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Imperial Glory

Score: 82%
ESRB: Teen
Publisher: Eidos Interactive
Developer: Pyro Studios
Media: CD/3
Players: 1 - 4
Genre: Real-Time Strategy/ Turn-Based Strategy/ Strategy

Graphics & Sound:

Imperial Glory, published by stalwart Eidos Interactive and developed by Pyro Studios (Commando series), brings us into the world of war and politics in the 18th century. Many will instantly compare this title to the Total War series, and rightly so, for it combines both the fast-paced RTS action in gorgeous 3D, with elements of “Risk-esque” grand strategy.

Perhaps the strongest area is Imperial Glory’s graphical showing. A wide array of unit types, all with historically accurate flags, colors, uniforms, etc are on display here. It’s a real treat for the eyes (and ears) to zoom into the masses of infantry as they bayonet-charge the enemy, or line-up in formation to volley fire. The developers did a great job of showing individual fighting going on in the melee engagements, and you can even track individual soldiers if you keep a keen eye out. Things do get a bit hectic at times when multiple units are embroiled, but thankfully the interface is clean enough to pick them out. Performance wise, it ran pretty good on my decent box, aside from a few slowdown lags when a ton of troops were on screen, but this rarely happened.

The environments are extremely varied as well, taking you from the lush fields and broken down castles of England to the arid lands of Egypt and even the snowy steppes or greater Russia. Mountains, forests, villages and other details dot the landscape, often playing a key roll in the strategy besides looking great. Also, the sea battles with the finely-detailed ships really add to the variety and the sight of a warship being swept with cannon fire is truly impressive.

The sound matches the quality of the graphics as well, from fine orchestral pieces stirring the nationalistic pride buried deep within us (“Go England!”) to excellent on-field voice effects. It was really nice having your troops respond in their native tongue, and added some extra spice to the war. Couple this with excellent gunfire, steel clanging, horses clumping along and the thump of artillery, and the battles really come alive.


Gameplay:

The healthy tutorial mode is recommended for the novice gamers, but for those who have played any of the Total War series, you should feel right at home. Before stepping into the Deep Campaign mode, you can try your hand at historical battles like Waterloo or Austerlitz, or just make a battle for yourself via a handy “instant action” type feature. I enjoyed the latter immensely, and often would try several oddball combinations, like nothing but cavalry versus infantry or artillery only versus melee-only. In one particular map, I had about 15 horse-drawn cannon, sitting back behind a raised castle terrace and boy, did they chew up those advancing infantry something good. Wasn’t a pretty site. There is also multiplayer, which I will touch on later.

But, for those looking for some more meaning than random battles, look towards the Campaign Mode. You get the choice of several 18th and 19th century powers: France, Prussia, Great Britain, Russia and Austria. Those who failed high school geography will get some nice history lessons here. Much of the world was very different looking during that period of time. Great Britain was split into the separate territories, the defunct Ottoman and Prussian empires are in force and land is up for grabs. Russia is still a massive country though. It has been mentioned before that this map screen is very Risk-like, whereby you even have small troop icons representing your icons, not unlike those fun, plastic armies in the aforementioned classic board game. Ahh yes… many a night in high school - Taco Bell in hand - taking over Eastern Europe with “zerg” (read: massed) tactics… Some of the same tactics apply here, but you can’t just stack your entire army in one area and smother the enemy. You can only place 3 units at a time, and the last one acts as reinforcements at times. But don’t let me get too ahead of myself just yet…

Let me state that you won’t have much to micromanage politically or economically. Early on, things are pretty slow paced allowing for a smooth, yet gradual learning curve. You choose your research options via a crucial tech tree system, with each process broken into economic, political or military venues, for instance. You may choose to research more troop types and be the first to use cannon in battle, but at the risk of hurting your trade relations, and ultimately your income. Some of these take multiple turns (years/months in game time) that lead to important outcomes for your nation. The player can also build (via research, remember) trade outposts, barracks, schools (increases intelligence in generals) and a host of other buildings. These don’t come cheap, so utilizing your resources is very important, and that brings us to the Diplomacy screen. Here you can make defensive alliances with sets of countries, trade pacts, peace treaties (with a little money making it smooth over) and so forth. Many times, I was turned down at diplomatic attempts, even though I had perfectly reasonable offers…. a bit screwy at times.

