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Empire: Total War


Empire: Total War

Empire: Total War
Empire: Total War box art
Empire: Total War's British artwork. Regional variations show respective nations' colours and uniforms.
Developer(s) The Creative Assembly
Feral Interactive (Mac OS X)[1]
Publisher(s) Sega
Feral Interactive (Mac OS X)
Distributor(s) Sega (retail)
Steam (online)
Designer(s) James Russell
Composer(s) Richard Beddow
Series Total War
Engine Warscape[2]
Platform(s) Microsoft Windows
Mac OS X
Release date(s) Microsoft Windows
  • NA 3 March 2009
  • PAL 4 March 2009

13 September 2012

Genre(s) Turn-based strategy
Real-time tactics
Mode(s) Single-player, multiplayer
Distribution Download, DVD

Empire: Total War is a turn-based strategy and real-time tactics computer game developed by The Creative Assembly and published by Sega. The fifth installment in the Total War series, the game was released in North America on 3 March 2009, and in the rest of the world the following day. The game, which focuses on the early modern period of the 18th century, was announced at the Leipzig Games Convention in August 2007. The Mac OS X version of the game was released by Feral Interactive on 13 September 2012.[1]

Following a similar style of interface and play to earlier Total War titles, players choose a contemporary 18th century faction and set out to ensure that faction's domination over the known world through military force, diplomacy, espionage and economics. Although the campaign element of the game is turn-based, players can direct battles in real-time. Empire: Total War is the first game in the series to allow naval battles to be conducted in real-time. In addition to the standard campaign mode, the game includes a special campaign that follows the development of the United States from the settlement of Jamestown to the American War of Independence. Players may also engage in recreations of several historical battles from the early modern era such as the Battle of Fontenoy, Battle of Rossbach, Battle of Brandywine Creek and Battle of Lagos.

Reviewers gave Empire: Total War a positive response upon release; several critics commended it as one of the foremost strategy titles of recent times. Praise was bestowed upon the extensive strategy breadth, accurate historical challenges and visual effects. The real-time land battles, with a far greater focus on gunpowder weaponry than earlier Total War titles, were thought to be successfully implemented. Criticisms focused on shortcomings with the game's artificial intelligence and on the real-time naval battles, the latter of which were perceived to be difficult to control and co-ordinate. The game was a commercial success, topping sales charts within the week of release; nevertheless, several Creative Assembly employees later commented on issues caused by a perceived early release.


Empire: Total War is focused on exploration, economics, politics, religion, the founding of colonies and, ultimately, conquest. The game is set in the early modern period, spanning from 1700 until the end of the 18th century[3] allowing players to lead a variety of contemporary nations to dominate Europe, the Middle East, India, North America and the Caribbean, along with maritime trade theaters including the South American coast, the Gulf of Guinea, the Mozambique Channel and the East Indies.[4] The player will use both complex strategies on the campaign map as well as command military forces in battles on both land and sea. As with previous Total War games, Empire: Total War consists of two broad areas of gameplay: a turn-based geopolitical campaign that allows the user to move armies and navies across the globe, conduct diplomacy, trade, espionage, and the internal politics of their nation, and other tasks needed to run their nation, as well as a real-time battle mode that enables players to direct the course of any battles that take place.

Empire: Total War features approximately fifty 18th-century factions; however, only eleven of the most powerful and influential factions of the era are playable. In western Europe, the main factions are Great Britain, France, the United Provinces, Spain and Sweden, while central and eastern Europe are represented by Prussia, Austria, Russia and Poland–Lithuania. In the Balkans and Middle East, the Ottoman Empire is depicted as a dominating faction for Islam, while the Maratha Confederacy and Mughal Empire are the major powers on the Indian subcontinent.[5] The New World colonies of the major powers are represented as protectorates of their respective home nations. The establishment of key nations during the era, such as Revolutionary France and the United States, and the fall of native states to the larger empires is reflected in the game, though given player involvement any of these major events may be averted.[6][7] Smaller factions, including the less powerful German and Italian states, Native American tribes and North African countries are also represented. Each faction varies in territory, strengths and specialities.[6]

