• The Great War Weekend Part 1 - Mod Review (Originally posted October 11th, 2014)

    The Great War Weekend Part 1 - Mod Review

    June 28th, 1914, Sarajevo
    A Serbian student, Gavrilo Princip, fires two fatal shots at Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria and his wife. These two shots will launch Europe and the world into four years of bloodshed. One of the deadliest wars in history, a war thought to end all wars, a war known as the Great War.

    The Great War mod for Napoleon: Total War focuses on the European theater during the bloody days of the First World War. You can choose from multiple factions, each having its pros and cons. You want to play as Germans or Austrians? Go right ahead. Want to dominate the seas as the United Kingdom or be the huge but slow Russian steamroller? You want to save Belgium from German occupation or sit back, eat popcorn, and watch war roll over Europe as Switzerland? Each faction provides a unique window into the chosen countries history in World War 1.

    Fokker plane in campaign.

    The Great War has same system requirements as Napoleon: Total War, but you need about 2 GB of extra hard drive space for the mod itself. You also need the latest Napoleon: Total War patch.

    For the campaign game, you can choose your faction and settings just as with any Total War game. You're first greeted by an option to have the AI preserve the real historical alliances of the Central Powers and the Allies (Germany-Austria-Turkey vs. Russia-France-UK). Nevertheless, you can also tick a box to have the usual TW diplomacy where alliances can shift drastically. The feature adds a lot of replay value and sprinkles of sheer randomness into a campaign. Although you should keep in mind that the campaign starts after war has already been declared so either way you choose, you are initially at war with opposing factions, unless you are a neutral power such as Switzerland. There are also revolutions to contend with including the Russian Revolution, which of course leads to the formation of the Soviet Union.

    Austro-Hungarian troops holding out on the Eastern Front.

    There are very few units available at the start of the campaign and no real armies to attack with right away. In some respects, it's the one disappointing thing about this mod, but it does stop the campaign turning into a quick Blitzkrieg rush that would be more suited to the Second World War. As a compromise, it works but as a history buff, massive armies locked in a standstill from the get go feels like a must.

    In my first campaign playthrough I played as Kaisar Wilhelm's Germany. Infamous for its large manpower and an emperor with an elaborate moustache, it was not until June 1915 that the Reich had its first full army stack available and at my disposal. It would have been longer, but I quickly realized that my economy could not accommodate any more units. I wanted to see how quickly armies can be raised. Using DarthMod for NTW, by the same amount of turns I already had four full stacks as Denmark.

    German forces on the move.

    For gameplay reasons proper hardcore artillery and even Machine Guns cannot be trained until later, so there's a fair chance you have to go into your earliest battles with just riflemen. As the game progresses and you research new technologies, you start to train some truly sweet units such as tanks (a personal favorite), Heavy artillery, and even early sub machine gunners that are perfect for clearing out trenches. If you have the patience to play long enough and not destroy others or let them destroy you, you will have some terrific battles every bit as bloody and worthy of the name 'The Great War'. Given enough money and enough time, you can see enemy raising large amounts of armies in a terrific spectacle.

    When it comes to battles, The Great War mod excels. This is what makes this mod truly special. You'd think it would be infuriating to take an army of riflemen to try to capture an enemy town while under heavy machinegun and artillery fire but it's a really fun challenge. It's a shame Napoleon: Total War does not let naval battles be modded easily and as such there are none in The Great War. Thereís however plenty of fat to chew on with land battles that should keep you up until dawn. As the campaign progresses you get access to colonial and foreign forces depending on your faction, with the United States running to the aid of the Allies.


    Battles are a bit unusual to a seasoned NTW player at first, as units will stay on the field until they're almost completely wiped out. Artillery is like an angry Zeus raining hellfire from above and striking chaos among the very much more mortal infantry. Machine guns and tanks are tough to beat, but satisfying when you manage it. Rifle range is also much much longer than in NTW because of historical improvements in rifling between these two periods. The tactics you have to use to win couldn't be more different from the days of brightly coloured coats and muskets. Remember that defence is far stronger than offense but you do need to be successful at attacking to win overall.

    One of your most trusted buddies early in the campaign.

    The AI is also very good. It can surprise you if you do not pay much attention but it still does stuff you'd only expect from Artificial Intelligence at times. In a French campaign I played, the United Kingdom gave Ireland to Russia in exchange for Estonia and Livonia and I have witnessed AI soldiers desperately focusing fire on one singular unit. However, thereís only so much a mod can do to change the base game.

    Early version of Russian rifleman in-game.

    Another constraint NTW imposes on this mod is the campaign map. Yet the TGW team did a superb job of setting borders and selecting factions and many borders are as correct as possible. Battle maps, particularly custom ones, are excellent with trenches, barbed wire, and an atmosphere that perfectly captures the tone of one of the bloodiest and bitter wars in history. It's all you can ask for and more from a period of history game developers and modders will seldom go.

    Austrian forces under artillery bombardment.

    The tech tree is well thought out with researched techs giving you an advantage in travel such as the ability to build better railways. Technology can do the essential of improving units and training speed, as well as giving you the ability to unleash airplanes! Some parts of the tech tree are seemingly not fully complete, so you there are some situations where researching one technology can take one turn and a technology on the same level can take 8 turns or produce undesired effects. Thatís a minor issue in the grand scheme of things because the tech-tree is supposed to give you advantages and disadvantages just like any Total War campaign.

    As I alluded too earlier, the economy can be difficult to work with. It allows you to support smaller amounts of armies but if you conquer key trade areas, you will be rich from the associated trade routes.

    The Great War has many submods, such as World War II: Sandstorm, which is based on The Great War mod but is otherwise standalone. Many more submods are 'work-in-progress' too such as The Spanish Civil War submod.

    Despite some flaws as a result of the huge scope of this mod and the constraints of modding Napoleon: Total War, The Great War is a must-play mod for any Total War fan. If you can get past the slow start to the campaign and get to grips with economic issues you will have a very enjoyable time playing The Great War.

    Get ready for an epic journey.

    The Great War accurately depicts units and technology of the era allowing you to test many "what if" scenarios. Whether you want to re-write history or have large and ridiculously bloody battles, this is the mod for you. The mod is a great way to re-live and re-capture a war that was costly too many, yet so important that even a hundred years on since 1914, history still feels its effects today. Download it now - you will not be disappointed.

    Remember to visit Total War Center tomorrow for Part 2 of 'The Great War Weekend' - an interview with TGW developer and Total War modding veteran Mitch.