The Empire:Total War demo, Day one

    As those of you who frequent the irc may know, I am a big Total War fan. I have always enjoyed the work done by the Creative Assembly and was highly looking forward to seeing their latest game, Empire:Total War. The Total War series is a favorite of mine, one whose strategy and depth have always amazed me. I pre-purchased Empire on Steam and also took a look at the Empire demo that just came out. This is not really a review, but more of a journey through that demo. THis will probably be a two-parter since I didn't manage to get much done today.

    First off, I downloaded the demo off its steam page and installed the 2 GB demo, which includes tutorials for both land and naval combat along with a historical battle for each. Just for reference, the Rome:Total War gold edition includes both the original game plus the first expansion pack and shows up on steam as 3.3 GB. Anyway, I have installed the demo and finished downloading the updates, so it's time to open-oh geez, error? What do you mean this is not compatible with Windows XP? It is perfectly compatible, they are meant to be together! Yes I had to work with a steam support guy who I am friends with(for his sake let us call him SolarRabbit) for about four hours to find the files I needed relating to DirectX9. I had this same problem before with playing the Call of Duty: World at War multiplayer beta and it was apparently a problem that affect many would be players. Since I had prior experience with this and others seem to be affected by it as well, I would recommend all DirectX9 users to make sure they have all their parts set up right.

    Well knowing this is by the Creative Assembly guys means this will probably be awesome and all will be forgiven. So I finally get the game open, arriving at the legal screen. For all who don't know, all Total War games start by forcing the player to stare at their legal junk for a couple of minutes while they do......something? I'm never sure if they spend that time loading stuff up or laughing at the player for waiting around like an idiot. So while I am being mocked from people across the Atlantic, I notice something odd appearing on my screen. You know how when tvs used to not work right then you would get these white lines going up and down the screen as the telly had no connection? Well that happened to me while waiting on the legal screen. This halted after I forced my way onto the in-game steam page but after forcing the program to stop three times I still could not get the lines to vanish. So I ctrl-alt-delete my way out, sighing all the while, but getting up and going to the bathroom as well. I return from my great journey to find menu noises playing on my computer. I had not closed the game before leaving and now I could hear the noises coming from the program. HUZZAH, I am victorious. Finally, I will get to play the demo. Nothing more could possibly go wrong.

    I get to the menu and find all options but tutorial and battle greyed out. By this point it was late and I thought I should go get some sleep, but I decided to make it to the land battle at least and get some action to make up for my wait. I decided to jump straight into battle and ignore the tutorial because the way I saw it, a veteran of all the Total War games should have no trouble with some more land battles. So I pick the available land battle(The Battle of Brandywine Creek) and prepare myself for battle. I find myself at a loading screen, watching some ships duel in a mighty struggle while Our 3rd President, Mr.Thomas Jefferson, has a quote displayed at the bottom.

" When you reach the end of your rope, tie a knot in it and hang on."

Well said Mr.President, well said. No one has ever described war quite as well.

    So while I mull over Thomas' words, I watch the loading screen go. I watch it go very slowly. Very, very slowly. I clocked that loading screen in at six minutes......not a good sign at all. Usually the Total War games are pretty snappy with load times, but this one was just an abomination of nature. What's more the bar repeatedly flew past the bar and off the screen, a technically meaningless thing, but a sign as to how little polish really went into this. Finally though, I escape the loading screen of death to find a field. A really, really ugly field. I do not have a bad computer. It can run Medieval2:Total War, Supreme Commander, Company of Heroes, all without any trouble. But here the models just looked awful. They reminded me more of a mashup of the models between the original Medieval:Total War(2002) and Rome:Total War(2004). Once I tried to start the battle, I discovered two things that destroyed any positive feelings I had left for this demo. First, the frame rate and animation was disgusting. Units didn't resemble Med2 in terms of just walking. But what really sent it over the edge was the camera. You cannot move it using the either the arrows or WASD. Camera control is key in real-time strategy games, even more so in Total War. The only way I could move the camera was through the minimap, which involved the camera awkwardly jumping over to that spot. If I had to use that in real battles I would be screwed. Using the camera would be incredibly clunky and make strategy impossible. I check ed the settings only to find my control scheme set as the classic total war style EXCEPT FOR THE GODDAMN CAMERA!!!! SO I played around with the controls for a little while, trying to figure out how to make this playable. Eventually I set off some sort of graphical auto adjuster, sending back to the loading screen and Mr.President's illuminating comments on war.