A story-driven campaign mode entitled "Road to Independence" is also included in Empire: Total War, where the player guides the British colonisation of America in three structured chapters.[8] The first chapter sees the player establish and develop the English colony of Jamestown, the second focuses on the British fighting both the French and their allied Native American nations in the French and Indian War, whilst the third portion has the player directing the American Continental Army against the British in the War of Independence. This campaign is goal-oriented and strictly historical in nature, and additionally functions as an active learning experience, where players may learn, in each chapter: firstly, to manage and defend regional economies, secondly, to form alliances and to capture and hold territories and exploit their resources on increasingly large scales, and finally, to use all of the player's acquired skills to survive and achieve victory in a total war against a superior opponent. Completion of "Road to Independence" unlocks the newly formed United States for use in a shorter, later version of the full campaign.[9]


The main campaign of Empire: Total War involves a player choosing a faction and moving to forge a global empire during the 18th century. Each faction controls various historical provinces, each with a regional capital, and a number of other settlements ranging from minor villages to prosperous sea ports (as long as they are coastal territories). The player can recruit armies and navies to take and defend provinces by military means, or adopt diplomacy and politics to make advances in the game. In addition, players can use economics and religion to their advantage, as well as clandestine means such as espionage and assassination.[7] The campaign mode is turn-based, with each turn representing six months starting in summer or winter, allowing the player to attend to all needs of their faction before ending their turn and allowing the artificial intelligence to make all other factions' moves.[10]

The campaign mode features a similar approach to those in Rome: Total War and Medieval II: Total War, but includes several enhancements. The game features three main theatres of play: Europe (which also includes North Africa and the Middle East), the Americas, and the Indian subcontinent, as well as four minor trade theatres: the East Indies, the Ivory Coast, the Straits of Madagascar and Brazil. The way provinces work has been decentralised; although a central settlement is still used, other locations within a province can deal with trade and technology, allowing factions to disrupt a province's productivity without assaulting the main settlement.[10] Diplomacy, taxation, and trade have been streamlined with the aim of reducing the need for micromanagement. Part of this streamlining involves allowing the player to appoint ministers to form a cabinet or court to govern the nation. Previous Total War games required the player to promote governors for each major city, whose qualifications would affect only the government of that city, whereas in Empire ministers' qualifications affect the government of all the player's cities, modified in each individual case by the size of the metropolitan administration, reflecting the shift to modern nation-statehood from premodern city-statehood.[11][12] The wandering scholars, spies, emissaries and assassins used in previous titles to deal with the diplomatic, trade and espionage aspects of the game have been replaced with just three units: gentlemen, rakes, and missionaries. The former handle research and can challenge other characters to a duel to dispose of them honourably (thus eliminating the diplomatic risk of being implicated in an assassination plot), while rakes perform clandestine tasks such as spying, assassination, and sabotage. Missionaries serve to convert the populace of regions to the state religion of the nation deploying them, which reduces religious unrest and softens cultural unrest.[13] Isomorphic units also exist for certain nations - namely, Ottomans, Persians, and other near eastern nations replace rakes with Hashashin, while Indian nations use Thugees for the same purposes, and all nations south and east of the Ottoman Empire use Eastern Scholars instead of gentlemen (these are not completely isomorphic, however, because they cannot duel), and a variety of isomorphic religious leaders exist, such as Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant missionaries, Imams, and Brahmin. The way armies are produced also differs: in addition to being produced by settlements and then moved to generals by the player, generals can now also build their armies directly by recruiting from nearby settlements.[10] Players can now research technologies along a technology tree, leading to advances and new discoveries in areas such as infrastructure, politics, agriculture or the military.[6]

Changes in government may occur during the campaign as the rise of republicanism over the traditional rule by monarchy becomes an issue in the early modern time period.[7] For instance, the United States may only come into existence if the ruling British Empire is unable to maintain social order. In addition, nations with highly unpopular governments and a history of workers' strikes, riots, or popular demands for change may experience revolutions similar to the French Revolution. When the middle or upper classes become similarly disenchanted with a current government, a civil war or revolt may occur.[6] Factions will also have a varying number of objectives such as establishing successful colonies, trade routes and dominance in certain regions as victory conditions.[14] Rebellions and revolutions may occur, and are influenced by the form of government in place. When a revolution occurs, the player can opt to side with the rebellious forces or the loyalist troops. The type of government installed by the player in their faction will determine how other factions view the player and will influence their diplomatic relations. While religion no longer plays a central role as in Medieval II: Total War, it is still important in helping bring under control newly captured regions and in defining to some degree diplomatic relations between nations.[6]


