Over the course of three games, Total War developer The Creative Assembly has established itself as the most consistent and innovative company in the strategy sphere. Its games have proved to be immediately accessible and deeply engrossing, fusing 2D turn-based and 3D real-time strategy into a vast and cohesive whole, that has earned the UK studio critical and commercial success.
However, despite the awards and the ceaseless acclaim, the appearance of Imperial Glory must surely be the ultimate accolade, for as all developers know, you've only truly made it when everyone else starts borrowing your ideas. While a handful of games have in part been inspired by Total War, Pyro's wholesale lifting of the Total War concept is the first to be, well, total.
ATTACK OF A CLONE
Branding Imperial Glory a clone may be unfair, but it's accurate, for without The Creative Assembly having done all the groundwork, IG would in all likelihood have turned out much like Pyro's previous RTS offering Praetorians. That's not to belittle either game (Praetorians was an underrated cracker, in my opinion), just an undeniable fact. Similarly, just because IG is in all but name a Total War game, it would be a mistake to just dismiss it as being derivative, as Imperial Glory often manages to counter the Total War series with a small feature or addition that makes it ever-so-slightly distinct.
The first of these is, of course, the Napoleonic era during which the central campaign is set - specifically 1791-1830, a period when most of Europe seemed to be at war pretty much all of the time. Choosing one of five warring nations (England, Austria, Prussia, France or Russia), the aim is to secure the most victory points before the sands of time run out, whether by military domination, trading and research, peaceful diplomacy, or very probably all of the above. Regardless of the strategy you employ, the campaign is played out across a map of Europe, with you and your AI neighbours taking turns to shuffle armies between territories, set up trade routes and erect the necessary buildings so that you may rake in more resources, increase productivity or recruit the units that will ensure victory.
Of course, military expansion will be the most obvious and certainly the most enjoyable method of progression, but it is entirely possible to win the game without resorting to violence. As England, I managed this by maintaining a formidable Navy to protect lucrative trade routes, whilst France, Austria and Prussia squabbled over Central Europe. As an economic power I was untouchable for most of the campaign, with trading outposts scattered across Europe, and merchant ships busy ferrying goods between ports. England was stinking rich, and I could buy off any nations who started getting shirty. Such a strategy would be unlikely to work had I been on the throne of Russia, for example, but my point is that although the choice of nations is small, each one offers a very different challenge.
Whichever route to victory you choose to follow, Pyro has ensured that there is always plenty to do. Given the brief stretch of history during which the game is set there is a sizeable research tree to plough through, that offers over 70 different technologies set across three rather arbitrary phases. It's not a broad selection by any stretch, seeing as you must research every tech in each phase before moving to the next, but it allows you to further specialise whatever strategy you choose to follow and get a brief advantage over competitors.