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CVG
12 Reviews

Napoleon: Total War

Gallic bred

Napoleon: Total War is a standalone title, but essentially plays like an add-on to 2009's much-celebrated Empire: Total War.

Set during the French general's continent-spanning rampages between 1796 and his ultimate defeat at Waterloo in 1815, the title follows on nicely from its predecessor's romp through 1700 and the early 1800's.

The chief difference is the addition of a much stronger, pre-determined narrative. While Empire was pretty open in letting you do what you wanted, Napoleon follows the historical events pretty stringently throughout.

You can play Napoleon's campaigns as he marches across Italy, Egypt and Europe, all the way to Waterloo to change the course of history - or alternatively as the coalition of nations striving to put a stop to his ruthless advances.

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This is a more focused style of play to the open sandbox of Empire, but - shock, horror - that's no bad thing: Empire could have done with is a more succinct, story-led set of missions running alongside the Grand Campaign (the Road to Independence played out as a tutorial in the most part).

The game mechanics in Napoleon are essentially the same as in Empire, and indeed share many facets with preceding titles in the series such as Rome and Medieval II. There are three game areas - the campaign map, the tactical land battles, and sea warfare.

CITY LIMITS
The campaign map, almost a game in itself, keeps track of your armies and territories as a whole, whether you're playing as France - or one of the many enemies she made after systematically kicking-off around the world for 20 years.

The setup is familiar to those that have played the Civilisation franchise - you manage your cities, infrastructure, trade and diplomacy, and make large-scale troop movements across the map.

Cities represent your main tool for recruiting military units, and are where you create specialist buildings which aid population growth, research and more advanced weaponry.

You can send gentlemen out on diplomatic or espionage missions and trade with allies - but mostly you'll be manoeuvring your armies around ready for the next scrap.

Thanks to the 19th century setting, the campaign map almost feels like a much more complex version of Risk. (Though here there's less chance of ruining Christmas by screaming "HAVE THAT!" in your nan's face after wiping her out of Scandinavia).

While managing your empire and upgrading your city's infrastructure are a key aspect of the game, there's a reason Sega didn't name it Napoleon: Total Civic Management.

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The main event in Total War games has always been the combat, and Creative Assembly has done well to emphasise this to a greater degree this time round. As before, the land and sea battles are played out in real time, and we're pleased to report that there have been improvements in both visuals and gameplay.

The first thing that hits when you enter the tactical battles is the sheer graphical elegance. It's stunning. Napoleon is based on the same engine as its forerunner, but there have been some graphical tweaks that add finesse to what was already a beautiful game.

Near photo-realistic water effects and vast, rolling rural landscapes create an unparalleled sense of scale on the battlefield. Fields of grass blowing in the wind; smoke clouds from a volley of rifle fire wafting across your front line; sunlight dappling across the ocean. It all adds up to a quite amazing level of realism.

Zoom right into the battle at ground/sea level and you're treated to some more incredibly detailed visuals. Units are all individually rendered, providing different faces, heights and builds.

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