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More E3 Previews and Total War

July 22nd, 2008 by Troy Goodfellow · 9 Comments · Creative Assembly, E3

Dragon Age: Origins
Empire: Total War
Velvet Assassin
Dungeon Hero

Of these four, I am, naturally, most excited about Empire: Total War. Now I am perfectly ready for this game to not be great, but from the fifteen minute demo I saw last week I can’t imagine Empire being anything less than very good. The good news is that the new engine is properly adapted to the new era. Melee stuff will still be there, of course, in charging cavalry and bayonet combat. But by using a new physics engine to track projectiles, Creative Assembly has shown a total commitment to gunpowder warfare.

They were disturbingly silent about the campaign. Around 50 factions but only a dozen playable? How long before that gets unlocked by modders? The size of the map – Indies to Americas – could pose problems, as well, if they keep the province control mechanism that has been present in every Total War game so far. With a map that large, how big will the territories will be?

There will be research to unlock new weapons and tactics but no word on how this will work, especially when compared across, say, the Native Americans or Ottomans or Indians.

But a new engine is always refreshing. This looks to be the same kind of splash of cold water that Rome was for the franchise. Creative Assembly said they would have more info at the Leipzig gaming convention later this year.

So if someone wants to send me to Germany…


9 Comments so far ↓

  • Morkilus

    I enjoyed your articles, Troy. Empire: TW might be my first foray into that particular era of wargames; hopefully it’s a good representation.

  • Bill Abner

    Empire looked disgustingly good…for an E3 demo with limited gameplay.

    I Heart Creative Assembly, though.

  • Troy

    Me, too. I need to temper my enthusiasm with some professional detachment, but I can’t pretend to approach their games with anything less than glee.

  • Gunner

    Love the blog Troy, read it daily.

    I find myself unable to get excited over TW games. I’m a long time strategy gamer and adore the concept of strategic map plus historical tactical battles.

    Problem comes down to the AI though, on both levels. Both the strategic and tactical computer opponents are so brain dead it makes it very hard to enjoy the games. Hopefully this will improve in Empire, but the only thing journalists are interested in reporting on seems to be the “ooh shiny!” factor.

    Where am I going wrong?

  • Troy

    You’re not necessarily going wrong, the games just may not be your cup of tea.

    Your points on the AI are, for the most part, correct. In Rome, the AI generals would run straight into death and in Medieval 2, there was an annoying glitch where, on the strategic map, the computer would build nothing but catapults and crossbows. That said, the AI is a little better in the Kingdoms expansion.

    For me, the appeal of the Total War series isn’t competing against the AI as much as competing against my own sense of story and ambition – building an empire before the whole thing falls apart. This was especially difficult in Rome because they modeled squalor in a really annoying way. (People complain about this, but it was really no worse than a ton of crap we had to put up with in Civ II. Stupid Senate.)

    No strategy game has really good AI – you just notice it more in complex stuff like Total War or Europa Universalis or Civ because there is so much going on that a good player can see the wizard behind the curtain. For some people, this ruins their immersion. In the Total War games this can come from alliances breaking for seemingly no reason, smaller empires picking on larger ones or an inability to really manage siege warfare without a 5:1 advantage.

    But I’ll admit to liking the shiny in Rome and Empire. These are “video” games, after all, and I love the idea of seeing things that I’ve not seen before. The Total War games can be good real time wargames, especially in multiplayer battles, and provide a captivating midcore strategy experience for a lot of people.

    Yes, it looks pretty. But I think there is a lot of other good stuff too. Still, if they make me shuffle diplomats from Boston to Bombay I will be very annoyed.

  • James Allen

    Q1 2009? Bah, that’s why I don’t do previews…I want it now!
    I kinda like the Total War series of games; I did a review of Medieval 2 and did not approve. Of course, I am an EU fanboy.

  • James Allen

    Oh, and two more things I’d like to mention: did you see City of Abandoned Ships (I LOVED Sea Dogs..same dev/pub I think) and Microsoft getting rid of Games for Windows LIVE (always with the screaming capital letters) Gold membership fees and revamping the interface. You’d think that would be, you know, something to announce at some..sort..of..gaming…convention.

  • Troy

    I’m an EU fanboy, too, but my palate is big enough for all kinds of strategy games – RTSes, Total War cinematics, hex and counter wargames. And I’ve had a weakness for the Total War games ever since Shogun, which has not aged well at all.

    No sign of Abandoned Ships at the Akella booth.

    And don’t get me started on the pointlessness of the press conferences. I didn’t even bother going.

  • Robert

    For a game series that, as Troy mentions, is decidedly “midcore”, the micromanagement in the more recent releases is really burdensome.

    A large part of me wishes that they would go to a more abstracted, faster-moving set of systems. a Things such as EU-style monolithic provinces, instant or turn-delayed diplomatic actions, and more global taxation and improved unit production/reinforcement features would be really welcome.

    The real meat of the game was managing army compositions and planning offensives and then carrying them out in the real time battles. That’s the kernel of goodness in TW, but I know that after about 25 provinces in M2:TW that goodness was swamped by huge amounts of agent and city micromanagement. In my last playthrough of the game using the retrofit mod, finishing off the last 10 provinces literally bordered on painful.