Naval Battles (ETW)
Empire: Total War is the first Total War game yet to have fully 3D real time naval battles. In the previous games they were just automatically resolved on the campaign map. This feature has been the focus of ETW's marketing campaign, as naval battles are the symbol of 18th century warfare.
 General Information
The ETW campaign map consists of many different regions, ranging from the Americas to India. Therefore, the sea is more important than ever, especially since the American continent can only be reached via ships. Furthermore, the lands connecting the wealthy India to Europe are occupied by the Ottoman Turks and Persians, which makes sailing to the all the way to India the only option for most factions. The introduction of trade theaters is another new feature in ETW which will make naval warfare even more important. Some important trade regions of the world such as South Africa and Indonesia are not part of the 3d campaign map but are represented as trade theaters instead. Since land troops obviously cannot attack trade theaters, using naval units ships is the only way to reach, conquer, and defend these Trade Theaters.
 The Battles
The fleets in Empire: Total War consist almost entirely of sailing ships. Therefore, the wind, and the weather in general have a huge effect in naval battles. During an encounter with foreign ships, the direction out of which the wind blows always has to be taken into account. If the wind is not utilized correctly, your ships will move very slowly and might even completely stop. Other factors such as storms play a role as well, and can change the outcome of battles significantly.
During a battle, all ships will generally try to turn their sides towards the enemy in order to fire broadsides at the hostile units. Larger boats have much more firepower, but are much less versatile than their smaller, faster, counterparts . Therefore, fleets should consist of boats of different sizes to balance out the advantages and disadvantages of each type of ship. Another way to win a sea battle is to board the enemy ships. A battle on the deck will ensue and the victorious crew will capture the enemy ship.
Throughout the encounter, the ships' masts and hulls will get increasingly damaged. A fire could break out which would damage the ship even more. Furthermore, the sailors on a boat can be killed, for example via grapeshots. The more damaged a ship is and the more sailors it loses, the weaker, more vulnerable and slower it will become. Eventually, it might sink and the crew will jump into the water in an attempt to escape via swimming.
There are many different kinds of ships, each with varying numbers of decks and cannons. While the bigger ones are obviously much stronger than smaller vessels, the latter are generally considerably cheaper and also faster which makes maneuvering a lot easier. In order to gain access to stronger naval units, higher levels of military harbors have to be built.