Why did I play this?Why did I play this?

Posted on Dec 13th 2013 at 07:08:09 PM by (SirPsycho)
Posted under Total War, empire, napoleon, sega, creative assembly

Empire: Total War

We have not ventured out of Europe in quite some time, so with Empire the idea was focused on the Eurocentric days of colonialism and early imperialism. Outside of Spain, England, and France most main campaign countries have little outside of Europe and the Near East. Empire is nothing if not ambitious.

The game differs in the previous fare by greatly enlarging the sheer scope of the entire game. You can conquer everything from the Rocky Mountains to the far Eastern edge of India. But there is still plenty of war to be had in all of these theaters.

Thankfully, The Creative Assembly not only put the campaign of the Americas and India but also factions native to this area. Well, you can play as the Maratha in their early years before they displaced the Mughals in India.Native American tribes are added to the game through the game's DLC expansion, The Warpath. This adds playable Iroquois, Cherokee, Huron, Pueblo, and Plains nations on a smaller map focused on North America.

Some changes occur on the campaign map in this release. Villages dot the countryside, and more are built as prosperity increases and time passes. These villages are specialized. Coastal villages can be turned into ports, inland villages can become farms or take advantage of local or imported resources for industry. Schools can be used for research.

Now let's talk about some major gameplay changes that this entry to the series brought to the fray. First and foremost is the introduction of personally controlled naval battles. Before Empire all naval battles could only be auto-resolved, now you can take control of your ship-of-the-lines, sloops, galleys, and other cannon based ships to victory against other nations.

A research tree is added to the game too. Any faction which controls a school is allowed to use it to research their way up the tech tree. Each school can focus on one technology until they're all gone, which takes a long time.

As a result of these changes there were tweaks to the agent system as well. One of the most useful is the Gentleman.

Gentlemen can quite politely duel other Gentlemen to the death, with fairly foppish wigs, frilly clothes, and inaccurate pistoles indeed. They are best used by garrisoning them inside a school to increase your research points, or decrease research time is another way of putting it.

Rakes are hybrid spies and assassins. You can use them as everything spies used to do, as well as sabotage and assassinate leaders. These names change based upon factions, so Muslim factions refer to Rakes as Hashashin, while the Marathans call them Thugee.

Missionaries are the game's religious unit. For Christian kings these can take one of three forms, Catholic, Orthodox, or the quite new and wildly spreading ideal, Protestants. Muslims still use the Imam while the Marathans use the Brahmin.

Gameplay is changed quite incredibly, as the focus is still primarily on the tactics of the military battles. Now; instead of like Shogun and both Medieval games where gunpowder is a late game, expensive, and still unexplored deployment of soldiers, gunpowder units are available from the start and special care must be placed on any melee units. Still, Native Warriors and Pikemen can be worth it in the early game, pikes especially to push back cavalry. Native Warriors are quite fast and powerful in ambushes against gunpowder units, making them worth the investment in the Americas. Also, instead of more long term siege equipment like catapults, battering rams, and burrowing sappers you now have plenty of cannons at your disposal to blast walls and gates down quite quickly.

While it seems like Empire is a great game while describing its changes, setting, and what it adds to the fore of Total War seems appealing at face value and based on my explanations it has many problems. The game released with all kinds of technical issues, and many remain unresolved to this day (mods are the best fixes). It remains quite unoptimized, and runs at 25-40 fps on my PC at the campaign map, let alone battles. Because of many of the bugfixes this is one of the only games in the series where DarthMod is recommended above all others. Richard Beddow was the composer for Empire: Total War, breaking Jeff van Dyck's winning streak.

The game was quite simply rushed. While almost every Total War launch has been horrid and unbelievably bad the games usually end up in playable states by the time the final patch hits. While Empire is playable it is debatable about whether it is enjoyable. One of the reasons it was rushed is due to it having a brand new engine, Warscape, which is still the engine in use in the latest release. While Sega purchased The Creative Assembly after Rome was finished the bad management and forced rushed development cycle was not felt until Empire. Empire could have been so much more, but it was not meant to be.

