• Napoleon Total War: 10th Anniversary Review




    Celebrating Ten Years of Napoleonic Warfare: a Napoleon TW game review by Turkafinwë


    It's been ten years to the day since the release of Napoleon Total War. Ten years of Napoleonic warfare for Total War gamers, following the footsteps of the French Empire and one of its greatest leaders, Napoleon Bonaparte. In this review we reflect on what the game brought to the TW scene, both good and bad, and what this Belgian lad thought of it. Napoleon TW fixed several problems that its spiritual predecessor Empire Total War had, for instance the AI was more intelligent. It also added features, such as the automatic replenishment mechanic, (I for one was a big fan of the Empire replenishment mechanic, though it had its flaws as well, and was sad to see it go) and mission based campaigns, both things would become standard in future Total War titles.

    I remember the day when I first got Napoleon Total War, an edgy 16-year old, experienced in the ways of Total War since the days of Rome: Total War. Two years after release I got my copy of the game (still on a disk), and it became part of my immortal collection of Total War games. Never my favourite TW game I still had great enjoyment in playing Napoleon Total War despite its flaws.

    Let us begin with how Napoleon Total War is structured. At its base you have two campaigns: one following Napoleon's journey (called Napoleon's Campaigns) and Campaigns of the Coalation facing off against the unstoppable French Empire. A series of historical battles, Rome: Alexander style, is one of the main pulls to this game for those who like to replay the great battles of Napoleon's carreer, both on land and sea. The Peninsular Campaign (the War in Iberia between mostly Britain, Portugal and its Spanish allies versus France) was added as a major DLC a couple of months after the release of the base game. Together with Empire, Napoleon TW was CA's foray into the real DLC game with the release of unit packs and cosmetic content. Now we got a basic idea of what the game has to offer let us start with the Campaigns following Napoleon.

    Italian Campaign

    The year is 1796 and the newly risen French Republic is beset by enemies on all sides. A man named Napoleon Bonaparte is given command of the French army primed to invade Italy and go head to head with the Austrians. Italy is a side theatre in the war between France and the First Coalition, with the main armies of both France and Austria in the Rhineland, but Napoleon is to change the situation in Italy very soon, plunging into the underbelly of the Austrian Empire.

    You, the player, are given command of the
    Armée d'Italy with the objective to defeat the Austrians, and their allies, and free the peoples of Italy from their tyrannical rule. The campaign is set in northern Italy and features besides the Republic of France and Austrian Empire, several Italian States such as: The Kingdom of Piedmont and Sardinia, The Papal States, Tuscany, Venice, etc.. All these factions see France as a threat and start at war, in case of Austria and its ally Piedmont-Sardinia, or with bad realtions, in case of the other Italian States. The campaign is won when France controls six regions, including Alps-Maritime and Carinthia, before Late December 1797 (which translates to 43 turns; 1 turn in NTW translates to two weeks in 'real time')

    The Italian Campaign is meant to be simple and short and it is, it's an introduction into the basics of Napoleon Total War, things like building up your economy and statebuilding, and combat. Other features, such as technology, will unlock in following campaigns as you, the player, progress. To progress to the next campaign you must first achieve victory in the previous. Once the Italian Campaign is won you unlock the next one: The Egyptian Campaign.

    Egyptian Campaign

    It's 1798, and General Bonaparte is sent to Egypt with the objective to cut off the link between Britain and their holdings in India. To do this the French Republic demands the capture of Egypt but there is a slight problem. Egypt is ruled by the Mameluke Sultans, vassals to the Ottoman Empire who up until this point have been neutral in this whole affair. There is also the constant threat of British Royal Navy patrolling the Mediterranean. British invasion into Egypt is imminent as they will not stand idly by when the French attack their Empire's interests. The War of the Second Coalition commences.

    You are Napoleon once again, now general of the
    Armée d'Orient (Army of the East for those who don't speak French), and you are tasked with the occupation of Egypt and then Syria. In doing so the Brits will be cut off from their holdings in India and that will weaken their capablility to wage war on France considerably. At the start of the campaign you have no allies and only enemies. Great Britain, the Mamelukes of Egypt, the Ottoman Empire and the Bedouin all oppose you. Starting with a small army, all three groups combined just shy of a full stack (19 units), and only one region (Alexandria) you are severely outnumbered and a tough campaign awaits you. Your primary concern are the Mamelukes, they are your direct enemy at the start. The game guides you through the campaign with missions and objectives (This is a theme in all the campaigns of NTW). This, however, does not mean the campaign is in any way easy for the Mamelukes have many troops, albeit poor in quality, and the British presence prevent you from getting supplies and reinforcements from France (up until you capture the British base on Cyprus). It's all up to the forces Napoleon brought and the native peoples to achieve victory in this campaign.

