenhagen. It felt like "build something random, and move armies randomly at weak positions". The AI in eu1 was a bigger challenge and that one could not handle more than 2 targets per country. We've been slaughtered for bad AI in games as well, but I'd expect that if you got a budget over 1M USD you'd be able to have at least 1 guy at AI for a year
— EU's lead programmer replies to CA employee
Finally the CA employee replied to the above statement by stating:
First, thanks for buying Empire. Second, if I may, as we know the fans will have their say and are the last, and most critical line of judgment. Rightly so as they're our customers. So, as a player, we appreciated your feedback and interest in Empire. Hopefully you'll feel more challenged with the upcoming release of the new Multiplayer Campaign beta. I'm sure one of our many AI programmers would be up for a game if you're looking for opposition...
— CA employee's latest reply
The above conversation caused a sensation in the Total War and (to a lesser extent) in the EU communities. A thread about a seemingly harmless question was hijacked, created criticism for both companies acting unprofessionally (EU for openly speaking in derogatory terms about a competitor's offering, and CA for still lying as always), and gave fanbases of both companies some form of internet melodrama. A report of the conversation, called "CA tries to defend 'no AI' Paradox jibe", was deleted on the official forums by forum moderators for no apparent reason. Another version of the report survived here until it was closed by moderators due to infighting and the like.
The "hype" surrounding this incident slowly died down, and apparently the matter regarding it was not pursued any further by the concerned parties.
Once enraged buyers began screaming as though their childhood has been raped ten times over and venting their anger by posting hundreds of SHIT, THIS GAME IS BROKEN, I WANT MY MONEY BACK; FUCK YOU CA, YOU ASSHOLES PISS CUNTS AND SUCK TITS YOU MOTHERFUCKING COCKSUCKERS or your games are rubbish and you are nothing but a bunch of money-grabbing corporate swine, let's all not buy any of your products and we'll try to damage your reputation threads in the official forums, some of them were in for a surprise. Fearing that the truth about the retail version of the game will be revealed and less pockets for SEGA to empty as well as the fact that the developers don't know how to and can't accept harsh (but true) criticism, the forum Gestapo went to work. These users, who are fanatically (and blindly) loyal to CA unto the death, are a group of moderators who would bully anyone who shouts out loud anything negative regarding a Total War game on the official forums by covering up their victims handiwork. If a user shouts negatively a lot, that user will apparently vanish overnight. The truth is far uglier though: these neo-Gestapo abducted these "rebels" and shot them behind closed doors (in internet terms they were banned). This is what happened to several users in the first few days after the game's release. Hundreds of threads were wiped out due to previously mentioned reasons (and perhaps more). Links to Hitler's review emerged and were deleted in the official forums more than a dozen times due to posting copyrighted material is against forum law, which is just of course a cover up because the moderators can't publicly say "this review is unacceptable, it can't be shown to the Gods lest they become depressed and kill themselves"; a "delete on sight" order was made when some users pissed off the Gestapo by posting the video hundreds of times in the forum. A thread about the Führer's official review though survived here though thanks to more liberal moderators. The Crispy Gamer review became notable not only because of its negativity but because nearly all references to it was purged from the official forums for no apparent reason at all. Even a thread mentioning it was destined to disappear, potentially causing the poster to be banned should he complain; in fact the only thread left in the official forums that mentions it is in the forum graveyard. This review wasn't mentioned on the official forums simply because it was unacceptable for CA; a thread dedicated to it survived here. In addition, there are times when these ruthless assholes would make claims that are partly true at most, such as "CA puts in a lot of research to these games". The powers of these neo-Gestapo though don't extend to sites outside of the official forums (although their influence sometimes does), thus the game's true nature came out eventually.
