Demo Review

At this point I realised that one line of infantry was firing into the back of the other.

The demo for Empire: Total War was the most eagerly anticipated demo of 2009 so far. Forumers at Empire: Total War Heaven were jumping up and down with impatience and every day that went by with no demo release just added to the tension. Something had to give and it wasn’t going to be the Old Guard! You can find it here to try it out yourself.

The download of the demo was somewhat slow but that’s understandable when thousands of Total War fans were eagerly venturing to Steam to do the exact same thing. The great thing about Steam is that you can stop the download at any point and resume it later. This is great for people who can’t leave computers on all night.

I started up the demo and the loading screen is a little slow. Be patient. A lot of the files are packed and this slows up non-game loading times. The battles themselves run quite smoothly. Once you’re on the main screen you have only two options and one of those is called “options”. That’s where you can change game, graphic and sound settings. I noticed that high graphics was not selectable but others were able to select it so it sounds as if the game is set up to prevent people running at settings that will degrade game performance.

The other option on the main screen is “single player”. Here you venture forth and try out tutorials. Veterans of Total War games would probably be able to do land battles without the tutorial but the naval battle is a very different kettle of fish. The tutorials are quite short and very simple to use. I’d advise spending extra time on the naval tutorial because playing around with the different types of shot and manoeuvring the boat will stand to you in the battle of Lagos. Read below to see how I got on with the battles.

Land Battle: Battle of Brandywine Creek

I had a go of this tonight and found it considerably easier than the naval battle. On my first attempt, I marched the entire army over to the crossing on the left. I got surprised by the Long Rifles. I foolishly sent my cavalry at them because that was the nearest thing I had. Only too late did I realise that there were stakes there. Luckily, the cavalry had come in from the “safe” side so I didn’t lose as many as I could have.

Tried out a square formation. It’s very effective at repelling cavalry.

I moved all my infantry up the “right” corridor and my cavalry and cannons around the “left” corridor. I tried setting up the cannons but this was a major mistake as the Colonial army got the jump on me and massacred them before the infantry could get there to rescue them. My other cavalry took a beating as well. My infantry were still in good shape however and were able to rout the Colonial infantry without too much bother. After this, it was just a matter of marching my infantry to the cannons and routing them for the victory, which was far costlier than it should have been.

For my second attempt, I decided to try and do better. The light infantry were used as bait for the first Long Rifle unit while my cannons were at a safe distance. Despite being set to skirmish, the light infantry failed to get away in time. I decided to hell with the consequences and opened fire with the cannons. While selecting them, I noticed the “cannister shot” option. This made mincemeat of the Long Rifle unit (as well as my light infantry) and the Colonial unit routed shortly after.

I then split my infantry into two groups and sent them marching down both corridors. The Colonials were smart and jumped the infantry making it’s way down the right corridor. They held their own in an awkward position but I was able to swing the rest of my infantry around their rear and crush them.

Instead of standing static and waiting for me to finish them off, the Colonials moved their artillery to the farmhouse and pounded me in my vulnerable position.

I decided to chance an all out charge by cavalry while marching my infantry up. Surprisingly enough the cavalry routed the Colonial artillery very quickly.

This looks like it’s going to be great fun. So much to learn!

Naval Battle: Battle of Lagos

Naval boarding compliments of Aftermath.

I finally got to play the naval battle tonight and I made a mess of the first attempt, losing quite comprehensively as my ships were all over the place. I went through the tutorial again in a lot more detail and experimented a bit with different shot types as well as practising moving the ship.

In the tutorial, grape and chainshot are very effective but much less so in the real battle against proper ships of the line. You really do have to give ships a severe pounding before they start sinking, surrendering or going on fire. Ubernoober reported that he hit a ship’s magazine in one game and there was an almighty explosion. I’d love to get a screenshot of one of those!

In my second attempt, I made sure to concentrate my fire a bit better and I sunk all the first wave quite quickly. From then on it was just a matter of controlling my ships and letting them do the work. My control wasn’t the best but the pause button is your friend in single player. At one point, three of my ships collided and got a bit of a pounding but I was able to recover.

I think I need to read up on naval battle tactics of the time because to be frank, I haven’t a clue!

Overall Thoughts

This is a screen capture from the Superior Tactics #3 video and the explosion is ace.

I found this demo considerably more enjoyable than the Medieval 2: Total War demo, which lagged very badly for me. Aside from the long loading times, the game itself runs very smoothly. Hopefully the full game won’t have the same problem or we’ll all keel over with frustration before starting our first game.

Even on medium level, the graphics are lovely to behold. The sound effects are great. Hearing a broadside tear into wood, bone & flesh is great experience (but maybe not so good for the sailors).

It is a small pity that we have to wait for the full game to try out the campaign mode but in the meantime, resourceful modders have discovered how to tinker with the demo files. See here in our articles section for further details.

All in all, this is a great taster for the Total War experience and my feelings are wholly positive. The views of our community are also very positive so do try it out if you get a chance! Go here to have a look at some screenshots of the demo taken by our staff and forumers, some of which are reproduced in this article. Many thanks to Daelon and Aftermath for taking them.