Napoleon Bonaparte is recognised as one of the great strategic generals of history, and after playing Napoleon: Total War, you begin to understand why.
In the latest chapter of the Total War series, The Creative Assembly continues its process of revolution and evolution. In this case, it’s taking the new engine from Empire and evolving it as far as possible.
This shows graphically in a new particle system (which looks fantastic) and new animations, like riders being shot off horses, leaving the now terrified beasts running riderless from battle. Also new is the ability to deform and scar terrain with your artillery blasts, leaving large craters in the battlefield that will slow and demoralise any troops that traverse them.
The units have all been redone and revised for the new time period, with over 355 brand new units; that’s more than the total number of units in Empire at launch.
While the basic premise will be familiar to players of the previous Total War games, Napoleon has some refreshing and interesting changes to the gameplay.
On the battlefield, generals are now even more important than ever. Surrounded by an area of influence (as shown by a blue ring), they give a combat bonus to any nearby units. Generals can still rally any troops in their radius, but can also pay special attention to select units.
Napoleon: Total War actually consists of three full campaigns that cover Napoleon's rise from artillery officer to Emperor of France, spanning from Italy, to Egypt and Europe. You can also play as other nations in the Campaign of the Coalition against Napoleon’s France.
One of the tactics that made Napoleon so successful was the fast pace at which he waged war. To reflect this, the turns in the campaign map have been reduced from the traditional six months, to a mere two weeks. This means that armies move shorter distances, and revenue and supplies are generated much slower, resulting in many more tactical considerations for a player to take into account. It also means you can see the seasons pass as the weeks roll by on the campaign map.
By dedicating a campaign map to each region, The Creative Assembly has been able to recreate the nuances and tactical advantages of each region in even deeper detail. For instance, an army left in the Alps during winter literally risks freezing to death.
Generals are now a limited commodity and must be requisitioned from the Military Academy in France. They can take weeks to arrive on the battlefield and, once killed, are gone forever.
Napoleon himself is the exception to the rule, however. Should he fall in battle, he’s rushed to hospital in France. If this happens, your army will have to fight on without his legendary presence on the battlefield for the remainder of the campaign.
The other side of the coin is that it is now a very viable tactic to attempt assassinations on your enemies’ generals. If you can eliminate their leaders, enemy armies will be severely weakened.
Jason Isaacs (Lucius Malfoy from the Harry Potter films) did all the voice acting for the officers. He’ll give you good and bad advice based on the intel available at the time. The enemy AI is also bound by the same rules, so hiding an ambush force in the forest is now an effective manoeuvre.
There will be a multiplayer campaign for Napoleon at launch, along with the option for players to have human opponents ‘step in’ and command the enemy armies during their campaign battles.
We were given a tech demo of a couple of battles, and then let loose on the Battle of Lodi, and while the result was not as conclusive as Napoleon’s original triumph, it left me hungry for more.