Napoleon: Total War

I'm not entirely sure what there is to say about Napoleon. In terms of timeline it is the most recent Total War game, taking place in the early 19th Century and following the campaigns of the namesake, Napoleon Bonaparte.

Napoleon feels like what Empire should have been, but this game only focuses on the European theater from Spain and North Africa all the way to Russia and Persia. Much of what I warned about at the end of the Empire review has been fixed and/or polished for Napoleon. Outside of hardcore Empire fans most of the Total War fanbase will agree that Napoleon is the better of these two installments, even if it is not one of their favorites.

One of the main complaints about Napoleon is that it feels more like an expansion pack that was released at full retail. Pretty much everything remains the same at face value in Napoleon compared to Empire.

Napoleon allows you to follow the leader's campaigns from his early years to his reign as Emperor of France in a series of smaller, mini campaigns. There's not much to be said about Napoleon that hasn't been already been mentioned above in the Empire review.

Next time: We return to the Land of the Rising Sun and travel far to the West to conquer in the name of Roma once more.

Posted on Dec 2nd 2013 at 12:02:58 AM by (SirPsycho)
Posted under Rome has conquered, rome, medieval ii, medieval 2, total war, war dogs, war pigs

A war of all against all.

A new era was beginning. Finally, average PCs were becoming strong enough to allow hundreds of 3D models to be displayed on a single screen. They may not be as high resolution as a game that only displays a few dozen, but it was possible to do without much lag. The Creative Assembly took advantage of this and created a brand new engine to power its newest and most ambitious game in their flagship Total War series. This new game turned back the clock from Medieval, but kept the geography in Europe.

Mille viae ducunt homines per saecula Romam. A thousand roads lead men forever to Rome. This was especially true of the third game in the Total War franchise: Rome: Total War which released in September of 2004.

Rome is a seminal game not only in the series, but for the entire umbrella genre of strategy games, changing the entire dynamic of future games to be less of advancements from Shogun or Medieval, to using Rome as its benchmark.

Everything is in 3D, gone is the flat 2D styled campaign map, and in comes a fully 3D realized map with mountains, rivers, fords, plains, forests, roads, hills, beaches, ports, cliffs, deserts, and more.

The unit roster is much larger, and most factions are truly unique. There are 3 Roman factions that are all identical with technology, but many other factions exist that are unlockable. Some notable units include Carthaginian, Seleucid, and Parthian elephants. Some factions also include chariots, such as Pontus, The Seleucid Empire, Ptolomaic Egypt, and the Britons.

Overall there is just a much larger unit variety, and maps are much larger to allow for even bigger armies than the first two games could possibly allow!

The Pope is essentially replaced by Senatus Populusque Romanus, SPQR, the Senate and People of Rome. Many Total War fans just know them as Scumbag Senate. The focus on religion is completely gone from this game, which is rather sensible in comparison with Medieval, where Catholicism, Orthodoxy, and Islam all collided to form easy excuses to go to war and ostracize an unruly king. This allows the game to focus more fully on war!

Agents have been fairly simplified for this game. There are only 3 available to all factions, spies, diplomats, and assassins. Diplomats have had the most additions though, with many new options to give diplomacy a much larger role in the game. However, AI factions tend to be pretty dumb when it comes to handling diplomacy.

Trade agreements are the most lucrative, as you can make money off of them, they're most useful with your surrounding neighbors, as overseas trade is a long process to get running.

Fog of war becomes a big factor in the game too, with provinces being large and the player no longer able to just magically see not only their entire province, but have information on the surrounding ones, it helps to build some infrastructure like watchtowers and forts to see and block choke points.

If its not apparent this game is seen as one of the greatest strategy games of all time not just because of its options, but its growth compared to its predecessors. Rome: Total War is what all sequels strive to be, and few attain, great advancement and growth in comparison to its preceding games.

Rome: Total War was not the first to receive support from the modding community, but its legacy is so long lasting that mods still trickle out for this game nearly a decade after its initial release. Some of the most beloved ones include Europa Barbarorum, Rome: Total Realism (not really realistic), and DarthMod.