    Historically Napoleon succeeds in capturing Egypt but fails to push into Syria. Pressures on the European front leads Napoleon to abandon the Egyptian theatre and return to the West and regain control of the situation in Europe. The withdrawal of France's greatest general makes it possible for the British and Ottomans to drive the French forces from Egypt. In the end, historically, the Egyptian campaign was a failure but you, the player, can achieve total victory and Napoleon's vision to sever the British Empire from the riches of India.

    Once victory is achieved in the Egyptian Campaign, you unlock the Grand Campaign for France, the Europeon Theatre.

    European Theatre: Mastery of Europe

    Napoleon returns (in the player's case) victoriously from Egypt and crowns himself Emperor of the French in the year 1804. The First French Empire is born and Europe trembles in fear and answers with violence. The War of the Third Coalition has begun.

    You are once again Napoleon, now Emperor of the French, as you lead France to greatness. In your way, however, stand your old enemies who have made new alliances. A Third Coalition has been formed against France: Great Britain, Austria and Russia, being the great partners, and smaller states like Sweden and several German States being lesser coalition members. Your only (real) ally on this otherwise hostile continent is Spain. (Several German states are allied to you as well but don't play a major role, as well as the small kingdom of Italy). Now is your time to lead France to the Mastery of Europe and with it total victory.

    This is the campaign were you will have to excel the most. Almost everyone east of France is at war with you or dislikes you and since you will need to reach Moscow to win the campaign you will experience a hard-pressed march east. Furthermore there are the British to your north who will constantly harass you with landings in France and patrol the waters with their huge navy; Britannia does rule the waves.

    In my experience this is the hardest of the Campaigns in Napoleon Total War. In fairness, you do start with quite an established empire and a considerable amount of armies. That's all the good news. You are surrounded by enemies and should Spain betray you and join your enemies, something the AI is very fond of doing, you will face foes from every direction. My advice would be to hold the line in Germany against Austria and focus your energy on subjugating Great Britain. Once they have been defeated you can either start your march east or backstab your ally Spain (if they haven't betrayed you by now). My personal favourite is to occupy Spain and Portugal before going east. That way you have no (possible) enemies behind you and you will not have to leave a lot of forces in the west. After that the long march to Moscow begins. On it you will encounter large armies of Austrians and Prussians standing in your way to victory. These factions will have had time to build up and though you don't start the campaign at war with Prussia, war between you is inevitable. Two major stops are required before reaching Russia's capital: Berlin and Vienna, two provinces you also need for the victory condition (note that London and the destruction of Great Britain is not required). With the capture of the capital cities of Prussia and Austria you will control half of Europe and should be unstoppable at this point. You can rush towards Moscow and win the game or you can divert your forces north and south, to deal with Sweden and Ottoman Empire respectively and go for World* (European*) Domination. At this point it would be easy to do so and if you are an achievement hunter, now is the best time to get it (Achievement is The Imperial Wreath). After the victory conditions are met you are greeted with a cinematic telling of your total victory, but Napoleon's game doesn't end there. There is one thing the player has to do before Napoleon's saga is complete. That is of course the Battle of Waterloo.

    The Battle of Waterloo

    It's 1815 and Napoleon is back for more. After his forced abdication in 1814, the former French Emperor is exiled to the Island of Elba. In the spring of 1815 Napoleon returns to France and seizes power once more. The Emperor marches with his elite force into Belgium where an Anglo-Dutch force is facing off against him. Napoleon's plan: to defeat the British and Prussian forces seperately and claim rulership of Europe once again. But will things go as Napoleon wills it?

    The last stage of Napoleon's journey has arrived, the Battle of Waterloo. You take command of the French army in hopes to lead it to glory one last time. Facing you is the Duke of Wellington, Sir Arthur Wellesley leading an Anglo-Dutch-German force. They are stationed on the hills to the north of your position. This is the last resistance against France's restoration to power. Or so you thought. From the east the Prussians march to join Wellington in this grand battle. You, the player, know nothing of these reinforcements up until they join the battlefield. When the Prussians arrive you have already engaged the British on the hill and now you have an enemy on your flank, fresh and ready to do battle, lusting for French blood. The British do not give way and you are beginning to become enveloped and defeat is imminent. You try to divert the Prussians with your cavalry but they aren't the beasts from Medieval II you remember and cannot stop the advance of the Prussian infantry. Your forces are tired and you have lost many in the brutal hand-to-hand combat with Anglo-Dutch forces for control of the houses on the slopes of the hills surrounding Waterloo. The Old Guard starts to run and the Young Guard follows suit. You have lost the battle.

