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Preview: Empires: Total War
by Lewis O'Brien

Total Wars fans around the globe have been eagerly awaiting the latest instalment to the epic RTS/TBS series that allowed you to re-enact monumental battles from the time of Feudal Japan to the Crusades of the Middle Ages. Sega and Creative Assembly have now announced that Total War: Empires will be released in 2009 and will be set in the time of the New World roughly set between 1700s and 1800s. Unlike many of the previous games in the Total War series, it will not be confined to just one or two continents but lets you pillage and plunder across Europe, North Africa, the Americas, the Indies and India.

The most significant new feature is the ability to now fight naval battles on the map rather than automatically fight it in a few seconds. Obviously this new method of fighting battles at sea will lead to a greater range of ships and vessels than the half dozen that could be used in previous games. Any troops that are garrisoned on a ship that is in battle can also grab a cutlass or musket and help repel boarders or board an enemy ship themselves.

Creative Assembly haven’t neglected other areas that are already superb however. The campaign map has been tweaked; you can now set one General as your rally point for newly recruited troops instead of having them march half way around the world. Also research has become more prominent, advancing quickly and being the better faction scientifically now gives you a significant advantage in multiple aspects of the game. The campaign itself has also been altered; in previous titles the game had thrown you into the campaign and left you with tips from your tutorial helper. In Empires you start with being able to do a handful of things and as your kingdom grows stronger and larger and richer you can do more and see more.

Land battles have been given a make over as well, with the use of cover, the ability to garrison in a building and, due to the sometimes unpredictable weapons of the time, gunpowder weapons may now backfire and risk injuring or killing the user. Duelling bumps up the numbers on the new feature list. This is a rare mechanic that I have only seen in Star Wars: Empire at War, when engaged in melee combat a duel will take place, with the combatants being able to block their opponent’s blows and dodge from side to side. Creative Assembly attempted this idea to a certain extent in previous Total Wars but not to such a degree and now when units meet the better equipped and trained unit is no longer certain to win; the outcome is more unpredictable making game play more exciting. This is certainly something that we can expect to be seen in up and coming RTS games as well.

Creative Assembly are yet to set a definite date of release and have simply stated that it will be out in 2009. I’m sure I’m not the only one who will be waiting eagerly for more news on Empires, which is set to be a strong contender for RTS game of the year 2009.

What do you think about Total War? Are there better RTS games due to come?


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- Lewis O'Brien

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