The most ambitious and flawed Total War has just received its first update in years

Troops in Total War: Empire
(Image credit: Sega)

I was convinced Total War: Empire was going to be a game-changer. A Total War in the age of muskets, with naval battles and a map that would let us fight across the world—how could it be anything less than amazing? Unfortunately, it didn't live up to those admittedly big expectations when it launched in 2009. It was rough and buggy, the naval battles couldn't hold a candle to the ones on land, and the scale was just too much. 

What it was, though, was incredibly ambitious, and unlike any of the Total Wars that had come before. Now that I've put some distance—14 years—between me and that initial disappointment, I find myself a lot less critical of the risks Creative Assembly took. And now that it's just received its first update in years, which should improve performance on modern PCs while also fixing an issue that affected 12th gen Intel CPUs, maybe it's time to take it for another spin. 

Worth noting, however, is the removal of the integrated chat system. "Due to difficulties supporting and moderating dated chat systems in the current online environment, we’ve taken steps to remove the integrated chat from Total War: Empire and other legacy titles in our catalogue," the team explains. "We are, however, continuing to investigate ways to properly implement and support chat in our future projects and will keep you updated on any changes or developments we make."

In the meantime, if you're dabbling in multiplayer Creative Assembly recommends using the official Total War Discord.

These changes can also be seen in the standalone expansion Total War: Napoleon, a game I find it much easier to recommend. If big hats, smart uniforms and muskets are your thing, Napoleon is a much better way to satisfy your kink. It's a tighter, focused Total War and does a better job of showing off what Creative Assembly is good at. Until the days of Warhammer's Mortal Empires, I used to hold up Napoleon as proof that Total War was always best when you didn't have a gargantuan map and countless nations vying for control. That might no longer be the case, with Creative Assembly now able to pull off its ambitious ideas, but I still consider Napoleon one of the series' high points. 

If you picked up Empire or Napoleon a long time ago and haven't checked in for a long time, you might be in for a nice surprise. Back in 2018, the base games were both (along with Medieval 2) updated to their Definitive Edition versions, unlocking all of the DLC for free. Another good excuse to hop back in for some battles.  

Fraser Brown
Online Editor

Fraser is the UK online editor and has actually met The Internet in person. With over a decade of experience, he's been around the block a few times, serving as a freelancer, news editor and prolific reviewer. Strategy games have been a 30-year-long obsession, from tiny RTSs to sprawling political sims, and he never turns down the chance to rave about Total War or Crusader Kings. He's also been known to set up shop in the latest MMO and likes to wind down with an endlessly deep, systemic RPG. These days, when he's not editing, he can usually be found writing features that are 1,000 words too long or talking about his dog.