    This is how my first Battle of Waterloo went. I was too eager and sent all my forces in with noone left in reserve. (I have always been more of a campaign-man than a battle-man, though I've found great appreciation for battles as I've grown older). The Prussian reinforcements really caught me off-guard and I lost. If I had studied my history a bit more I would've known the Prussians were coming. (In my defense, in school we didn't really go deep into the Napoleonic Era in history class, or I'm remembering wrongly, because that would be strange considering where I live. That doesn't mean it's impossible, the Belgian education system is weird. Though to be fair it is almost eighty kilometres from my home to the Waterloo battlefield, which is a lot for Belgian standards, almost half a country away).

    The Battle for Waterloo isn't too hard if you come prepared. You can cut off the reinforcements and deal with them first. This action might draw the British from the hills and fight them on the flats. Should the British remain then you can deal with the Prussians and then safely advance on the Anglo-Dutch position. Your forces are more experienced and though you have a range-disadvantage, you will win the combat overall. With French victory at Waterloo comes the end of Napoleon's Campaigns.

    Commentary on Napoleon's journey

    Napoleon's campaigns are the core of this game, the game is called Napoleon Total War for a reason. They are very enjoyable, easy to access for new Total War players because of its gradual introduction of mechanics, old and new, and the historical flavouring is done superbly. Of course no game is perfect and I do have a pet peeve with it. I've always found the alternate timeline you create with the campaigns to be jarring at the end. From the tutorial up until the European Campaign everything is fine but the transition from the European Campaign to the Battle of Waterloo always grinds my gears a bit. At the end of the European Campaign you are the master of Europe, having defeated not only Austria, but Prussia and Russia as well (this is if you are just going for the victory conditions), but to come to the Battle of Waterloo Napoleon must first lose his power in order to create the circumstances of Waterloo. Now in the alternate timeline you have created, that is very unlikely to happen and it always made me feel like my accomplishments on the European front were all in vain and that they, ultimately, meant nothing. I understand why CA chose to put it in the game but it shouldn't have been put in the Campaign story for Napoleon in my opinion. Especially because there is Napoleon's journey through a line of historical battles, with the very same Battle of Waterloo present there. The campaign could've easily ended with total victory in Europe. How can a Coalition exist when all the nations, or most of them, that consisted of it are subjugated and no longer exist? I don't know I always found it a bit jarring to go from being basically the God-Emperor of Europe to “this is the pivotal battle to determine the fate of Europe.”

    Another problem I have, not only with NTW but with TW games in general is allies and client states. Napoleon Total War implemented a liberation system in which you could liberate a faction when you conquered certain regions. Upon liberation this faction would become your client state. It was a much asked for mechanic in Empire Total War and its premise is very good but the practical value of allies and client states in general is almost void in my opinion. Personally I don't consort with allies or client states in NTW, or in any other TW game, at least not for long. They are unreliable, unhelpful and will betray you in a heartbeat. Sometimes I lament the fact that allies/client states are so utterly useless and though I'd like to use the mechanic for roleplay reasons, I almost never use it for gameplay reasons; it's never worth the hassle and is just annoying in my opinion. Not using allies/client states for me takes away a bit of the realism of the difficulty of conquering an entire continent. Historically empires would set up puppet regimes and client states to ease an independent state's transition into said empire or to create a buffer between their own heartlands and that of an enemy or just simply because the administrating capabilities of the empire were not able to govern such a large swathe of lands. In short, enough reasons to make allies and client states. Try to incorporate a proud people into your empire too fast by directly placing them under your rule and you would face rebellions left, right and center (something the game has built into it; if you capture a capital of a nation you receive a huge public order penalty, slowing your advance immensely. This penalty is also meant to prevent the player from steamrolling the AI factions). Traditionally people don't like to be governed by foreign invaders (and who can blame them) and will resist it immensely. A prime example of this is the French occupation of Spain and the crowning of Joseph Bonaparte as King of Spain. Generally this was very unpopular with the Spanish people and led to great resistance and violent rebellion. This rebellion continued to thrive till the ousting of the Bonapartes from Spain in 1814. Along with British and Portuguese intervention the Spanish resistance was able to push the French out of Spain in what is known as the Peninsular War.

    The Peninsular Campaign

    The year is 1811 and the war in Spain has been raging for nearly three years, since Napoleon sparked the war by marched into the Iberian Peninsula and crowning his brother Joseph King of Spain. It's a stalemate at the moment with neither side able to oust the other from the Peninsula entirely. With the French invasion of Portugal in 1808, the British have send help under the command of Sir Arthur Wellesley, the one who would become the Duke of Wellington. Wellesley, a Viscount at the moment, commands the entire British Expeditionary Force in Iberia. Reinforced by the Portuguese army and Spanish guerillas, Wellesley commands the Coalition's hopes of driving Napoleon out of Iberia. Meanwhile General Masséna defends France's interests in Spain and Portugal, ruling over an unhappy populace that hungers to be free from French occupation and constantly harasses his forces. Will you drive the French from Iberia and start the beginning of the end for Napoleon's hegemony over Europe or will you fight for the French Empire and run this Anglo-Iberian alliance into the sea and isolate the Brits from the Continent?

