Napoleon: Total War review

  • Perfect blend of the managerial and the martial
  • Many battles are sublime
  • Scenarios contain spectacle, tension, and drama
  • New features don't have much impact
  • AI isn't up to the task
  • Lacks historical accuracy

Partly due to a bloated military and partly due to the fact the CA have inexplicably chosen to disable diplomacy and manual tax tweaking in this campaign, we ran into severe cash flow problems while still some distance from Syria. Response 1: abandon vulnerable outposts and disband their garrisons; turned out to be counter-productive. Response 2: run amok in Lebanon and the Holy Lands looting like a Vandal; worked like a charm. By the time our suntanned soldiery barged their way into Damascus we must have been the most hated man in the Middle East.

As enjoyable as this brigandage was, and as diverting as the decisions had been that led up to it, it was hard to shake the feeling of deja vu. We’d been playing and thinking exactly as we had in previous Total Wars. Features supposed to breathe fresh air into the game, such as attrition and supply posts, had impacted our march of mayhem scarcely at all.

Nappy’s third outing is the grandest and potentially the most pleasing. Commencing in 1805 it runs for 192 turns and encompasses all Europe. What’s a megalomaniac supposed to do with all that space and time? Well, if he wants to triumph he’ll need to build an empire of at least 35 regions and claim the capitals of Austria, Prussia and Russia – something that even Dictator Monthly’s Man of the Year 1934-45 didn’t manage.

With the added logistics angle, taking Moscow should be one of those gaming achievements you remember forever. It will stay with us, but for all the wrong reasons. The first time we set out for the land of Muscovy, we had no realistic expectation of reaching it. We were playing on hard difficulty; we were at war with four of Europe’s five superpowers. Napoleon was convalescing in Paris after a battlefield injury (he never dies - just respawns in the capital) and we controlled almost nothing east of Hanover.

For turn after turn our brave band of no-name, no-hope Frenchies trudged along. For turn after turn we expected them to be wiped out by force of arms or the same combination of disease, cold and starvation that ravaged the real 1812 invasion force. Incredibly, the coup de grace never came. Apart from a brief scuffle at Minsk there were no incidents of note on the long trek east. Our army was never challenged and never troubled by lack of supplies. On arriving at Moscow they overpowered the modest garrison with relative ease.

Don’t assume from this account that the strategic AI in the European Grand Campaign is hopelessly broken. It’s not. Capturing the capitals of major powers is improbably easy but holding them can be hard. While Strikeforce Moscow was busy doing its thing, Austrian rebels were evicting us from Vienna and the Prussians, backed by ship-delivered redcoats, were doing their darnedest to acquire Hanover.

What we think can be concluded from our experience is that NTW’s strat AI struggles to produce plausible play, and the new logistics element has been so timidly implemented it’s barely worth having. We’d pictured supply working something like the current trade routes system – a network of lines snaking over the country that could be disrupted with crafty interdiction. What we’ve ended up with is a big slab of full-cream fudge.

Depleted armies will automatically replenish just about anywhere as long as they’ve got a general. Supply posts can only be built in economic satellite towns, and are far from essential. Attrition – which should have been a major pain in the rump – only occurs in midwinter and desert conditions. Elite units are immune. In short, Creative Assembly have bottled it. The enhancement that should have prevented that classic and increasingly tiresome TW phenomena, the rampaging MegaKill Army, barely impacts it.

More Info

Release date: Feb 25 2010 - PC (US)
Feb 25 2010 - PC (UK)
Available Platforms: PC
Genre: Strategy
Published by: Sega
Developed by: Creative Assembly
Franchise: Total War
ESRB Rating:
Teen: Alcohol Reference, Language, Sexual Themes, Violence, Mild Blood
PEGI Rating:


  • Sebastian16 - February 28, 2010 6:08 a.m.

    Alright, so, this isn't the place to be posting this, but I dun cur. I was able to run Empire on High settings completely smoothly, with dual Radeon 4870s in crossfire. I get Napoleon, and I can't stay in-game for more than 5 minutes before my PC shuts down, this is running everything on medium. Annnnyybody know what the problem here is?
  • michaelmcc827 - February 28, 2010 4:05 a.m.

    kind of surprised multiplayer wasn't an option for the plusses, co-op with my friends was the selling point for me
  • TheGiaour - February 27, 2010 12:38 a.m.

    The review is spot on about the new features. With how everyone everything from Kieran to the Total War Forum blog it seemed like for once we'd have to consider the seasons and supply in order to keep our troops fresh. This is not the case so far with my playthrough, especially at the end. It is still far easier to just recruit new units, merge existing ones to make up for numbers, and keep the steamroller going. These features are merely eye candy, not game changing mechanics. Visually the game is even more a feast to watch the battles but don't expect historical realism. It will be up to the modders to give the variety and historical flair for this game to be up to some Napoleonic standards. The biggest disappointment for every TW veteran has been the AI, and while some parts have been addressed in Napoleon there are problems still glaringly present. Cavalry still charge wildly into your units by themselves, militia still try and get into melee without firing a shot, and generals are kamikazes at heart still. The campaign AI, when not following the scripted path in the Napoleonic maps, can vacillate between cunning invasions to paper thin defenses at capital cities. Diplomacy is still a hit or miss affair, with nations going to war and suing for peace on mere whims. All in all, while the spectacle of battle is good to take in and I will invest a lot of time due to my dedication to the series my recommendation for everyone except the most hardcore of TW players is to wait and save your money. At 39.99 most people expecting a completely new and different game from Empire will feel ripped off. For veterans like myself, we seem to have the tough skins to enjoy a new but flawed entry to the TW franchise.

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