The second major area of gameplay is the battle and or fighting system. Unlike the campaign part of the game, players control battles in real-time. As with all titles in the series after Shogun: Total War, battles in Empire: Total War can take place on both land and water. However, Empire is the first Total War title to allow naval battles as well as land-based engagements to be fought in real-time; previously, when a naval battle was fought it would be automatically resolved by the game's artificial intelligence, taking into account factors such as number of ships and crew, and armament types to decide the victor. Automatic resolution of battles during a campaign is an option for both land and sea battles. Outside the main campaign mode, players can participate in recreations of historical battles in the 18th century and early 19th century.[15]

In land engagements, players are given access to an 18th-century army consisting of a variety of units, such as cavalry, musketeers, riflemen and artillery. Each unit has its own intrinsic advantages, disadvantages, cost, and overall level of effectiveness. Players must use 18th-century tactics and formations with the units they have available to defeat their enemies. The terrain of the battlefield and the weather also impact on how a battle is fought.[16] Factions can lay siege to settlements, replacing open land battles with street fighting and close-quarters combat. Each unit has morale, which can increase if the battle goes well for their faction, or decrease in cases such as heavy casualties, loss of regimental colours, being under artillery bombardment or the death of the general. Tactical situations such as attacking from a flank or a rear, or depriving a unit of allied reinforcements would also cause the morale of the unit to drop dramatically. When a unit's morale is sufficiently depleted, it will be routed and attempt to flee the battlefield. Depending on whether the unit's morale is merely broken or entirely shattered, the player may be able to rally the men in the unit and regroup. Victory in battle is achieved by causing every enemy unit to rout, or by killing or capturing the opposing army. In addition, siege battles can be won if the attacker manages to take control of the settlement's central square for a set amount of time. Empire: Total War also introduces several new battlefield elements to the Total War series. Units can take cover behind walls or in buildings, allowing increased interactivity with the terrain and making some buildings points of strategic interest.[10] Field defences may be set up in real-time on the battlefield, to adjust for given situations. Infantry units can also scale small obstacles in the field, such as walls and fences. Weapons based on gunpowder are prone to accidents and can misfire. Each unit has different capabilities like Square Formation, Wedge, Diamond, Equip bayonets, or Fire at will.

In naval battles, players can control a fleet of up to twenty ships, varying in class, size, armament and crew. As in land-based conflicts, players must make use of 18th century tactics to overcome enemy fleets. As with army units, each ship's crew has a set amount of morale that changes as a battle progresses; a crew may attempt to withdraw their vessel from the battle if their morale is broken, or in extreme cases may surrender without further enemy action. A battle is won when all of the hostile ships have been sunk or captured or have left the map.[17] Individual ships can be adjusted to allow for a maximum field of fire while attempting to maintain a minimised target, all whilst remaining within an overall formation with the rest of the fleet. Players can designate which parts of a hostile ship they want a crew to target, making ships prone to sustaining authentic damage during a battle: masts can be toppled, sails and gun ports can be destroyed and various other damage can entirely disable a ship's ability to manoeuvre or eventually sink it.[10] Various types of ammunition can be used during a battle, such as grapeshot, chain-shot and round shot, which have different uses, from killing enemy crew to disabling enemy movement. As battles progress, crews can attempt to board enemy vessels and fight hand-to-hand in an attempt to capture the ship.[17] Lastly, the weather in a naval battle can impact how it is fought; bad weather can result in effects from poor visibility to endangering a ship's safety.[17] Ships cannot be repaired in mid-battle unlike its successor, Napoleon: Total War but fires on board ships can be put out.


