Wednesday, May 06, 2009
Update on Empire: Total War
Just wanted to give you all an update on how Empire: Total War is now running after the recent "miracle patch": It crashes less often on my computer. The main problem still appears to be the same, that ETW uses only a limited address space, which it shares with your graphics card, and that there are memory leaks; so the more memory your graphics card has, the smaller the useable address space becomes, and the faster it fills up and crashes the game. As far as I read the patch made ETW "large address space aware", which increases the address space from 2 GB to 3 GB. That helps on my computer with its 1 GB graphics card RAM, but still isn't using all 6 GB I have, nor have all the memory leaks been fixed, so I still get occasional crashes. But I can often play several turns before that happens, so the game is now at least "playable".
I also noticed that I could reduce crashes by zooming out to max when doing one activity which I unfortunately have to do a lot: Scrolling one by one through all of my buildings to see which need upgrades or repairs. I'm really missing a button which would allow me to scroll to the next building I can act on, and skips all those which are in good repair and currently not able to be upgraded. The "building browser" button is bloody useless, as it doesn't show the state and upgradeability of your buildings. The list button for armies, fleets, regions, and agents is a lot more useful, as it at least shows who can still move this turn.
Playing Empire: Total War mostly as a turn-based game, resolving most battles automatically, I found out how the game is balanced to compensate for the lack of good AI: As the AI is inept at invading your empire if you have defensive garrisons, the game simply gives you not enough money to pay for troops everywhere. You are thus limited to a very small number of strike forces constantly running between trouble spots. But most of these trouble spots are rebellions, not invasions.
The game gets markedly easier if you left your capital undefended and thus were able to side with the rebel forces when a revolution breaks out. You just need to take the capital with your small rebel force, and regain control of your whole empire, now a republic. And in a republic your provinces are a lot more happy and rebel a lot less, which means that you don't *really* get to choose which type of government you want, the republic is just plain better than the monarchy. With ETW playing from 1700 to 1799, a minor niggle for me as hobby historican is that the revolutionary fervor and clamor for republic happened later in real Europe. Only France had a revolution in the 18th century, the rest of Europe had to wait until the 19th century for this sort of rebellions.
I do like the new research tree. What I find especially nice is that you can still use the same line infantry you had at the start of the game until the end of the game. Research only improves their effectiveness, and doesn't replace them by completely different troops, like in the Civilization games. And as your troops also gain "levels" if you keep them alive, your few shock troops can become really strong compared to the identical-looking troops of your enemies.
So, all in all Empire: Total War is a fun game, but still has some technical flaws, and a not-too-bright AI. The campaign map is more an excuse to arrange for interesting real-time battles than a good turn-based strategy game, which is a pity.