Faced with loads of bug reports CA responded by releasing patches that didn't work well until a closed public beta of patch testing took place. The game's instability, the paper thin "manual", the lack of a strategy guide upon release, some missing advertised features, a lot of clone units and little variety amongst nearly all faction rosters, no multi-core support upon release, very little music, the findings of modders of hidden but half finished features, scenarios, maps, and units as well as some heavily polished but "unplayable" factions and units led to the notion that the game is actually unfinished and is in reality a priced beta software. CA responded to this notion (and more) on April 7, 2009 by stating:
Empire is not, 'unfinished'. The features we intended to include upon release are all there, and we've got a good spread of the things we wanted to include for the project overall.... A number of extra nations where playable at the outset but these choices were later reduced, not for time reasons but for gameplay reasons. When we design a TW game, each faction must be unique enough that it feels different, that it plays its own story). We don't want any faction to feel like a carbon copy of the other.... Empire is a labour of love... We have a large QA team inside CA itself, and an even larger one is used at SEGA. Both of these teams worked very hard.... The game had not been recognized to have critical issues across a variety of platforms. We think it's great now...
— CA first response on the game's problems
The full text of this response can be found here.
An extremist hater's immediate reaction to this could be summed up into:
Apparently CA's definition of "finished" is screwed since they claim finished=half working. You guys removed factions because they don't feel unique? Well tell that to the Mughal faction, which has a unique roster and nice starting position (an empire on the verge of being conquered by its rival); Poland and Sweden on the other hand have rosters almost similar to each other, yet are playable. Empire is a labo
ur of love my ass - how can a labor of love be in such as horrid and incomplete condition??? Now mods made for free like Europa Barbarorum and Stainless Steel - those are works of love... If a "large" QA team existed then why are there so many bugs? CA's fanbase is a hundred times better at finding bugs than the company's fully payed "QA" team. CA do yourselves a favor by firing your so called "QA" team for their apparent incompetence and use us fans as a real QA team. Oh wait, we fans are already part-time QA testers! You guys say it has been tested across more than one platform - evidently in CA's mind 10 computers with similar configurations is already a "variety of platforms"; this game wasn't able to even run smoothly on a quad core upon release! Even now some systems that can play Crysis on max settings with no lag are struggling to even play this game on high settings, let alone ultra. "You think its great now"... we players think is awful right now. Oh well, what was done was done. See you liars in hell!!!
— Haters on CA's response to the game's problems
Of course anyone who has a brain unadulterated by SEGA's propaganda campaign and examines the evidences put forward by those advocating the game wasn't finished will also come to the conclusion it was not finished and is a priced beta.
The CA director responds
In an unexpected move, on October 1, 2009 the head of CA wrote in a blog post:
We were not entirely happy with the state of Empire: Total War when it went out, and are only now getting to a point where we are broadly speaking happy with the game. Our own threshold for how we’d like the game to be is much higher than the commercial threshold required by our publisher. I’m not saying that we didn’t deserve to have a fair number of verbal bricks thrown our way.
— CA's opinion on Empire upon release
This one post caused a sensation in the fanbase. For some it was the long awaited public admission that players should have received back in March 2009. Others felt that it proved that Empire was rushed and SEGA, due to the economic crisis it was facing, forced CA to finish the game in order to gain massive profits quickly for Q1 2009. Most of the buyers who read this felt that CA was worth trusting again. There were those who however felt that this was nothing more than another attempt by CA to lure unsuspecting fans into buying sub-par products again.
The idea that SEGA was the reason for the sub-par quality of ETW was further suggested by another blog post published on November 3, 2009:
We do however also have another customer who we make the game for, and in one particular way they are the most important of all. It’s our publisher, who is driven by the grim necessity of commercial reality. Those necessities tend to be short term compared with the dev time of a game or the lifetime of a series. They are also necessities that we cannot ignore - if we do it’s Game Over. Empire: Total War happened the only way it could - it had to be in a box in Feb 09. Damned stressful for all concerned, but it’s so much a fact of life it’s almost not worth talking about.
