Top positive review
22 people found this helpful
Great game, but comes with irritating flaws other reviewers fail to mention
on 26 July 2010
I've been a fan of all the TW series, but believe the original Medieval to be the best. I did not purchase Empire as the many reported problems put me off. NTW is certainly a beautifully presented game, and the team who developed it can be justly proud of their efforts. However, I believe there may have been some very bad project management decisions made by one or more "suits of nothing" executives that have prevented the game from being the iconic release it could have been.
First the good news. The game looks fabulous; the details on uniforms and terrain, the little puffs of smoke from gunfire, and even the blossoms floating through the air all add to the experience, and not only that, but it runs very nicely on my modest system that still struggles occasionally with MTW II. Units that are decimated by artillery may have injured soldiers that pull themselves up from the ground and limp back into formation. Horses belonging to dismounted cavalry may run amok across the battlefield. Placing and reforming units is improved. Unit supply and attrition is now covered and works superbly. The naval battle system is one of the best I've seen. A lot of these features may have been present in Empire, but I'm extremely impressed coming straight from MTW II.
However, there are many problems, and although none are critical enough to make NTW a "bad" game, some are extremely irritating.
First, is the abysmal game manual that comes with NTW (Imperial Edition). This is a very complicated game, and many features are not covered by the manual. The tool tips in the game although good are not able to make up for the poor instructions, and after over 100 game hours I am still learning through trial and error the depth of what is possible. Manuals for previous TW releases were generally excellent.
Next are the character voices. I'm sure there are many people who find the idea of clicking on Admiral Nelson and hearing him say "destination ahoy" highly amusing, but after being bombarded by this low-rent comedy for a couple of hours of game time you'll soon find yourself turning the volume off when on the strategic map. It is totally out of step with the sombre historical feel of the rest of the game - who's responsible for it? There is a facility for turning off the character voices in sound options, but it does not appear to work.
The game is also guilty of one of the most serious crimes a strategy game can be accused of; cheating. For example, if you select a cavalry unit, and order it to attack artillery, the enemy cavalry unit defending those guns will respond to the threat the very instant you click on the artillery. Automatic resolution of battles sees you taking hugely disproportionate losses, even in extreme cases when a large army of thousands ambushes a single depleted unit - this means you resign yourself to playing every battle no matter how trivial in areas of high unit attrition. Also, in some instances if your army is attacked by a larger force on the strategic map, it may not attack you on the battle map, instead inviting you to give up your defensive position. If you wait for the timer to reach zero, you could find that you suffered a "crushing defeat", and your units are teleported across the strategic map far from their original location.
There are two choices of campaign; historical and domination. Historical has many treaties and facilities already in place, and your game is guided by missions that reflect actual events of the time. However, domination mode appears to be identical apart from the loss of missions. Why can't I choose to play from a neutral position and decide how certain locations are utilised and which powers I wish to align with? Also, famous generals like Wellington, Blucher and Napoleon himself cannot be killed - that's fine for historical mode, but why not in domination? At least they can be moved reasonably freely from army to army, Admirals can only be re-assigned to improved ships if their original vessel is scrapped. The new "gentleman" unit is a distracting waste of time, and spies are much more clumsy to use than before. Taxes and religion appear to play a part, but can be safely ignored. You can sack government ministers, but their replacements have identical qualities.
A.I. is also particularly bad, and has been mentioned by other reviewers. I think in the case of your own units this may have been deliberate - to give the player more to do. However, your troops are so stupid that you find yourself micro-managing every battle with the pause button. Units do not even have the sense to face enemy soldiers firing into their backs at point blank range. Enemy units certainly react to the placement of your troops intelligently, but I've rarely seen them form infantry squares or use canister shot. The enemy also seems keen to "fight to the death", rather than leave the field when the situation is hopeless but perhaps with enough troops to cause problems on the strategic map if allowed to retreat. This is particularly silly in naval battles when small forces always fight rather than force you to pursue them - a much more exciting prospect I reckon than just blasting some defenceless merchant vessels out of the water, and would also make aquiring Brigs or Sloops a valuable strategy.
Poor A.I. also effects game difficulty. On strategy games I expect the computer to develop a better long term plan of attack and make superior tactical moves in battles on harder settings, but in NTW all that appears to happen is enemy units stats and "luck" increase. I want the computer to "think" better, rather than just have enemy militia fighting as if they're professional Foot, or Merchantmen fighting like frigates. I found the game difficulty very unsatisfying.
A quick word regarding the execrable Steam: it IS intrusive, and I suspect is the cause of some issues on my computer. At the very least, it bombards you with adverts and messages. It also does not allow you to choose an installation path, meaning my C drive, which I wished to keep for my O/S only, is now full of Steam files. On the up side, they do occasionally offer some truly amazing promotions, but it's still a big nuisance that I'd rather be without.