|Genre: Strategy & War|
|Min OS X: 10.7|
|Empire: Total War Gold Edition|
February 25, 2013 | Steven Marx
Mac OS X: 10.7.4 |†CPU: 2 GHz Intel | RAM: 4 GB | HD Space: 15 GB | Graphics:†256 MB, (ATI): Radeon 2400 XT; (NVidia): GeForce 8600M GT; (Intel): Intel HD Graphics
Mac gamers (and if youíre reading this presumably youíre one of them) rejoiced when Rome: Total War (R:TW) made its way to our platform. Though it was six years late (not atypical) it was the Gold Edition meaning it included the Barbarian Expansion pack. While we missed out on the first two games in the series, this was seemingly a sign of the improved state of Mac gaming. Alas none of the earlier games in the series made it to the Mac, nor did Medieval II, making R:TW look like something of a one-off. However, that all changed late last year when Empire: Total War (E:TW) appeared on the Mac, brought to us with a conversion by Feral Interactive (yet again) by way of publisher Sega and developer Creative Assembly. And this time the wait was only three years! With its blend of turn-based strategy and real-time battles, the Total War series offers something for almost everyone. And E:TW expands on earlier titles by adding naval battles, more independent regional administration and more. But enough details in the introduction, letís get to the full review.
Empire: Total War, as you might expect, mostly covers the century of empire building from 1700 to 1799. And while you have the option to just fight individual battles if thatís your sort of thing, the main focus of the game is on the Grand Campaign. As has become typical with games late-arriving on the Mac, in addition to the main game you get the Warpath expansion, allowing you to play as Native Americans. There is also a Road to Independence campaign which, as you may have guessed, covers the rise of an independent United States from Jamestown, through the French & Indian War, and on to the Revolutionary War itself. This campaign also functions nicely as a tutorial since the individual chapters (as the scenarios within the campaign are called) gradually increase in complexity.
Within the Grand Campaign you have the option of playing as a whole host of countries, from the great powers of the time such as England, France and Spain to smaller and farther flung countries such as the Mughal empire in South Asia. Each campaign has several options related to goals and length, but in general your job is to control a certain number of total territories by the end, with some specific areas you are also required to control. To do this you will use your turns to build buildings, recruit and move armies and navies, research technology, send spies and ambassadors to other regions, and negotiate with allies and enemies to try and achieve your goals. And when youíre done with your turn, all the other countries in the game, whether run by humans in multi-play or by the computer AI, will do the same. Computer controlled countries will tend to act in ways similar to their historical counterparts, but because humans are involved also, donít expect to necessarily be refighting famous wars or battles from this period. All of these options should keep even the wonkiest turn-based strategy fan satisfied.
ďBut what about the battles?Ē, I hear you war-gamers cry. Well, when it comes time and youíre ready to capture some territory you couldnít negotiate your way into, youíll march your army into or near it and be met by the opposing army. When this happens, or when an enemy comes upon you during their turn, youíll be moved into the battle section of the game. Before battle begins you have several options. If you are attacking a city, you might have the option of besieging it instead of an all-out assault. This will take several turns, the amount depending on the cityís defenses and army, but will generally result in fewer losses. Also during this time the enemy might be reinforced if you donít guard the approaches. You might also have the option to withdraw before battle even begins; be warned though, if you do the enemy is likely to pursue you and from my experience do even more damage to a retreating army than if you stood and fought.
Assuming you do the stand and fight thing, you will be taken to the battle map where you will have a chance to deploy your forces. During the turn-based component of the game you will be recruiting armies made up of a variety of historically accurate forces, from local militias to pikemen, to various types of artillery, cavalry and professional soldiers. If you have him turned on, your military adviser will give you sometimes useful advice during this deployment phase. One tricky thing is that you are not shown where the enemy is coming from, so you canít just take your forcesí initial facing at (ahem) face value. You need to pay attention to the situation you were marching into, terrain, buildings and more when deploying your forces. When youíre done you click the End Deployment button and battle begins.
To take away some of the pain of not knowing where the enemy is during deployment, they rarely appear right on top of you, giving you some time to redeploy as necessary. You have options for grouping elements of your arming, giving them quick march orders, and various other battle commands. As stated before, this element of the game takes place in real time, so while you are adjusting your troops, the enemy is doing the same.
While battle is occurring you might get reinforcements. This will have been shown on the screen before the Deployment phase; you get a breakdown of your army and reinforcements and the enemyís army and reinforcements. Each army can have up to twenty units; after that you have to make a new army. If you have additional armies close enough, they will arrive during the battle as reinforcements, arriving in the accurate location of the battle based on where they were located before battle began.
Battles are not necessarily fought until the last man dies; in fact this is usually not the case unless you decide to make it so. Units can be in several different moral states from just fine, to wavering to completely broken and fleeing the battle. This state can change as a result of battle results, time, being far enough away from the enemy and having a general nearby. It is important for you to keep an eye on the condition of your units (provided in a bar at the bottom of the screen and more generally on the condition of the flag of each unit) and attempt to withdraw wavering units or reinforce them with those in better shape as the battle plays out. If you are victorious in breaking the enemy army, you will be given the option of ending the battle or continuing to chase the enemy down and eliminate them. This obviously has the advantage of leaving fewer enemy troops after the battle at the cost of time and possibly casualties if the enemy regains their fighting spirit. Once the battle ends, you get an after action report and are taken back to the main screen where if you won the remaining enemy will slink off while you will stay in place or move into a town if that is what you were battling for.