    In the Peninsular Campaign you can either play as Great Britain, the one that is the most fun, Spain, as in the rebels fighting against France which is a very interesting campaign, or as France, the most challenging of the three, all in my opinion. The only other faction present on the map is Portugal, which is unplayable in the base game (you can play as Portugal with mods like Darthmod). I also think the campaign was made to play as Great Britain seeing most of the mechanics and flavouring are gravitated towards that faction, with Spain coming second and France only third. As in the other campaigns of Napoleon Total War you are guided by issued missions which give you rewards should you complete them. Especially in the campaigns for Great Britain and Spain it is beneficial to follow these missions for the rewards you get are almost necessary to win the game, at least in my experience. The missions follow a very natural cause, going down a path that the player would most likely follow anyway so they aren't bothersome to deal with (unlike some Rome II campaigns which makes it feel like the game is always pushing a faction into a certain direction). To give an example: For Great Britain this means using Wellington to march north from Lisbon and gaining access to ports along the Atlantic coast to allow British reinforcements to reach Iberia. This is the route that the missions gives you but it is also the most logical route to follow. Of course you can win the campaign without following the missions but it will be much harder since you will only have access to Portuguese and Spanish troops, which are inferior in quality to the British Redcoats. As France the missions are more open and follow a less direct path. You are an established power that is trying to rule over a country that is in best cases unruly and openly rebellious in worst. Most of the turns as France is surviving and managing your holdings as your provinces one by one rebel and the Anglo-Iberian alliance moves in to take away the provinces you manage to hold. It's a challenging and difficult campaign and prepare yourself to lose several territories in the beginning turns. It's paramount that you consolidate your hold on your Spanish holdings and then counter-attack once you are ready.

    The Peninsular Campaign has to be my favourite of all the Campaigns in Napoleon Total War, especially playing as Great Britain. You might think it strange that in a game that is all about France my favourite part of it is when I'm not playing as them. There are a couple of reasons for this. Number one is that the Peninsular War is my favourite part of Napoleonic Warfare, thanks in large to the Sharpe series. This tv show really sparked my interest in Napoleonic Warfare, history has always interested me considerably, but this really started my research into the era of Napoleon. (I was always more interested in Antiquity and Medieval Times when I was younger, early modern history seemed to near for me to be really interested in it, a thing that has changed considerably). Number two is that it's a war on a smaller scale than the the Grand Campaign, encompassing the entire European continetn, but larger than the Italian and Egyptian campaigns. It has just the right size and feel to it I find. An epic and brutal war on a smaller yet still large area. Reason number three is that I have a healthy dislike towards the French (I am Flemish after all ). Reason number four is the implementation of a new agent, the provocateurs, agents who spread anti-french or pro-french sentiment depending on which faction you play. (obviously Great Britain and Spain, and France respectively). These agents are very handy in keeping the French their position in Iberia unstable while as France they are essential in holding the lands of Spain and Portugal. Other than that, unrelated to why I enjoy the campaign best, is that I really think the Peninsular Campaign is a prime example of a DLC well done. It adds enough to the game to warrant an extra fee and it is not essential to enjoy the experience that is Napoleon Total War.

    Now that I've rambled enough about my love part of this game we must away to discuss the final things that NTW has to offer us.

    Campaigns of the Coalition

    It's 1805 again and Napoleon is still Emperor of the French and turns his hungry gaze on the cake that is Europe. You are one of the nations that wants to curb this all-conquering Frenchman and see his French Empire disappear. Alone you are no match against this juggernaut but together with the other monarchies of Europe you might be able to halt and even defeat this upstart Emperor and his dangerous revolutionary ideas. Old rivalries need to be forgotten and former enemies must be turned into allies if you are to have any hopes of defeating Napoleon. The First and Second Coalitions have failed. Napoleon will be stopped, has to be stopped. The time for a Third, even grander Coalition has come.

