With the PC in seemingly terminal decline as a game format, RTSs are just about the last of its native genres and Creative Assembly one of its most important developers. Luckily, there’s no sign of that trust being misplaced with Napoleon, the latest instalment in the Total War series.
Like its predecessor, Empires, this epic retelling of Napoleonic warfare is both vast in scale and deep in realism. Single players get several campaigns which have you playing through the main Russian or European phases in a far more linear fashion than previous games. Fans of the series may find this limiting, and it’s disappointing to find that the enemy AI is as forgiving as ever. However, the final Grand Coalition campaign showcases the improved Diplomatic and Espionage options and, by letting you choose from one of four allied powers, offers a much larger world map to play with.
Once you get down to the action, Napoleon: TW is as majestic and absorbing as ever. With more than 300 new unit types, featuring a maximum 64 different models per regiment, this is clearly the most realistic-looking game in the series, particularly with all the smoke and thunder of artillery and cavalry. It’s also the most realistic in terms of strategy, with Napoleon’s famous quote about armies and stomachs born out by the logistical depth required to keep your vast forces moving forward, with all the costs, supply lines and defences this entails.
Napoleon: Total War
Realism is also apparent in other respects; the effect of weather conditions on your movements and the shorter turns which add to the impression that your part of a campaign rooted in real historical events. And even when not actively fighting, control over your empire takes more thought than before, with towns responsible for wealth, morale and research now targeted more aggressively by your enemies. Fortunately, you can see which ones are most at risk by the lowering number of building slots visible from the world map.
Ultimately, my main concern about Napoleon TW was the effect of its more linear structure on replay value. However, knowing the TW community, modding is bound to be already under way, with more playable nations usually among the first tweaks to be unlocked. And there’s a beefed up multiplayer mode too, including the ability to issue build orders after your turn ends to compensate for the lengthy delays that occur whilst others are making their moves. So although it lacks the massive innovation of some previous instalments, Napoleon: TW will still take weeks to master and represents a scale and depth of gameplay that console owners can still only dream about.