Empire: Total War (Gold Edition) Review for Mac OS X

Empire: Total War is the fifth game in the Total War series and is a turn-based strategy and real-time tactics game. Developed originally for Windows by The Creative Assembly in 2009 and has now ported to Mac by Feral Interactive. Feral Interactive are responsible for a vast amount of Mac ports, from Borderlands and Deus Ex: Human Revolution to Lego Batman and Worms 3D. The release of the Mac port of Empire: Total War is a major accomplishment for Feral Interactive and is their largest release to date.

It’s the 18th century and the world is warring over the control of the colonies in North America. Featuring eleven playable factions the game features two different campaign modes. The first of which is a story-driven campaign, where you take control of the British empire in their quest to colonise America. This features four playable acts and follows the rise of the British throughout the Americas. Secondly, we have the standard campaign mode this mode has no story and is driven by your desire to lead your chosen faction to building a global empire. In this mode you utilise the full, unrestricted power behind Empire: Total War. This is where the game really shines as you expand across the Americas, Europe and the Indian subcontinent, utilising trade partners, politics and military strength to further your goal.

Where the game has two campaign modes it also has two fields of play during either campaign. The world map is where you spend most of your time. From here you control your troops, your trade connections and the expansion and upgrades of your empire.

Your empire is split into regions and each region has a capital city, you manage your empire through the capital cities by building new features for your region, recruiting units and researching technologies. Everything that takes place on the world-map is turn-based however if you choose to manually command your battles you enter into a real-time strategy battle.

The vast majority of the game is spent managing your empire. You’re recruiting troops and sending them off to take control of regions or you’re ordering the construction of a dockyard in order to increase your naval strength. You’re given quest objectives by your chosen faction in order to guide you towards victory and the completion of these quests can result in a monetary bonus as well as furthering your progress.

Empire: Total War is a huge improvement on the previous titles in the series. One noticeable difference is the inclusion of real-time naval battles similar to the manually controlled land-battles but taking place in the ocean with your ships. Whereas previously naval battles would be simulated by the computer and the results delivered in an on-screen report. I have to say that whilst this is a very impressive addition, it is terribly dull as I find the battles are slow and the ships are unreliable.

As well as the naval battles, there is the ability to appoint ministers to govern the empire, this decision was made in order to reduce the amount of micromanagement as before this you had to promote governors for individual cities, their qualifications only benefitted the city in which they were placed. Whereas the qualifications of any appointed ministers in Empire: Total War apply over the entire empire.

Was it a good choice to decrease the amount of micromanagement available to the player? In short, no. The slightly long answer is that in reducing the amount of management a player has to do per turn, you increase the amount of time they spend doing nothing. During these periods of the game it simply becomes a case of ending the turn in order to get to the next event that requires player interaction.

It was however, a brilliant choice to make the qualifications and minister bonuses apply over the entire empire, whilst it does reduce the amount of interaction the player has it allows you to fine tune your government in order to give the bonuses you want.

The game really excels during the combat scenarios, you can either have the battle simulated for you by the computer or you can jump into the battlefield and manage your troops in a real-time strategy environment.  I’ve personally found that allowing the battle to be simulated for you is not a good option, unless your army vastly outnumbers your opponents, you’re likely to lose more units than you would if you managed the battle manually, whilst it does take a significant amount of time to manually succeed (or fail) at combat, you can set time-limits as low as 20 minutes. Of course, success is not guaranteed and you may sit through a 30 minute battle, carefully positioning your troops only to have them all die by enemy hands.

Should you sit through every battle purely to provide a better end-result? If you enjoy the battles then you absolutely should, if you dislike the battle mechanic then do not feel obligated to manually control them. You can still win the simulation but you may encounter a greater loss of life and you can simply recruit new units to replace those or pay some gold to replenish any lost troops.

Once you enter the battlefield you can see your army as actual troops and units, the battle is simulated in real-time in contrast to the turn-based nature on the world-map. You can move your troops around and position them tactically. The battle management is really smart, you can position and trap the enemy just like any general would have tried to do in 18th century. At the beginning of one battle I moved two units of my troops far from the rest of my army, as the enemy approached my main force I moved my separated units into position and attacked from behind, resulting in complete massacre of French troops.

Empire: Total War is a vast improvement over the previous games in the series and the ability to reduce the amount of micromanagement needed to run your empire opens the game up to a whole new market of fans who find the micromanagement somewhat tedious.

Taking control of the world has never been so much fun or as easy as it is in Empire: Total War, with the choice of playing ruthlessly or peacefully in your quest to colonise the world, everyone can find something to enjoy in Empire: Total War.

Performance & Quality

Visually the game holds up very well, there is a noticeable amount of screen-tearing during the cutscenes but during the gameplay I did not have any audio or visual problems.

As we’ve come to expect with ports from Feral Interactive the game stands up well and plays smoothly at the highest settings. This is a very high-quality port and showcases the great work that Feral do.

Multiplayer

Currently there is no multiplayer feature with Empire: Total War, however there is a planned update to introduce multiplayer to the Mac App Store version of the game via Game Center.

DLC

Included in the Empire: Total War – Gold Edition is the Warpath expansion. This expansion focuses on the battles of the Europeans and Native Americans. The release expands the North American territories and features five new playable factions: Iroquoi, Cherokee, Huron, Pueblo and Plains Nation. Also included are new units for these factions along with new researchable technologies and faction specific objectives.

Mods

Mods can be installed to ~/Library/Application Support/Feral Interactive/Empire Total War/AppData

Gameplay Video
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