    You are playing the same campaign as the European Theatre in Napoleon's Campaigns but as one of France's main opponents, the most prominent members of the Coalitions against France: Great Britain, Austria, Russia and Prussia. (You can play more factions with mods like Darthmod). Like the European Theatre for Napoleon, you're playing on the European map and you will fight for the dominance of the Continent. Each nation has its own victory conditions, by which I mean which provinces they need to hold to win, which are based on historical borders or historical ambitions of said nations. Note that none of the Campaigns of the Coalition require the player to occupy France or destroy the nation of France. France in the Campaigns of the Coalition is less the “real” enemy (except for Great Britain who needs to hold certain key French provinces to achieve victory), in gameplay terms, than your possible Coalition members are. For instance as Prussia you will need to fight the Austrians for control over Germany to reach your victory conditions while defending your borders against the French Empire. In Russia's case it's even worse. You can win the Grand Campaign without even doing battle with Napoleon once. That is what I mean with France not being the “real” enemy for most of the Coalition factions. It's not really them that you need to defeat to reach the victory conditions. You will however need to defeat France (except in Russia's case) in order to get to your victory conditions but that is because of a secondary reason. In-game the French Empire is buffed immensely and will steamroll most of Europe if you do not intervene.

    The Campaigns of the Coalition has diverted its focus from Napoleon and is a more vanilla style of campaign, something more akin to a Grand Campaign in Empire Total War, with factions all vying for power in a free for all. You might look at the change in tone and say it's good that they made a part of the game that is less about Napoleon and plays more like a regular styled Total War campaign. Personally I think it's a shame they toned down the presence of Napoleon and his French Empire in this campaign. It's Napoleon Total War right? It is non-sensical to call your campaign mode, Campaigns of the Coalition and then proceed to give you a normal TW campaign in which forming a Coalition is not necessary or even beneficial, and fighting the French is unnecessary to win the game. In my opinion the game is naturally centered around Napoleon, that's why it is called Napoleon Total War, and therefore it should all be about either winning as him or defeating him. It would also fit nicely in the average tone of the game. Up until this point everything plays out quite historically, with fixed enemies, goals that need to be achieved, etc. Campaigns of the Coalition distances itself from this tone, I personally find, and it bugs me. The game would've been cohesive and whole if this campaign mode followed that line of thought. It's not a huge problem because the beauty of a vanilla style campaign is that you can play it the way you want but I still believe it would've been better if they had kept with the tone of the game.

    Final Conclusion

    Prior to writing this review I hadn't played Napoleon Total War in years, 2016 being the last time. I remember still that I was playing as Russia with the goal to conquer France and do a march on Paris. (No French winter would stop me, suck on that Nappie). When I heard 2020 would mark the tenth anniversary of the game I decided to revisit NTW and I was surprised to see how much I still enjoyed it. For a ten year old game it has aged wonderfully and upon start I immediately felt sixteen again, the excitement for a new game filling me once again. Playing the game felt the same way as it felt all those years ago. I did encounter the usual glitches and shenanigans one can expect from a TW game but that did not lessen my enjoyment. In the end I can give Napoleon Total War only the highest of recommendations and if you haven't played in years I would suggest you redownload it and play it for a while or if you are not sure about buying it I can only say that I believe it's an experience you will not get from any other Total War game. Even after ten years Napoleon Total War still deserves some love. Ultimately the choice is yours (which is the motto of TW).

    Now that's all I have to say and if you'll excuse me now, I have a Europe to conquer. Onwards Shadowfax!

    The Three Napoleons:

    A Napoleon TW review by Alwyn

    In the shade of olive trees, they said Italy could never be conquered. In the land of Pharaohs and kings, they said Egypt could never be humbled. In the realm of forest and snow, they said Russia could never be tamed. Now, they say nothing.
    - Napoleon, from the introductory video for Napoleon Total War

    This is, in a way, a game of three Napoleons. There is the young Corsican who falls in love with the beauty of the French mainland, trains as an artillery officer and leads armies on daring and dangerous adventures; this is the Napoleon of the Italy and Egypt campaigns, which are enjoyable and quite challenging. There is the mature Napoleon of the main campaign, the Emperor at the height of his skill, achieving stunning victories against the might of Europe's other great powers. Then there is the all-conquering Napoleon of the introductory video, which makes the unusual move of presenting an alternative history scenario in which Lord Nelson's flagship has been run aground on a British beach, and the Emperor watches his magnificent army setting out on the road to London.

    There are features of Empire which I miss in Napoleon. The Napoleon map covers a smaller area; the Americas, India, much of the Middle East and the trade theatres are missing and north Africa appears only in a separate Egypt Campaign, not in the main campaign. In Napoleon, I miss the evolution of warfare over time, since the period covered by the game is only a few years, compared to a century in Empire's Grand Campaign. Even so, in several ways Napoleon feels like the game which Empire Total War wasn't, and should have been.