— CA's opinion on SEGA
Undeterred by terrorist attacks, a burning of 25,000 copies of their own product, hundreds of negative reviews, and the like CA attempted several months after the game's public release to make via patches, in the word of a hater, "this total failure" into the product their mass marketing campaign presented a long time ago, all thanks to the beta testing (at least) a hundred million innocents who were indoctrinated to buy this the moment it hit stores. To the disgust of fans everywhere, CA announced on October 9, 2009:
Patch 1.5 has just been released. This is the last planned
majorpatch for Empire: Total War, and attempts to sweep up the remaining...issues that for the hardcore gamer take the shine off of the Empire apple. [All the game's issues], I think we’ve finally got sorted out on 1.5. [As of now], I think the game now meets my personal unreasonably high quality threshold - not just good but great.
— CA's director on the announcement on ending support on Empire
According to this, CA implied that it was done with Empire - or that the game was at last finished because the game was already a great game and is what the game should have been during March 2009 as of patch 1.5... for them at least. Fans were disgusted because there were several in-game issues that were still major game breakers, most notably the infamous melee bug.
CA took notice of the discontent in the fanbase on the melee bug, and on April 1, 2010 the last patch for the game was released.
To prevent bad but truthful press (such as this article) from ever harming the company again on its home turf, CA decreed on its new official forums that:
Links to any anti-developer or anti-publisher
(for any developer or publisher)campaigns are not tolerated on these forums. Any such links will be removed and (most probably) the poster of the link banned.... Please be advised that any information uploaded or transmitted by visitors to Sega becomes the property of Sega. Sega reserves the right to... modify... or delete any of this information at any time and for any reason without notice.
— CA trying to prevent dissent on their forums
To justify their actions on abandoning support on ETW, CA wrote in a rather well hidden file that:
The Creative Assembly is under no obligation to provide technical support under the terms of this license, and provides no assurance that any specific errors or discrepancies in the
BetaSoftware will be corrected. Provision of the BetaSoftware is experimental anddoes not create any obligation for The Creative Assembly to continue to develop, support, repair, masturbate, offer for sale or in any other way continue to provide or develop the BetaSoftware.
— CA legally stating that they have no obligation to continue support on Empire whenever they want to
One may ask "is this game worth buying?" Until the awesome total conversion mods are out and the game is finished after the major issues have been fixed by the community (and if you want a working game and an awesome experience that lives up to the hype the game generated), the answer is: NO!!!
Empires: Total War
Ever since ETW was announced, there has been mention of a game called Empires: Total War (Es: TW). Based on the posts in forums all over the web that mentions it, apparently this game is being developed by CA and it's exactly the same as ETW. There has been some speculation as to the true nature of this game. Some claim it was the bug free version of the game that was given only to reliable critics; such a notion is a plausible reason why the game had a huge positive reaction among internet critics. Others claim that it was a misnomer given to ETW by a group of people who just couldn't resist pressing the "S" key directly after the word "empire" when commenting on the game. Still others claim that the term isn't a misnomer but a label that somehow reflective of the game's broken state upon release (broken game=broken game title, get it?).
Empire: Total War - The Warpath Campaign
“It's the perfect time for our avenging our defeats in Medieval II!”
On September 21, 2009 the first "expansion" for ETW was announced. Called The Warpath Campaign, this expansion is based on 5 Native American factions - the Iroquois, Huron, Plains, Pueblo and Cherokee. Although these factions were included in the game upon release, they weren't fully developed and barely had any differences between themselves (the Iroquois feel like the Cherokee near the Great Lakes for example). This expansion promised to fully flesh out these factions by adding Amerindian unique units, buildings, agents, and technologies, thus delivering a whole new experience.