Multiplayer comes in two forms in Empire: Total War. As with previous Total War titles, players can engage in real-time battles against each other either by creating the composition of their armies themselves, or reenacting historical battles. However, following a one-month delay of Empire: Total War in January 2009, the addition of a full campaign multiplayer mode was unveiled. The technology to create a multiplayer campaign game was not available in previous Total War games, and the extended development time allowed The Creative Assembly to implement the underlying technology for such a mode in Empire: Total War. The campaign multiplayer mode was first tested in a two-player beta build which was released on 7 December 2009.[18] However Total war has taken out the campaign multiplayer on Empire Total War. Though the campaign multiplayer can be fully used in Napoleon Total war and Shogun 2 Total war.


Empire: Total War was announced by The Creative Assembly and publisher Sega at the Leipzig Games Convention on 22 August 2007.[20] In their press release, The Creative Assembly outlined various features in the game, such as the new game engine and the addition of real-time naval combat. However, while the game had been in the planning stages since the release of Rome: Total War,[21] it was still in early development; no gameplay footage was demonstrated at the convention.[3] The game was announced alongside The Creative Assembly's console title Viking: Battle for Asgard.[22] Media releases over the subsequent months showed screenshots of the game and elaborated more on Empire: Total War's game mechanics. The game's trailer, consisting of computer-generated cut scene footage, was released 10 July 2008.[23] A playable demonstration of the game's naval combat was showcased at the E3 convention later in July 2008, where it was estimated that the game would ship in 2009.[17] The land combat was demonstrated at the later 2008 Leipzig Game Convention in August 2008.[24] At the convention, The Creative Assembly announced that the game was out of the alpha development phase, and that they were aiming for a release date of 6 February 2009.[25]

On 28 October 2008, it was announced that the game would be released on Valve Corporation's content delivery system Steam on the official release date of 6 February; the game requires Steam to install and run for both retail and electronic versions and is integrated into Valve's Steamworks programme to allow updates and multiplayer to function more efficiently.[26] The game's release was delayed in December 2008 to allow for the development of extended multiplayer features,[18] with a new release date for March 2009.[27][28] A demonstration of the game, featuring the Battle of Brandywine and the Battle of Lagos, was released over Steam on 20 February 2009.[29] The game was released on 3 March 2009.[30] Since release, Empire: Total War has been subject to updates delivered through the Steam system,[31] aimed at optimising performance and removing any bugs remaining in the game.[21]

James Russell, the lead designer on the project, stated in an interview that the 18th century was chosen as the setting as "it's a fabulously colourful period... the 18th century is the great age of fighting sail, and it's the obvious arena in which to set our spectacular new sea battles." Russell also stated that the dynamic and far-reaching changes of the era, from political revolutions such as the French Revolution, economic revolutions such as the Industrial Revolution to military revolutions such as the widespread use of gunpowder, gave the "opportunity to develop some really interesting new features and gameplay dynamics that make for a lot of variation".[7] Motion capture animation was used extensively to make characters seem more lifelike. For increased authenticity, research was conducted into 18th century aspects such as duels, although designers also observed the choreography of actors in related films and TV series, such as Sharpe.[32]

Empire: Total War ships with nine different versions of box art, eight of which represent the major faction for the market the game is sold in, and one general international version. For instance, German customers are presented artwork displaying colours with the Prussian eagle and Prussian army uniforms, whilst the American artwork shows the American revolutionaries and the Betsy Ross flag.[33] A special edition version of Empire: Total War entitled Special Forces incorporates six elite faction-specific units: HMS Victory, the French Irish Brigade, Spanish guerillas, Gurkha infantry, Rogers' Rangers and the Ottoman Ribauldequin.[34] Additionally, three retailers were provided with a special unit for customers to receive; customers were given the Dahomey Amazons, buyers from Best Buy were able to receive the USS Constitution and customers buying from Game received the Death's Head Hussars.[35][36] A further 14 units were added with the objective of increasing graphical and unit variety among the factions.[37] These 14 units were released as part of the game's 1.3 patch in June 2009; accompanying the update was a second set of 14 units, released as downloadable content for purchase.[38]


