ÿIn many ways, Napoleon Bonaparte is the perfect subject for a Total War game. He lived during a time of revolutionary technological advancement during which a number of powerful nations were in direct conflict with each other. The spectacle of war was at a particularly high point and Napoleon dominated the era with a forceful personality and ambitions that rivaled those of history’s other great conquerors. And since Alexander and Caesar already have their own Total War games, it only made sense that Napoleon would be next psp games.
In telling the story of Napoleon, Creative Assembly created a narrower, more tightly scripted series of three campaigns, four if you count the tutorial. You have to take the scripted nature of the campaign for granted, if only for the sake of the story telling. It certainly allows the team the chance to let players take on some of the specific challenges and situations faced by Napoleon himself. Whether you find yourself drawn into the rivalries of Italian city-states on your march to Vienna, or watch as your corps wither away in the harsh Russian winter, Napoleon is fairly faithful to the historical situation. Even the small minor missions and peripheral generals lend an air of authenticity.
The downside, of course, is that the campaigns tend to focus the action in the same direction each time you play them. There are small opportunities here and there to diverge from the main avenue of advance but for the most part, if a campaign begins at A and ends at C, you can be sure you’ll have to go through B to get there. And since the three campaigns are only linked by historical context, your successes or failures in one won’t affect the others. Fans of the open-ended, expanding consequences of previous Total War games may feel a bit constrained by this approach but the content overall is still enjoyable, even if it’s a bit less flexible.
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There’s a bit more room to stretch out in the Coalition’s Grand Campaign, which lets players pick from one of four (only four?) powers in opposition to Napoleon. The world is a bit more open here, so things are more likely to develop in unexpected ways. It’s true that the overall conflict and alliances are a bit stiff, but there’s definitely more replayability here than there is in the other three campaigns. Even more replay appeal is sure to be unlocked once the modders start to open up the minor nations. Our only real complaint about the design here is that the victory conditions can sometimes bring the Coalition members into direct conflict with each other, which seems to go against the spirit of the game somewhat. I don’t want to have to turn on an ally just because they happen to have captured an objective I needed in order to win.
As you expand, you’ll find that the campaign AI is still a bit passive in some areas. The main obstacles to your expansion aren’t the armies and generals of your enemy, but rather by the increasing upkeep costs of fielding large enough armies to maintain your momentum and by the need to keep garrisons in your rear to subdue unrest in recently conquered regions. These are important matters to be sure, and Napoleon himself was enthusiastically dedicated to matters of logistics, so it suits the game historically. Developing a sufficient support system for your armies and keeping what you’ve won is every bit as important as battlefield heroism, but it still makes for a less thrilling game when your municipal concerns begin to outweigh the military. Though they heighten the realism somewhat, the attrition and supply rules are another small drain on your forces but most players won’t find them to be too distracting.