Rome: Total War received not one, but two expansions. The first one, Barbarian Invasion, continues the tradition of some random place being invaded by outside forces. This takes place after the Roman Empire had been split into an Eastern and Western Empire. The player can choose to try and keep their empire intact while holding off the invasions of the 5th Century and look to expand their lands once they've been dealt with! Or you can play as some of the various invaders, such as the Franks, Goths, Huns, and others vying to expand their lands and place their foothold into the rich Roman world.

The 2nd expansion; Rome: Total War Alexander, is a recreation of the conquests of the legendary Macedonian king Alexander III. You get to control the living myth while he marches into Asia Minor and onto Achaemenid Persia to found many cities in his name and create the greatest empire in history to that point in time. It is a short campaign meant to challenge the player in a sort of blitzkreig of antiquity. How much can you conquer between Greece and India in 100 turns?

Medieval II: Total War

Medieval II marked the first time that a setting had been revisted with an updated engine. The base of the game is built on the code of Rome, and the map is nearly identical, focusing on the later Christian and Muslim Kingdoms of Europe.

Crusades return and are just as annoying as in the first one. The Pope will always declare one when you're too small and poor to do anything about it. Scumbag Pope. Unlike the first Medieval this one goes late enough to allow for the discovery of the New World, and some weird movements by the AI have even lead to things such as the Aztecs colonizing Ireland.

As with the first Medieval there is a large emphasis on religion, with the vanilla game giving a few major religions to influence and change each faction's overall strategy. There are Catholic, Orthodox, and Muslim factions, but there are still pockets of paganism in parts of Eastern Europe around the Baltic and Prussia at this point in time.

A few graphical changes allowed Medieval II to be the most cinematic in the series upon its release. Individual troops in the same unit will have different colored clothes, different designs on their shields, some might have beards while others do not, etc. Jeff van Dyck returns to lead the musical efforts of both Rome and Medieval II.

A couple of agents have been added from Rome, the only brand new one being the merchant. The merchant is able to post himself on a trade resource and generate money, he's also able to buy out other merchants but could be bought out himself. The Princess returns from the first Medieval, and can be used to broker an alliance or as a free diplomat in the early game. Priests and Imams convert a province to their respective religion, and can level up by prosecuting heretics who pop up in provinces with heretical thinking.

Medieval received one expansion, and it was a big one! Four smaller campaigns were added in Medieval II: Total War Kingdoms, these smaller campaigns are the British Isles in the 13th century, the Crusades during 12th century, the Teutonic crusades in the 13th century, and the Spanish conquest of central America and the southern United States in the 15th century.

As a result of all the changes and the stability of the game after Kingdoms released, Medieval II has become the golden child of mods for the entire series still to this date. Some of the most notable ones include the direct Middle Earth conversion Third Age: Total War, the historical fiction of The Last Kingdom, Stainless Steel, the ever popular DarthMod, and Roma Surrectum, a remake of Rome: Total War using Medieval II's changes.

Next time: We colonize the Americas and India!

Posted on Nov 23rd 2013 at 10:04:35 PM by (SirPsycho)
Posted under Total War, shogun total war, medieval total war, total war, shogun, medieval, sengoku jidai, sengoku, middle ages, picts, kilts, aw

Part 1: The Board Games

Shogun: Total War

Have you ever wanted to play something that was a unique creation based on turn based strategy ideas pioneered by series like Civilization, Master of Orion, Fire Emblem, Liberty or Death, and countless other classics? What if it had a system to allow real time strategy fans to enjoy like Age of Empires on an even more epic scale?

Well my friends, you need some Total War in your life.

The first game in the series was developed by The Creative Assembly and published by Electronic Arts. Prior to this endeavor The Creative Assembly was known for porting sports games to various PC systems, such as porting Amiga games to DOS. Their history with EA goes back to the early 1990's, where they began porting FIFA games to DOS systems. EA allowed them to expand their porting efforts into full blown developed titles such as a couple of Rugby World Cup games, 1999's Cricket World Cup, and Australian Football League games.