Upon its announcement, some fans acted hostile once again. Having lost faith in CA, they made statements that Warpath was not worth buying or they weren't buying for reasons along the lines of "it is nothing more than a rehash of the Americas campaign in Medieval II", "since the foundation of Warpath, the tribes and their struggle against Europeans, is already in the game why bother with buying the same experience again under the exact circumstances", "Indians aren't interesting enough; give us the American Civil War instead!", "who asked for an expansion pack dedicated to the Native Americans? How many players want to play a what-if scenario wherein the Native Americans defeated the European colonists?", "if I wanted to fight with melee weapons and arrows, I'd play Medieval II again", "CA releases a mini expansion and leave the original ETW a broken mess", "So we are paying $10 for CA to unlock the Native American campaign for us, add a tech tree, and some new units? Did you know that all that can already be done through mods?", "They are making a brand new engine capable of gunpowder, intercontinental trade, and naval battles and then use none of that in an expansion, so what's the point of buying an expansion not utilizing its engine's fullest capacity?", "Not buying it. If it was on a tangible CD, maybe. On Steam? heck no", "another pathetic attempt by CA to milk our wallets dry", and much more. In response to these, CA posted a reason why fans should get interested in the expansion:
In all honesty, my favourite thing about Warpath is that it's like 'old Total War versus new Total War'. You start out with axes, horses and bowmen and you must fight against cannon and musket. It's really great to play the two styles agianst one another, plus the new Native American tech tree and agents make for some interesting tactics.
— CA's reason why to get The Warpath Campaign
According to this, it seems CA wants its buyers to buy Warpath just to experience the clash of ancient technology versus "modern day" technology. Of course the fans have the freedom to choose whether or not to buy the "expansion". Just in case you were wondering, The Warpath Campaign is, like all the so called "downloadable content" released by CA, hidden in every copy of Empire that has been updated to version 1.5 (it's the "natives" folder inside your data\campaigns directory).
Napoleon: Total War
“Finally I can correct my strategic mistakes!”
Despite the fact that more than half of the bugs in ETW haven't been fixed yet and some of the advertised features aren't in the game yet (a bloody good AI for starters) on August 19, 2009, CA had the balls to announce Napoleon: Total War (NTW), the sixth installment in the Total War series. The announcement of a new game enraged many users. Many felt that ETW was being "shelved" and isn't going to receive support anymore, considering that NTW isn't an expansion but a fully fledged stand-alone game. Some are already planning to do a boycott of the game, not wanting others to waste money on a potentially low quality product. A couple of users are even proposing a lawsuit against CA. Meanwhile several game review critics had prepared to issue their official "Must Buy" 98% rating in anticipation of a big bribe from SEGA, a bribe that never materialized.
Empire as the beta for Napoleon theory
The announcement of NTW reinforced the suspicions of some who believed that ETW is in fact a priced beta. The almost exactness of the two games, the relatively early announcement of NTW, and the buggy and incomplete state of ETW upon release only strengthened this idea. Before August 19, 2009, one glaring problem for the "ETW is priced beta" theory was this: ETW is beta for what? Now with NTW revealed to the world, these theorists say that ETW was CA's way knowing the problems of the Warscape engine (the ETW game engine). With them knowing what are the problems with the engine, CA would fix them and re-brand ETW as a whole new game, one with less bugs and more complete, a game called Napoleon: Total War. Once people know how superior NTW is to ETW, the fans will call CA "gods" or "heroes" for redeeming themselves by resolving all the major issues in ETW, thus increasing sales for NTW and giving SEGA and CA more money. In short, according to all this, ETW is in fact the beta for NTW.
One fan even made an analogy that was along the lines of "NTW will be to ETW what Windows 7 is to Windows Vista."
Although SEGA this time around didn't apparently bribed anyone, the game was received positively by both fans and critics alike. Even Hitler himself was pleased with the final product:
It seemed that the conspiracy theorists were right in a way - the faith of most of CA's fans has been restored because of NTW.
Unless you consider the idea the only people who still bought Napoleon were the ones without a problem with Empire or CA in the first place.
Future Total Wars
- Hitler: Total War - Kim Il: Total War - Obama: Total War - Stalin: Total War - Chuck Norris: Total War - Batman: Total War - Bobby Kotick: Total War - France: Total Surrender
- Official Site
- A prejudiced conference site and its latest incarnation
- A more liberal fanboy site but has some neo-Gestapo influence
- A most liberal large scale fan site