Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Empire Total War. Another brilliant (not!) tutorial from CA.

I bought Empire Total War in Steam's sale. I love Total War games but one ritual every time I get a new one is to try out the tutorial. To date they have all been uniformly awful. Would Empire manage to buck the trend?

The good news is that Empire appears to have addressed the most serious issue from previous Total War tutorials. Previous games had badly corralled tutorial campaigns that allowed noobies to break the tutorial by wandering off script. Given that the scripts were often non-intuitive getting to the end of the tutorial without breaking it was actually harder than just jumping in and playing the game. Empire avoids this nicely by straight jacketing the player and only allowing a very limited range of actions during the "Road to Independence" tutorial campaign.

Unfortunately no-one seems to have told the in game adviser. After winning my first battle and capturing an Indian settlement the advisor helpfully suggested that I construct some buildings. Good advice except that those buildings are disabled at this point in the tutorial. A short while later I was told about the new feature that allows generals to recruit in the field. Sadly I wasn't informed that that feature doesn't work at that stage of the tutorial either. Not long after the ever helpful adviser strongly recommended that I upgrade my fishing port and build a navy. Sorry but that feature isn't available in the tutorial. The most disconcerting moment though had to be when the adviser warned in in anxious voice that my population were starving and that I urgently needed to upgrade my farms. You have perhaps correctly guessed that farms cannot be upgraded at this point.

Full marks Creative Assembly for an unbroken record of tutorial awfulness.  This is my fifth Total War game so at least I had some idea where the missing commands are likely to be. Nevertheless I still wasted a fair bit of time looking around to see if they had moved before finally accepting that they just don't work in the tutorial. I imagine a genuinely new player being completely confused by this though and probably being convinced that they are doing something wrong because they aren't able to find the commands that the helpful adviser is talking about.


Jayedub said...

I tend to turn off the advisor after awhile. I have played enough ETW to know that the advisor is not going to tell me anything I don't already know, but I did use it a lot when I first started playing.

ETW is a great game, hope you enjoy it.

mbp said...

I am looking forward to Empire Jay. The period has a lot more resonance for me that Medieval. I am slowly easing my self in. Once I got past the opening chapter of the campaign the tutorial straight jacket came off and the advice began to make more sense.

I definitely need more practise with combat though. In previous total war games battles were all about using heavy infantry to hold a line while cavalry flanked the enemy. Ranged troops played a secondary harrassing role. In Empire the advent of firearms means that almost everyone is a ranged troop. I still haven't figured out whether it is better to stand off and trade volleys with the enemy or to fix bayonets and charge them down.

I got as far as my first siege last night and I got a rude shock. I had a huge army with several cannon so I confidently chose to launch an immediate assault. Sadly fortress technology has improved substantially since medieval times. Instead of massive pretty looking palaces with walls that crumble after a few cannon balls I faced an ugly star shaped fortress perched on top of a hillside. Its squat ugly walls must be 20 feet thick and are unlikly to be breachable by canon fire while they provide a perfect killing platform for the defenders to pick of my men as they struggle up the hill.