    Land battles

    In battle, the AI makes better decisions and provides more of a challenge in Napoleon, compared to Empire. I'm not saying that the AI is a tactical genius or that it can't be flummoxed by exploits. The point is simply that the AI handles units better. It's less likely to make disastrous errors like setting up cannon so they're firing into a hill. It's more likely to attack the player's cannon, as opposed to standing still to be blasted by canister shot. In this era of warfare, any frontal attack by infantry is likely to suffer heavy casualties from the disciplined fire of the enemy musketmen and from artillery. Success in Napoleonic battles is often about attacking the flanks of your enemy; enemies engage each other almost like two wrestlers grapping, each trying to throw the other into a vulnerable position. The AI demonstrates a fair understanding of this, in battles the flanks of my armies have come under heavy attack. One nice feature of the AI is that, when it realises that it can't win a battle, it occasionally withdraws troops - a sensible move - and, if the player pursues the fleeing soldiers with cavalry, the AI can re-form its infantry to defend its line of retreat.


    French Fusiliers withdraw, the 26th Regiment of Line will survive and fight for the Emperor again; the green horizontal bar shows that they have good morale and the text shows that the AI has chosen to withdraw them.

    Napoleonic battles can be a matter of 'rock-paper-scissors': fast-moving cavalry defeat artillery, artillery smash infantry with canister, infantry can hold off cavalry with bayonets and musket fire. However, the reality, and its representation in the game, is more complex. While it's true that Napoleonic warfare is about using the right units against your enemy, but it's also about timing, using combinations of units and careful observation of the terrain. Timing matters because, while infantry in square can defeat cavalry, the horsemen can defeat infantry who are in line.


    As Prussian cavalry charge in, the Old Guard form square just in time

    One nice detail of the game is that an infantry regiment temporarily loses the ability to form square when cavalry charge into melee, which highlights the importance of timing. Combinations of units can be devastating: if your cavalry force the enemy infantry to form square, your infantry in line will easily out-shoot the enemy; light infantry combined with line infantry will out-shoot an equal number of enemy line infantry, but may suffer if they encounter a mix of line infantry and cavalry. Careful observation of the terrain is needed because it can be the difference between a successful flanking manoeuvre in which your units are protected by a ridge or low hill from enemy artillery fire, and a disaster as you watch the order of your units collapse as cannon smash them into chaos. While battle-fields in Empire were varied, as I see it the battle-fields in Napoleon tend to have more interesting features, creating opportunities for skirmishers to ambush the enemy or for regiments to advance while shielded by high ground from enemy cannon fire.

    Sea battles


    As the ship of the line Aquilon retreats, and the frigate
    Artémise sinks, the captain of the Junon orders his frigate to protect the retreating ship and avenge the Artémise

    Sea battles are similar to naval encounters in Empire Total War. Some small details have been corrected in Napoleon, which increases immersion for me. For example, Fifth Rate frigates in Empire had a larger number of guns (48) than 18th century frigates usually had, while their equivalents in Napoleon have more realistic numbers of cannon for a frigate of this era (32 or 38). In Empire, the ships of all nations use the rating system which, historically, was British, not a universal rating system. In Napoleon, only the British navy uses the British rating system. As in Empire, players can capture and use enemy ships, which can add to the enjoyment and challenge of naval battles - it's sometimes easier to sink an enemy ship than to capture it and attempting to capture it tends to mean doing less damage to the enemy ship's hill (which might mean that you lose the battle).

    Like Empire, Napoleon has a 'rock-paper-scissors' dynamic in naval warfare: artillery ships can defeat heavy, slow ships of the line; ships of the line can defeat frigates; frigates can defeat artillery ships. However, in Napoleon sea battles are dominated by ships of the line, which seems appropriate. As I understand it, historically, artillery ships used their main armament against forts and citiies - large, fixed targets. In Napoleon, a new feature of sea battles is the ability to order your crew to leave the guns and carry out emergency repairs on their ship, adding an extra tactical option. One mild distraction is that some flagships don't have the names which players might expect; in the game, Nelson's flagship is the Rose, not the Victory, while Villeneuve commands from the Scipion, not the Bucentaure.

    New features



    Sicily has been invaded - but will this be a conquest, a raid or a liberation?

    This game introduced some new features which I enjoy. For example, instead of simply occupying nations, there can be opportunities to subjugate or liberate them. Not every player enjoys or makes much use of these options, but playing as France, I found the liberation option helpful. When Prussia joined Austria and Russia in attacking France, I formed a defensive line of client nations across western Germany. My enemies occasionally captured their cities; each time this happened, the invading army suffered casualties, which enabled one of my armies to counter-attack successfully and liberate the client nation again. While I held off Prussia, Austria and Russia by this method, Napoleon captured southern Italy, invaded the Ottoman Empire and then landed in Ireland to defeat Britain, before advancing to victory against his enemies in the east.