In the late 90's work began on an entirely different project, this one being a mishmash of turn based and real time strategy set in Japan in the middle of the 16th century.

Shogun: Total War released for PC in June 2000 to critical acclaim. The game allows battles where over 1,000 sprites appear onscreen at one time. Many people in the PC market had been moving to 3D Accelerated cards by this time, but the sheer number of objects onscreen was a technical achievement for the day.

On top of the battles involving the real armies the game offered a plethora of other options to deal with opposing forces. You could use a spy to gather information on them, an emissary can forge alliances and create ciesefires, Portuguese Jesuits act as emissaries while also converting populations from Buddhism to Catholicism, ninja act as basic assassins, and shinobi are more powerful spies, geisha are legendary assassins who rarely fail.

The battles declare that proper tactics and deployments are used to inflict maximum damage on your enemies. Sun Tzu's philosophy in The Art of War was highly integral to Japanese tactics, and knowing the basics will help you win. Or you can just outmuscle with numbers, but you can take heavy losses and win a Phyrric victory, or lose and bring dishonor to your clan. Will you commit seppuku to regain your honor?

The campaign map is set up much like a game of Risk mixed with Diplomacy. Armies can move from one province to another no matter how large their first province is. At the start of each game the player can pick a time period to begin, with the earlier ones having the major clans holding fewer lands, and the later ones starting with larger holdings.

Shogun received an expansion pack based on the Mongol invasions of Kublai Khan. The game doesn't change much but just adds another campaign to play. However, the Mongol invasions occurred about 300 years before the main campaign, and the technology and units are mostly the same. Despite being budgeted and treated as a B-Title Shogun: Total War sold rather well, enough to warrant a sequel at least.

Medieval: Total War

The sequel to Shogun is much larger in scale, has many more factions each with unique units instead of bonuses to units everybody can get, and focuses so much more on the religious politics that it is a much more satisfying gaming experience than Shogun. That said, the gameplay engine is largely the same. Battle graphics and UI is unchanged, the campaign map is in the same board game style. Medieval was the first game to include seige battles, something that would become a mainstay for the entire series. There's just so much more to the game that it makes for a breathtaking advancement, the proper evolution of a sequel! It released in August of 2002 to even more critical fanfare and higher sales than Shogun. The Creative Assembly had moved away from Electronic Arts and as a result, Medieval: Total War was published by Activision (nowadays that's like courting the axis of evil, wait until Sega enters the ring!)

This game did start a meme among the fans of the series though, and that meme is the rule that the Pope is a massive dillhole. He'll excommunicate you for some stupid reason and then forget about it if you just give him some money, wait for your king to die, or kill him. Being excommunicated was the best time for expanding, because who cares about the Pope?

Medieval also gives some more immersive and strategic choices. You get the ability to assign a governor to your newly conquered province, if you're interested I have a few hints. In highly economic provinces use a guy with high acumen, in a province with naturally low public order or with a different majority religion, use a guy with high dread, and always use somebody with high loyalty. These random provincial governors never die though. You could be 200 years into the campaign, with the Mongols invading, and that guy you made governor in turn two is still alive. It was nice for something to do, but it wasn't fully realized.

Medieval continued the tradition of having an expansion that was based on an invasion. This time it was the Viking Invasion, as the Mongol invasion was included as part of the base game. The Viking Invasion takes place during the petty kingdoms period of the history of the British Isles, even letting you control a personal favorite of mine, the Picts! Those sneaky bastards resisted the Romans and invented the kilt! Many modern differences between the Gaels of Ireland and Scots can be traced to the independently minded Picts.

I personally believe that the music in Medieval is the most immersive and beautiful of the series. It really feels like it belongs to the period in question, and is completely non-intrusive, using sound effects such as the chirping of birds to break up the songs so they do not feel monotonous. The Muslim factions even have a different overall score than the Christian ones. Jeff van Dyck was the composer of the soundtracks for both of The Board Games.

Next time we see Total War make the jump to full 3D!

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