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Game Review: Empire Total War

Updated on May 13, 2014

Empire Total War was released by Sega in 2009 on behalf of the developer The Creative Assembly. Known by simply "Empire" it, like all Total War games, lets you pick a self controlled faction in the historical period depicted. In this case, the early to late imperial age (1600s-1800). You can choose and play your nation in three theatres, including North America, India, and Europe/North Africa/Middle East. This is also the first time that players can fight naval battles, its fitting that this should come up during the age of sail and the age of piracy.

Gameplay- Strategic

The strategic map of Empire is by far the largest of the total war series. It expands the entire continent of Europe, North Africa, the Middle East, the sub continent of India, and North America (east of the great plains and includes a part of South America). Besides that you can set up trade routes on the east and west coasts of Africa, Indonesia, and South America.

With the largest map in the series you have to know where to start. It is important to mention that the buildings are not always found in cities anymore. Some are built in towns around your regions. Buildings here can include Industry, schools, or ports.

Its too varied to go by nations, so you should just think of four principles:

-build Economic

-build Growth

-Build Science and Culture

-Build whatever

The reason to build Economic and Growth first is to get your economy going, to support great conctruction projects, massive armies, and vast fleets.

The science and Culture buildings include observatories, church schools and colleges. the former can be found in large cities. These will help you expand your technologic prowress, keep your people happy, and convert the population to your faith.

By build whatever, I mean its your choice. Not every city needs the most advanced war buildings, spending money on these are wasteful. Instead, pick regions to be your primary recruitment hubs. These regions should be devoted to building the best of the best while every other region should build the basic cannon fodder. Try placing them just behind the front lines or with easy access to a shipyard.

Another thing you must consider is the more advanced AI in Empire. If you choose to go to war with someone, double check alliances. Obviously, if you're playing as Sweden and want to invade Denmark, it might not be a good idea. If the Danes are allied with, say France, it might be safe as French troops are far away from your homeland. On the otherhand, if they ally themselves with Russia, you could be looking at a tough war on two fronts.

Finally, the last thing to consider is trade. Sending fleets with trade ships to the various trade regions on the map can make you plenty of income. Try to send them in as soon as possible to get a foothold and reinforce them later. Just be sure to send a strong military fleet to each area first, pirates may be waiting.

My favorite thing here is the chance to rewrite history. I'm of Swedish decent and am fond of taking the Kingdom of Sweden and turning it into the Swedish Empire. I start off by fighting the Danes or Russia. I'll also send a fleet with a small army to the Americas to take a region from Native Nations or pirates. By the time I control a few regions in the New World, my warmachine is in full swing, conquering the northern and eastern edges of the Old...

Gameplay- Tactical

Unlike previous Total War games, Empire revolves around a new form of warfare. It involves mass volleys of musket fire. When you compare this to the spearmen and infantry of Medieval or Rome it should be obvious, there's little contact between you and your enemies.

Your best option is to get your soldiers on line with overlapping fields of fire, this ensures the enemy can't make it too you safely. Your cannons should be placed behind these lines to attack valuable targets as they approach. Finally, place any cavalry behind the wings of your army, to the far left and right. Their job is the hammer incase the enemy charges and they can flank the enemy and take out any artillery while providing protection to your mens vulnerable flanks.

I love the way these battles are. They can be tricky at times compared to other Total War games, and can be faster pace but that's something I love. The only thing I think its missing is Urban Warfare. When you attack a city, you fight in the outskirts or at a fort. I wish they could have made it so you could march your army through the streets of boston. I can understand that it would be complicated, building that many unique cities, but it would have been epic.

Gameplay- Naval Tactics

One of the most interesting parts of the game is the new ability to fight out naval battles. The ships of Empire range from small galleys to massive 1st rate Ships of the Line and Man'o'Wars. This can be complicated because wind speed and direction, strategy, and luck play a large role. The main thing here is to try and get the wind on your side and pick a goal. You have two of them: sink your enemy or take them.

The first goal is pretty staight forward, you want them to die. The first thing you should use is chainshot. This targets the sails of a ship and slows them down, increasing your accuracy. After that place your ships to concentate your fire on some enemies. You may inadvernently capture some that surrender but thats alright.

If you want to capture the ships, you can add them to your fleet or sell them for cold cash. Just as the previous strategy, you'll go after their sails first. You can continue to do this as a ship with no sails will surrender. A second way to accomplish it is to go in with grape shot to lower the number of enemy crewmen and board them.

As for tactics, you have parallel lines, crossing the T, and man to man.

Parallel lines places your fleet meeting the enemy ships and sailing past their broadsides. While this places you in danger, it also focuses damage onto one side of the enemy ship.

Crossing the T is making a right angle with the enemy and firing with a full broadside at the front or rear of their ship. Your entire fleet should be on line and continue firing as you pass. This is mainly effective in taking out the sails with chainshot because the bow and stern of the ship dont have damage values, so it doesnt concentrate fire on anything.

The final technique is man to man. Here you take your ships and send them to fight the enemy one on one. My advice here is send your largest ship against their smallest. You'll quickly win the engagement and can then redirect your flagship to its enemy counterpart. Meanwhile their second smallest ship is being engaged by two of yours. This compounds as you move along. That ship goes down and the next one is engaged by three. Then you can take those four and engage the largest ships in a group.

The last thing I can say is stay away from burning ships. This is how luck can effect the course of the battle. Burning ships can explode at any time and will take out any ship nearby it. Imagine winning the fight and having a ship explode right next to your largest ship of the line, sinking it, its beyond frustrating.

Now, what is there to say about this? For one it is far superior to the ships used in Shogun 2 Total War, is addicting, is a great way to make money for your nation, and is the only way killing your enemy can replenish your forces. My only wish would be unique ships like Queen Annes Revenge. You could spend your days looking for the most infamous ship in the seas and when you find it, you must out wit the worlds greatest captain and take the ship from him. It would also force you to push for naval supremacy, something I never do.


The game itselph uses a different game engine from Rome or Medieval and has slightly better graphics. The part that impresses me the most is the details of the ships and water. It's only a small part of the game because the majority of strategy gamers look at content over graphics anyways. With that being said, I'll leave this one alone.


Well, this is part 1 of 2 of Empire. I'll be including its expansion Napoleon as a seperate article.

Overall, I score the is a 4.5 out of 5. Is amazing replayability, map, cities, and AI are a huge improvement over the previous Total War games. My only wish would be able to have more unique units, rather than a dozen versions of Line Infantry, and more of an emphasis on piracy in the Caribbean.

Cast your vote for Empire: Total War

Is the Napoleon: Total War expansion a good follow up to Empire?

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