    An army marches through a mountain pass in winter - and will suffer attrition

    Of course, marching Napoleon's armies east meant marching into Russia. In Russia, it is well-known that one of Napoleon's fiercest foes was "General Winter" - the terrible attrition suffered during the long retreat from Moscow - and it seems appropriate that attrition makes an appearance in this game. This, combined with the very short period of each turn (in Napoleon, a month passes druing two turns, compared to Empire in which two turns represent a year), makes me very conscious of the current season.

    Some players prefer the manual replenishment of Empire to the automatic replenishment of Napoleon; I have a different view. For me, clicking repeatedly on depleted armies in Empire as more of a chore than a challenge. A player can no longer replenish in enemy territory in this game, making expansion a bit more challenging. The speed of replenishment in Napoleon is linked to proximity to barracks which can recruit the unit as well as the quality of the roads, which seems sensible. The player may need to choose whether to keep an army on the front line with slower replenishment (perhaps you don't want to give up a region which cost many soldiers to gain) or to fall back to a region where the roads and supply infrastructure mean that replenishment is faster (keeping a depleted army on the front line might cause your army to be destroyed). The replenishment of units with heavy casualties takes longer, which creates an incentive not just to win battles, but to minimise your losses. Of course, I know that there are good reasons why people who prefer manual replenishment have a different preference, for example because the player may have limited funds and need to choose which army gets reinforcements.

    Generals matter more and their effects are more visible on the battle-field, compared to Empire. In campaign play, the more skilled general can view the other commander's deployment before choosing where to put their troops (as opposed to games where both generals set up their troops independently, without knowing the other army's deployment). This can allow a skilled general to acquire a decisive advantage. Major factions have a general who can be wounded but not killed (such as Napoleon for France and Wellesley for the British), which adds something extra to your strategic decision-making. Napoleon may be so skilled that "his presence on the field made the difference of forty thousand men" (as the Duke of Wellington apparently said), but when France is fighting on several fronts, he can't be everywhere. This provides an incentive to keep your generals alive, winning battles with them and gaining experience so that they have a better chance of deploying second in battles in future. There's also the nice detail that the area of your general's influence is displayed by a blue circle in battles when the general is selected - a new feature for this game.

    Shortcomings

    This game has flaws, for example it's necessary for the player to edit one of the game's files in order to be able to set the graphics quality above Medium. (Fortunately the solution to this problem can be found with a quick online search and a small edit to a file allows higher graphics settings to be used.)

    The representation of the Ottoman Empire seems oddly limited, as Anatolia and north Africa aren't represented as regions in the main campaign. The available factions are very limited compared to the selection in Empire. While I know that many players enjoy the challenge of the higher difficulty levels, I like the option of increasing the challenge by playing as less powerful nations, instead increasing the difficulty level. It's a shame that the game doesn't allow the player to try the main campaign as Sweden or Spain, or one of the German or Italian states, for example. Fortunately, mods make it possible to play as other factions.

    Armies tend to have similar unit rosters, reducing the variety of battles. To be fair, European armies generally did have similar units in this period; also, the Ottoman roster is quite different (as are the rosters of the Mamelukes and Bedouin in the Egypt Campaign). Also, there are subtle differences between the armies (and some navies). For example, France has good line infantry, cavalry and cannon but their light infantry are less effective, at least initially, while Prussia has better light infantry and decent line infantry but their artillerymen are less skilled than those of France.

    There are other limitations of the game, for example occasional crashes in battle (not often, perhaps once in every 15 to 20 hours of play). Occasionally a sound bug occurs, in which an unpleasant, 'white noise'-like sound is played. When this happens, going into Options, Sound Options and turning Effects off stops this sound; Effects can be turned on again immediately afterwards, and the sounds return to normal in my experience.

    Overall

    I enjoy the new features and the sense that the developers were trying new things. The 'drop in' battles feature, for example, is a brilliant idea - the opportunity to allow a friend, or any player who is online, to command the AI army in a battle during your campaign. Sadly, ten years after the game's release, this feature is often not available; it can only be used when the opposing armies have relatively equal strength, and it only works when there happens to be a player available and willing to play the enemy (or, if you're offering to play the enemy, a player in campaign who has chosen to enable drop-in battles). The release of the Definitive Edition of Napoleon means that every player can enjoy the units which were originally part of DLC, including historical units which are satisfying to use. In the Peninsular Campaign, the developers continued to add new features, for example this campaign included the appearance of units with the guerrila deployment ability (they can deploy outside their army's normal deployment zone at the start of the battle).