Empire: Total War was released on 3 March 2009 to the North American market, and three days later in Europe. The game has become the fastest selling Total War title to date; Empire topped British video game sales charts for all platforms in the week of release, the first PC exclusive title to do so in a year and a half.[39][40][41] The game was reported to have sold nearly double the number of Rome: Total War and Medieval II: Total War.[42] In the United States, Empire: Total War and its Special Forces edition were ranked as first and second respectively in the PC sales charts for the week of release.[43] The game's Australian version debuted as the top PC game; across all platforms Empire: Total War was ranked fourth, behind Halo Wars, Wii Fit and Killzone 2.[44] Sega reported the game sold 810 thousand units worldwide during their last fiscal year period of 2008.[45] However, consumer response was hampered by technical problems arising from incompatibility with certain Nvidia drivers released after the game's development was completed and reports of installation problems with the Steam content delivery system.[46] In an interview with IGN, Studio Communications Manager Kieran Brigden discussed the problems inherent in developing such a huge and ambitious game, saying: "Are there some issues with Empire? Yes there are." As part of its post-release support, he said that The Creative Assembly is planning on addressing issues with stability and performance, as well as adding improvements for gameplay and artificial intelligence.[21]

Mike Simpson, The Creative Assembly's studio director, started a blog in October 2009, in a deliberate attempt to engage with the game's user community and counter some of the negative reaction which the game had received. He explained The Creative Assembly "were not entirely happy with the state of Empire: Total War when it went out", but felt the Metacritic user rating of 67 percent was unfair, stating that his reason for blogging was a concern that the negative ratings could even damage the amount of money available for developing future games.[47] In later posts he described the February 2009 release date as "commercial reality",[48] and explained why they had hit significant problems with the game's AI close to release. Simpson describes the campaign AI as "by far the most complex code edifice I’ve ever seen in a game", and said that they had reached a tipping point where consideration of too many factors led to an AI which "disagrees with itself chronically and often ends up paralysed by indecision".[49] It was only after patch 1.5—six months after the original release—that Simpson felt comfortable sending it to friends of his, having previously been too embarrassed about the flaws.[49] With regard to the battle AI, Simpson said that the lead battle AI programmer had left to return to his family just before the end of the project. The battle AI at that stage struggled to beat good players even with an obvious level of handicapping, and it had taken some time for other programmers to understand three years' worth of code; progress had been "frustratingly slow" as they strived for a game where real world tactics would work.[50]


In September 2009, an expansion titled The Warpath Campaign was announced for release the following month, as was the next game in the series, Napoleon: Total War. The campaign, released as downloadable content, focuses on the battles of the Europeans and Native Americans throughout most of North and Central America. The new campaign expands the North American territories and features 5 new playable factions: Iroquois, Cherokee, Huron, Pueblo and Plains Nations. New researchable technologies were also added, along with the new scout and shaman agents and new faction specific objectives.[51][52] Napoleon: Total War, released February 2010, focuses on the life of Napoleon Bonaparte, building upon the technology used for Empire: Total War. Napoleon was released as a standalone game rather than an expansion for a number of reasons, mostly to do with technical limitations; according to Mike Simpson "the level of detail required to successfully depict the Napoleonic Wars is an order of magnitude greater than we were working to with Empire: Total War".[53] Empire and Napoleon Total War Collection - Game of the Year was then released on 1 October 2010 joining both games together, including all of the available downloadable content.


Empire: Total War was recipient to a strong critical response within the video game industry, holding aggregate review scores of 88 percent and 90 percent on GameRankings and Metacritic respectively.[54][55] Reviewers praised the large scope of the game's strategy map, PC Gamer UK noted that the game "takes a great deal of its design philosophy from the events and trends of its era", which enabled the game to reasonably reflect the challenges faced by the factions' historical counterparts.[56] Praise was also given to the extensive number of factions, down to very small factions such as the Knights of St. John and a renegade pirate settlement.[56] Kieron Gillen, reviewing for Eurogamer, described the campaign map as "endless" and due to the large amount of content, observed that he had managed to complete the entire campaign without even visiting the Indian theatre of play (approximately a full one fourth of the playable game world); a factor that enhanced the game's replayability.[57] Other reviews echoed this sentiment; GameSpot stated that "even a short, 50-year campaign can take a good amount of time to complete, given that each turn requires strategic thinking on multiple fronts".[58] Praise was further bestowed on the refined interface, introduction of a technology tree and level of strategic thinking required for the campaign map.[59][60][56] However, some reviewers noted inconsistent behaviour with the campaign artificial intelligence; noted that it could perform illogical choices, such as "the occasional suicidal war between Dagestan and Russia",[59] while GamePro was critical of the artificial intelligence in a number of areas, including the inability to mount a naval invasion or utilise effective strategies on the campaign map.[61]