Take notice, you peace minded folks, you really never have to go to war if you play smart economically/diplomatically. You start by annexing territories, building strong alliances and becoming a friend to all. Personally, I am a super war-monger, but I did dabble in the more civilized discourse from time to time. The enemy A.I. is pretty capable in this arena - so be wary, or you may be looking at a lifetime of exile, a la Napoleon.

The battles in Imperial Glory are very similar to the Total War series, in scope and tactics. You have a whole assortment of units that include Cavalry, Infantry, Artillery and Basic Militia. Each one has certain realistic weaknesses, such as when non-square formation infantry get rolled over by horse charges, or how Artillery is quickly eliminated if not properly defended. Upgrading your army is really key as well, although at times overwhelming numbers will play a larger factor than elite troops. Terrain also plays a role, as certain areas may hinder your movement and line-of-sight is important for your guns to rain iron upon your adversary. The A.I. from both sides is pretty capable, lots of flanking, attacking vulnerable formations and so on. But sadly, there is no morale modeled whatsoever; a feature that is critical in real battle. Also oddly missing is the ability to speed up gameplay, especially aggravating in the early staging times where the opposing armies march to each other on the large fields of battle.

If land conflicts don’t intrigue you, there is plenty of naval action to be had. You can blockade an entire country or port, and the battles themselves are interesting. You take a much more hands-on role, plotting courses that line up for broadside barrages, as well as attempts to board vessels. They even have different types of cannon shot detailed, from grape (think shotgun) for infantry, to chain for taking out masts, which reduces their speed. At times, this can be pretty cumbersome, and I personally preferred the land warfare to the sea-based experience.

There is also a multiplayer mode for up to 4 players online, playing through the historical maps and other action. It’s a pretty solid experience if you can snag some people to play, and adds to the longevity of this title.


Difficulty:

The learning curve isn’t that harsh, especially with the handy tutorial. The Deep Campaign mode employs a different set of difficulties, based on your choice of nation. For instance, Russia starts with a lot more resources like timber, food, etc. and also can build up large armies. But they are in a weak position navy wise, having only 2 ports to work with, surrounded by possible hostile enemies. Contrast this with Britain, where you can control the sea-lanes... but not so much by choice; if you wish to conquer territory, Britain must control the oceans or risk being pinned inside it’s borders. As long as you stay patient and realize you probably won’t be a mastermind in your first outing, you shouldn’t be frustrated by Imperial Glory.

Game Mechanics:

The HUD is organized well, in all 3 of the main screens (Land, Sea and World map) with readouts on resources, troop types, radar and a host of standard features. The camera helps you enjoy the beauty of the game even more with stream-lined controls similar to other games in this genre; fully movable, zoomable, instant movement (via mini-map), etc.

Imperial Glory is a solid and varied strategy game, even for a genre dominated by the Total War series. But unlike the latter titles, they did not cover this historic period of colonization and warfare, and fans of said time period should be thrilled at this offering. With great graphics, sound and Deep Campaign mode, “armchair Napoleons” should be more than content with Imperial Glory.


-Tybo, GameVortex Communications
AKA Tyler Whitney

Minimum System Requirements:



System: Pentiium 3 1.0GHz or equivalent, RAM: 256 MB RAM, CD-ROM: 8X CD-ROM, Video Memory: 64 MB VRAM, Hard Drive Space: 2560 MB
 

Test System:



Windows XP, 1.83ghz AMD 2500+ 512 MB of RAM, ATI Radeon 9800 Pro 128mb

Nintendo DS Madagascar Nintendo GameBoy Advance Madagascar

 
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