    We've seen that this game involves three Napoleons: the young Corsican who trains as an artillery officer and leads armies on daring and dangerous campaigns in Italy and Egypt, the mature Napoleon, the Emperor at the height of his skill and the all-conquering Napoleon of the introductory video. In the campaigns in Italy and Egypt, we can experience the adventures of the young Corsican; in the main campaign, we can see Napoleon as the most feared commander of his age and if we win as France, we can become the all-conquering Napoleon who might have been. Despite the shortcomings, I highly recommend this game; returning to it for this review, I've been surprised by how much I enjoyed it, and how tempting it was to continue for 'just one more turn...'.
    Comments 11 Comments
    1. Leonardo's Avatar
      Leonardo -
      Good review of a great game.
    1. Turkafinwë's Avatar
      Turkafinwë -
      You make some excellent points and I didn't know you could solve the sound-bug by simply turning Effect off and back on. A time where "have you tried turning it off and back on" actually works.

      It was great fun co-writing this with you Alwyn!
    1. Alwyn's Avatar
      Alwyn -
      Thanks, Leonardo and Turk! Yes, it's a great game.

      Turk, your review makes excellent points as well, I enjoyed co-writing this too. It's interesting to see the points where we agree and where we think differently. I also enjoy the Peninsular Campaign the most (although I like all of the campaigns). I agree that, when playing as a member of the Coalition, the Coalition is likely to break up. In my current campaign as Britain, first Russia attacked me, then Austria joined Russia. I was at war with France, Spain, the Ottoman Empire, Austria and Russia, so when France offered a peace treaty, I accepted!
    1. Flinn's Avatar
      Flinn -
      Honestly I haven't loved much the gunpowder games, but I enjoyed Napoleon far more than Empire, overall it's a good game even as vanilla.

      However, fantastic article
    1. Swaeft's Avatar
      Swaeft -
      Wow, you guys have put in a lot of effort into this. What a great read. Turkafinwe, how dare you not know the Prussians were coming? HOW DARE YOU!!!

      I did that too when I first played it, thought I could beat Wellington before the Prussians arrived
    1. Turkafinwë's Avatar
      Turkafinwë -
      Thanks Flinn, the gunpowder games were never my favourite (my eternal love goes to Medieval 2 ) but I still enjoyed both Napoleon and Empire. Empire is just a complete shambles in terms of AI and glitches. It's mainly a meme game for me. (mods do fix a lot of the problems)

      Thanks Swaeft. That's a roundabout way of saying you too forgot about the Prussians. I dare a lot of things, ignorance is one of those things .
    1. Leonardo's Avatar
      Leonardo -
      Quote Originally Posted by Flinn View Post
      Honestly I haven't loved much the gunpowder games, but I enjoyed Napoleon far more than Empire, overall it's a good game even as vanilla.
      I love gunpowder games and I agree NTW is more enjoyable (more stable IMO) than ETW.
    1. William of Orange's Avatar
      William of Orange -
      Nice recap by both of you - thank you.

      One comment: Has Alwyn ever played a Campaign (any) on VH/VH? Some of his comments suggest that his younger self only played on easier difficulties. In particular, playing Campaigns of the Coalition as either Austria or Prussia on this difficulty, against the full french buffs, requires considerable ability to "think outside the box" of one's intuitions and experience elsewhere.
    1. JB2C's Avatar
      JB2C -
      Very nicely written! Even some infos I basically forgot (I have not played the game for.. a while now!) It is a great piece!

      Now, I have to go do something.... [opening Steam now to reload the game...]
    1. Turkafinwë's Avatar
      Turkafinwë -
      Thanks William of Orange and JB2C for your kind comment. Glad you enjoyed it.

      Have fun JB2C!
    1. Alwyn's Avatar
      Alwyn -
      Quote Originally Posted by William of Orange View Post
      Nice recap by both of you - thank you.

      One comment: Has Alwyn ever played a Campaign (any) on VH/VH? Some of his comments suggest that his younger self only played on easier difficulties. In particular, playing Campaigns of the Coalition as either Austria or Prussia on this difficulty, against the full french buffs, requires considerable ability to "think outside the box" of one's intuitions and experience elsewhere.
      You're welcome, thanks to you and everyone for commenting.

      In answer to your question - yes, I preferred in the past (and still prefer) Normal or Hard rather than VH/VH. My preference is to increase the difficulty level by playing factions with a more limited roster, a more challenging starting position (and similar challenges) rather than increasing the difficulty level. That's why I said in my review that I would have liked a wider selection of playable factions in Napoleon. Of course, a wider selection of factions is available with mods - and I know that diffferent players prefer different things, many people like to use the higher difficulty levels.

      Yes, thinking 'outside the box' is needed to play on VH/VH. If anyone would like ideas on playing on that difficulty level, I recommend the AARs by William of Orange which you can find in the Napoleon Total War AARs area of the Writers' Study.
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