Six Months On...,
This review is from: Empire: Total War (PC DVD) (CD-ROM)
Well having lived with the game now since its release I thought I'd add my thoughts on whether Creative Assembly have managed to fix the frankly game breaking bugs that plagued the game on initial release. Have they managed this? Yes and no.
Firstly, and perhaps the biggest one, does it still crash a lot? While it will still crash it does not do it during the AI phase of the campaign, corrupting the save file in the process, nor does it crash any longer due to a memory leak when selecting, usually, naval units on the map. However it does seem to crash a bit more during the battle section, usually when you are defending from the AI in the AI phase. While as previously stated it does not corrupt the save file it is still annoying in the extreme and has led to me more often than not auto resolving the battles to prevent this thereby robbing me of half the game! The memory leaks are still present in the AI phase of the campaign but these no longer take 20 odd minutes to resolve and are now down to a "mere" 2 or 3 minutes.
Has the Campaign AI improved? Slightly, and that is being generous! Diplomacy is still very hit and miss. Sometimes another power who is very friendly will refuse to sign a trade agreement or maybe allied to you and very friendly and with no warning or provocation declare war. Other times, no matter how much you provoke someone to try and get them to declare war on you they just will not do, I have never managed yet to provoke any power no matter how hostile to me to declare war on me. The AI will also never request a peace treaty no matter how badly its getting battered, wars started at the beginning of the game will still be going on 100 years later. Opposing factions armies also will not retreat from you no matter how badly outnumbered, the human player has this option so why not the AI? The request surrender feature for sieges might as well not exist as again no matter how much you outnumber and outclass the AI they will always refuse to surrender. On the plus side the AI will now transport armies by sea for invasions but this happens once in a blue moon and playing as Britain virtually guarantees you victory. The AI has got more aggressive in attacking and organising its armies but is still more obsessed with raiding your outlying towns.
Has the Battle AI improved? Again yes and no. Reinforcements will now come on where you would expect them too in relation to their position on the map. However after a few battles working out the computers strategy is too easy, it never varies. Native Indians will rush you, everyone else will advance to your line with everyone's cavalry attempting to flank you to get at your artillery. Repeat ad nauseum. The AI will not attempt to enfilade your line or any other ingenious tactic, its simply toe to toe, trade volleys and see who breaks first. I have been playing with the difficulty on maximum for the battles and have discovered that they have been lazy in their programming. Instead of changing the AI settings as the difficulty increases, thereby getting the AI to use more and more complex tactics, they just seem to up the moral of the opposing army so they don't break as easily. But perhaps my biggest gripe is with light infantry and Skirmish mode. It simply does not work. Your light infantry, in Skirmish mode, instead of when the enemy gets too close withdrawing a few yards and then turning and re-engaging the enemy, will just stand there and either trade volleys or allow themselves to get charged, and if they do get charged you cannot manually get them out of the way so they invariably get butchered. Also the AI seems incapable of using light infantry and just uses them as line infantry. There is also the question of friendly fire. While I appreciate that this does happen, surely your units would not open up on the enemy if other friendly units were in the way? Its not like the ranges involved are that massive that they cannot see a huge red line stood in front of them! Artillery needs adjusting as well, a 24 pound cannon has a significantly longer range than a 3 pounder with more destructive capability due to increased calibre and charge but this does not seem to be reflected in the game mechanics and the only reason for having a 24 pounder gun is for the rare occasions of needing to breach walls.
There are other problems still with the game but this review has gone on long enough now. To sum up is the game better now than at release? Yes, but that wasn't hard. Is it perfect? Far from it, there are still too many problems. When released the game felt like an early alpha test, now it feels like a late beta test, good but still not the finished article, maybe in another six months it will be finally fixed, but even if it was released in the state its in now after several patches there would not have been the bile thrown at it that there was on its release. It makes you wonder if it was CA's decision to release it or pressure from Sega.