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Napoleon: Total War (Preview) – PC

Napoleon: Total War (Preview) – PC

The Creative Assembly have been producing historically accurate Real Time based War games for many years now and they have gathered a huge following. We were shown some of the upcoming Napoleon: Total War game in a recent press event and it is shaping up to be possibly the best game in the franchise to date.

As always players can select any country and play through each campaign however Napoleon also puts a focus on France’s famous emperor. There is a tutorial which follows his childhood in Corsica and then his training as a military commander and even Total War veterans (like myself) will enjoy this section. After this the gamers are presented with three campaigns in successive order, Italian, Egyptian and European theaters – all of which have individual game play styles and objectives. Interestingly it will be possible to change history by having Napoleon perform different actions in campaigns.

Napoleon also introduces a new ‘two week’ turn period which brings a few changes to the game mechanic. The action flows much faster and smoother and the tax levied against your map zones is smaller so you can save money for extra army recruitment and other things. Negatively it takes longer to create armies and construct buildings so if you are in a tricky situation with a lack of forces or need to repair a city it can be rather tense.

This new shorter time period has a side affect with enemy forces as well – in our limited testing time we found that paying attention to supply lines/depots is critical as it can result in moral drop and possible death of units if cut off. Interestingly seasonal changes also have an impact as winter based storms can affect troops, with them even freezing to death if you aren’t careful. This means you are not only using your troops positions and skills to your advantage but if you are far sighted enough you can actually use the weather to your advantage also.

Napoleon: Total War gives access to forty historically accurate generals and all of these leaders have specific ratings and abilities that they can use to effect their forces. This time around however the developer have implemented a ‘once dead, dead forever’ system into play, so if you lose your general, he can not be brought back. If this happens then your forces will lose a lot of moral and a replacement general takes some time to create. You have to recruit a general and then send him back out in the midst of battle – never before has a general been so important to the success of a Total War game. The same principle applies however to enemy forces, if you are fortunate enough to kill an enemy general then their morale will weakness and their forces will be easier to defeat.

Generals can inspire their troops to fight better and can rally routed units and the range of influence is dictated to by their rank with a four star general having a huge area of influence on his troops. Its a balancing act ensuring your general is close enough to the combat to remain an influencing factor but also tending to his well being and never putting him in the line of direct conflict.

Spies play an integral part in tipping the scales in your favour as they can perform assassinations and gather information but can also destroy various equipment. Other tactics come into play, such as creating forces to cause disruption within enemy cities and even turning enemy forces to your side.

We were shown the famous Battle of Austerlitz and the Russian forces were firing shells from their Unicorn cannons which actually deformed the terrain, slowing down the progress of enemy troops and when it hit with troops they would lose moral and sometimes flee from their ranks.

This has always been one of the strong points with Total War – the plethora of strategic options at hand and there is now even more depth on the battlefields – over three hundred and fifty different unit types for instance. This time the naval forces can repair themselves on the oceans which can add a different aspect to the tactics – no longer is it pointless breaking positions to send a damaged ship to the rear as you can protect it while the crew repair various parts of it.

Napoleon also features a completely recoded artificial intelligence algorithm based on the 1.5 Empire: Total War patched AI. While I certainly find the computer AI capable enough the developers are keen to point out that some players still don’t find the computer a challenging enough opponent so they have a system now in place to allow the game to hunt out another human to take controls of the enemy army.

The graphics have also received attention with a new physics and lighting engine in place which makes it even better looking than Empire: Total War – which was very impressive. The individual units have been spruced up too with more variations on the models to make sure than an army of infantry don’t all have the same exact appearance. It would be great to see a DX11 version of this title with instancing in place.

Napoleon: Total War is due for release early next year and this is one game a strategy fan should not miss, it is shaping up to be one of the best games in 2010.

About Author

Stuart Davidson

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