Napoleon: Total War Review

In the world of RTS and turn-based games, the Total War series has always dabbled in both genres, offering a deeper and more complex strategy title to series purists. The newest entry in the franchise, Napoleon: Total War, a companion to Empire: Total War, decides to focus on Napoleon Bonaparte, a military figure who hasn’t received his fair share of the spotlight in the videogame arena. Developer The Creative Assembly has crafted a surprisingly historically accurate game that places you in the shoes of the ruthless and brilliant general, allowing you to follow his career or take control of his opponents to try to defeat him, making for a game that is both fun and informative for history fans.

If you’re not familiar with the Total War franchise, the games focus on recreating famous historical battles and re-imagining specific historical eras, placing you in command of a nation’s armies. They use on a combination of turn-based empire building, a la Civilization, and real-time battles. Napoleon: Total War (NTW from here on) doesn’t stray far from this formula, though there are enough changes here to warrant it as an addition to your strategy game library.

Battles can become pretty hectic and intense

One of the first changes you’ll notice is in the main campaign. Here, you take control of France and Napoleon, following him as he invaded Italy, Egypt, and Russia. Each event is a linear campaign that charges you with achieving a single goal in order to progress. The maps here are usually smaller and more focused, channeling you towards your main objective. You’re going to be traveling from point A to point B, with no real variation or ability to branch out and conquer all territories or manage your towns. While this may be a turnoff to some, I appreciated the opportunity to tackle a story-based campaign and have a more directed game experience. I love slowly dominating the world, but I also enjoyed being able to follow an era I am not too familiar with.

If a linear empire building game is not your bag, The Creative Assembly has your back. You can choose to take on Napoleon if you wish in the Grand Campaign, which consists of The Coalition, four nations that opposed Napoleon. Here you are presented with a larger map and are tasked with controlling a certain amount of territories in order to win. This mode keeps the empire building spirit in tact, allowing for a more open-world experience. You’ll also be responsible for upkeeping your towns and researching technology. You can go about your objectives any way you wish, without a turn limit,and use diplomacy, espionage, or all-out war to to carry out your campaign. The Grand Campaign soaked up the most of my time and grabbed me just like the Civilization series did. The “just one more turn” mentality was present and just like Civilization, I was addicted to NTW‘s Grand Campaign. Slowly taking over territories while expanding my own empire and crushing my opponents was incredibly fun and I lost track of time more than once playing this mode.

The last single-player component is the Napoleon’s Battles mode. Here you can jump straight into combat scenarios that feature Napoleon’s most famous battles. These are pure RTS battles that showcase the massive scale of the conflicts, both on the ground and sea. While the combat in NTW can be incredibly rewarding and strategically deep, I had issues with the confusing interface that kept me from truly enjoying these battles.

The Total War franchise focuses on massive battles that use real-world tactics as their basis. You’ll be controlling large armies and multiple battalions as you conquer your enemies, so you will need a system that easily helps you track and control them. NTW gets the keeping track part right, but controlling them becomes a chore. Pathfinding is not up to snuff and armies will either take a longer route or stop when they encounter an obstacle. There are numerous confusing buttons and icons on the interface that can quickly overwhelm you. The interface for city building is also needlessly complicated, with necessary structures buried under menus and buttons. Enemy AI doesn’t impress, either. Enemies will charge at you no matter the odds, and on the world map, enemy armies will march back and forth with no purpose. Smaller armies will also attack your vastly superior ones on the map, which is not really fun or challenging.

Overseeing the invasion

Yet, if you can get past these issues, NTW offers a lot for strategy fans, especially the multiplayer. Multiplayer plays a big part in all the modes. During your single-player campaigns, you can choose to have human opponents drop in to control the opposing army. You can play campaigns cooperatively as well, but it doesn’t allow for more than two people. All battle types are available online, and the game sports voice chat through Steam. Your online accolades are also recorded and you can choose to decorate a Uniform that you receive. This is one of the coolest multiplayer features unique to this game. Having a tangible uniform of sorts for your accolades is great and I hope other games implement this feature.

Visually, the game is impressive. The graphics engine renders all of your units individually and looks great both from afar or zoomed in on the action. Smoke emits from muskets as they fire and cannonballs ricochet off the ground, leaving craters where they land. Each unit looks great and doesn’t feature mute textures or carbon copied features from the soldiers flanking them. Environmental effects are also rendered nicely and even effect gameplay. Rain will cause rifles to backfire, and snow will slow down your armies and make them exhausted. Naval battles are beautiful as well. Zoom in close and you’ll see crew running across the ship, manning cannons and hoisting sails. Cannon fire and grapeshot throw crew off the ship and tear down masts. It’s a grand, visual experience that communicates a sense of real war. The campaign overworld add to this with a war room feel, printed on old world maps. Scroll to the end of the map and you’ll see it end with the faint sign of a table underneath. It’s very cool and makes you feel like you are moving pieces on a game board or sitting in your own war room.

Napoleon: Total War is a wonderful companion to the series and a great stand-alone game. The grand battles and deep strategy will keep fans busy for months and the multiplayer allows for intense combat though all of the game modes. A confusing interface and some occasional AI issues mar an otherwise enjoyable, tactical experience.


  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Myspace
  • Google Buzz
  • Reddit
  • Stumnleupon
  • Delicious
  • Digg
  • Technorati
Author: Matt Erazo View all posts by

Leave A Response

You must be logged in to post a comment.