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Napoleon: Total War

David Brown Marshals his tired troops for one last battle against Europe

Controversy has dogged Empire more thanany other game in the Total War series, as bugs, crashesand AI issues plagued many users, while other players were left unaffected.

Certainly, the situation is better now, even though some still complain, and this is where Napoleon comes in, using the version of Empire's engine that allows the AI to invade by the sea and just do things in a more intelligent manner on the whole.

First of all, it's not like all the other Total War expansions that have come along before. Because Empire got a bit of a kicking from some sections of the community, Creative Assembly have released Napoleon as a stand-alone expansion, so it doesn't require the original Empire game to play.

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In terms of content, there are the campaigns based on the Emperor's life, taking in Italy, Egypt and mainland Europe up from 1805-1812, plus the events surrounding his attempted comeback at Waterloo. After you've polished all these off you've got the Campaigns of the Coalition, where you change sides and attempt to prevent the French upstart dominating Europe.

There are more historical battles included than ever before, providing a series of brilliantly executed versions of real-life conflicts such as Ligny, Dresden, Austerlitz, and Trafalgar. There are reams of stats and achievements provided by Steam as well, just in case you ever wondered how far your armies had marched during your play time.

THE NEW STUFF
There's also the seamless introduction of two new features to the series: campaign multiplayer and drop-in battles. The latter will be used by those looking for a challenge AI can't provide - a genuine, if temporary, human presence on the other side of the map. Most players probably won't use this, as it'll just make things harder for them, but it should placate those who mutter about the AI being too easy to beat.

The former is perhaps the most exciting thing to come into the series (it's also in the process of being worked into Empire as well) for a long time. Naval battles were all good, but a full multiplayer campaign? Nice.

If you do play with a friend, you won't have to wait for them to finish faffing about with extraneous units in Napoleon. These have been whittled down to the Gentleman and the Spy. The former is used to boost research speed, spread dissent in enemy cities, duel with opposing characters and quell unrest
a bit in your own settlements. The latter can assassinate enemy characters and provide valuable information about your opponent's movements and units. Leave him in a city for a certain amount of time and he'll create a network of informants, revealing everything going on in the territory he's in.

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BETTER BRAINS
As mentioned before, of course, most people will be playing against the game's AI, which has been improved since Empire. At least, it has in the battles. As for the campaign side of things, we're not so sure. It's too easy to say, "Well, when I played it, the Ottomans didn't put enough troops in Acre, so I just strolled in and captured it," but there's a bigger issue here: does the game's campaign AI provide a realistic response to player actions? Unhelpfully, at times it does and
doesn't, depending on the situation. In the Egypt campaign the capture of Cairo and an overly ambitious expansion down the Nile was met with substantial armed resistance and, once, the recapture of Cairo by Mamluk forces. When you nick something important from the AI, it's more than likely it'll do it's best to get it back, which might also account for it leaving other things relatively undefended as it diverts troops to the front line, which it doesn't do as much as some people have argued anyway.

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