|System: PC||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Creative Assembly||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: SEGA||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: March 3, 2009||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-8||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Teen||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
The addition of real-time naval battles is in some ways one of the most visually impressive changes found in Empire: Total War. Ship-to-ship battles are amazingly gorgeous to watch and fun to play, even if they are among the game's most awkward encounters to control. For quick encounters, the auto-resolve feature is sometimes useful to skip battles where you have a clear advantage in size and power, but skipping out on too many of these is like eating the icing off a piece of cake without touching the moist, delicious cake part.
While the campaign map where you'll do most of your pre-battle strategizing and empire building is rather bland and uninteresting-looking in comparison, getting a close-up view of the action in the midst of a full-scale engagement on land or sea is breathtaking. In naval encounters, the water and lighting effects are excellent, and you can zoom in extremely close to even watch a ship's crew mill around on deck, load cannons, and engage in battle. On-land engagements are similarly impressive, but you'll need a high-powered PC to handle the uber-close, on-the-ground view of standing amidst hundreds of troops independently tearing into one another.
The main issue to be found in Empire: Total War comes with the challenge of controlling so many units at once and whether or not they'll bother following your commands with the precision needed. Morale levels among your troops come into play frequently, but there are other times when the A.I. seems to whack out and do its own thing - which can be extremely counterproductive in the midst of a crucial battle. Entire battalions will sometimes stand there doing nothing, while the enemy hacks away at them. Other times they'll take the very scenic route to reach a location you've sent them too. Naval battles are particularly cumbersome, since it can be very difficult to maneuver the ships into place to pull off powerful attacks, and they don't always respond to direction efficiently.
Even with some issues, Empire: Total War's battles are still very satisfying on the whole, and the game has a huge level of overall depth to explore. Armchair generals will get a ton of mileage out of this very ambitious and expansive game that once again pushes numerous boundaries with the Total War series.
CCC Staff Contributor