The real-time land battles in Empire were considered well constructed. Expressing that The Creative Assembly had effectively implemented what it had learned since Shogun: Total War, GameSpy described the addition of personal firearms and friendly fire as something that "changes the tactical nature of the game much as it did in real life", and noting that the player controls and enemy AI were "competent".[60] IGN felt that the real-time aspects captured "the cinematic brilliance of it all without ever falling back on obvious exaggerations or pretenses" and that the controls, specifically in relation to unit formation, were much improved.[62] GameSpot put the real-time land battles as "enjoyable to command and enjoyable to watch", particularly commending the amount of detail in each model and animation for every soldier, points carried in several other reviews.[62][63][56] However, GameSpot thought that the artificial intelligence could appear "confused" in some circumstances,[58] and the Game Informer "second opinion" review said that "the enemy AI falls apart from time to time".[64] In addition, Eurogamer felt that units' pathfinding abilities in fort sieges were insufficient,[57] and Game Informer also criticised pathfinding around obstacles.[64]

Naval combat was subject to more criticism than land battles. PC Format described the visuals in a naval battle as "incredible", but stated that the controls were "frustrating; genuine naval tactics fast disappear out of the window as [the player] struggles to bring [their] navy’s cannons to bear on the enemy".[63] PC Gamer UK reciprocated this view, but noted that naval strategy was a "deeply difficult task" for a developer, and that "The Creative Assembly have done the best that their game template would allow".[56] IGN praised the graphical quality of the naval battles and stated that "trying to line ships up correctly, making the most of the wind and choosing targets appropriately is very rewarding", but that "the formations and pathfinding leave a lot to be desired".[62] GameSpot commented that "the AI seems incapable of managing [a naval battle] with much success".[58]

Despite criticisms, most reviews were ultimately favourable to Empire: Total War. While IGN felt that the game "drags a bit and there are some small, rough edges in the tactical battles", the game still "deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as the greatest names in gaming history".[62] finished by saying "For all its problems, it's undoubtedly progress",[59] while Eurogamer felt that issues "limit [the game] to being merely one of the games of the year," but implied that a post-release patch could deal with these flaws.[57] GameSpot summarised that the game was "complex and rewarding" and GameSpy praised the game for "the simplified interface elements, great campaign, and much-improved map and information screens [that] make this the most accessible Total War yet, and a great place for those unfamiliar with the series to get started".[60] Crispy Gamer, while acclaiming the game "spectacular" and "lovingly historical", criticised the documentation and concluded that the game falls apart due to its bad AI.[65] The Game Informer reviewers criticised the AI, but still described the overall game experience as "fantastic" and "outstanding".[64] GamePro provided a dissenting opinion; although describing Empire: Total War as a game with a potential that "with some extra tweaking, could have proven itself an excellent title", noted that it "has a heap of problems that need resolving" with bugs and crashes.[61] PC Gamer UK enthusiastically proclaimed the game as "one of the most playable, important and accomplished games ever created".[56]

The downloadable content The Warpath Campaign was criticised by Strategy Informer for not integrating into the original campaign and for only adding a few new units. Concerns were also voiced about the difficulty curve, though the reviewer felt the DLC provided players a challenge by playing as the technologically backward Native Americans against the European interlopers.[51] Games Radar praised the focus on stealth and new tactics, and was complimentary about the low price of the DLC, but was critical of the campaign's historical accuracy.[52]


External links

  • Special Forces Edition official webpage
  • Blog official website
  • The Creative Assembly official website

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