    After another eight minutes of staring at a loading screen I gave up and began my attempt to break out by repeatedly using CTRL-ALT-DELETE, only to find that is was useless here. After another five minutes of trying to get out of there, I finally gave up, flicked the restart switch and gave up for the night. The biggest thing that pisses me off is camera control. It is impossible to play an RTS if one is rooted in one spot, so changes will need to be made there in order to make this playable. Even if I can find a way to revert things to the classic WASD style, the difficulty in getting there means a lot of frustrated people. In the next look at this demo I will try the tutorials and see if those teach me anything or will just flip me off and I will also try the naval combat section. Unless this game starts giving out free copies of Med2 along with cake I can't see myself giving this demo any positive feedback. Still, I believe in miracles, so who knows. Until next time.

24 Comments
25 Comments
Posted by Thordain

    As those of you who frequent the irc may know, I am a big Total War fan. I have always enjoyed the work done by the Creative Assembly and was highly looking forward to seeing their latest game, Empire:Total War. The Total War series is a favorite of mine, one whose strategy and depth have always amazed me. I pre-purchased Empire on Steam and also took a look at the Empire demo that just came out. This is not really a review, but more of a journey through that demo. THis will probably be a two-parter since I didn't manage to get much done today.

    First off, I downloaded the demo off its steam page and installed the 2 GB demo, which includes tutorials for both land and naval combat along with a historical battle for each. Just for reference, the Rome:Total War gold edition includes both the original game plus the first expansion pack and shows up on steam as 3.3 GB. Anyway, I have installed the demo and finished downloading the updates, so it's time to open-oh geez, error? What do you mean this is not compatible with Windows XP? It is perfectly compatible, they are meant to be together! Yes I had to work with a steam support guy who I am friends with(for his sake let us call him SolarRabbit) for about four hours to find the files I needed relating to DirectX9. I had this same problem before with playing the Call of Duty: World at War multiplayer beta and it was apparently a problem that affect many would be players. Since I had prior experience with this and others seem to be affected by it as well, I would recommend all DirectX9 users to make sure they have all their parts set up right.

    Well knowing this is by the Creative Assembly guys means this will probably be awesome and all will be forgiven. So I finally get the game open, arriving at the legal screen. For all who don't know, all Total War games start by forcing the player to stare at their legal junk for a couple of minutes while they do......something? I'm never sure if they spend that time loading stuff up or laughing at the player for waiting around like an idiot. So while I am being mocked from people across the Atlantic, I notice something odd appearing on my screen. You know how when tvs used to not work right then you would get these white lines going up and down the screen as the telly had no connection? Well that happened to me while waiting on the legal screen. This halted after I forced my way onto the in-game steam page but after forcing the program to stop three times I still could not get the lines to vanish. So I ctrl-alt-delete my way out, sighing all the while, but getting up and going to the bathroom as well. I return from my great journey to find menu noises playing on my computer. I had not closed the game before leaving and now I could hear the noises coming from the program. HUZZAH, I am victorious. Finally, I will get to play the demo. Nothing more could possibly go wrong.

    I get to the menu and find all options but tutorial and battle greyed out. By this point it was late and I thought I should go get some sleep, but I decided to make it to the land battle at least and get some action to make up for my wait. I decided to jump straight into battle and ignore the tutorial because the way I saw it, a veteran of all the Total War games should have no trouble with some more land battles. So I pick the available land battle(The Battle of Brandywine Creek) and prepare myself for battle. I find myself at a loading screen, watching some ships duel in a mighty struggle while Our 3rd President, Mr.Thomas Jefferson, has a quote displayed at the bottom.

" When you reach the end of your rope, tie a knot in it and hang on."

Well said Mr.President, well said. No one has ever described war quite as well.

    So while I mull over Thomas' words, I watch the loading screen go. I watch it go very slowly. Very, very slowly. I clocked that loading screen in at six minutes......not a good sign at all. Usually the Total War games are pretty snappy with load times, but this one was just an abomination of nature. What's more the bar repeatedly flew past the bar and off the screen, a technically meaningless thing, but a sign as to how little polish really went into this. Finally though, I escape the loading screen of death to find a field. A really, really ugly field. I do not have a bad computer. It can run Medieval2:Total War, Supreme Commander, Company of Heroes, all without any trouble. But here the models just looked awful. They reminded me more of a mashup of the models between the original Medieval:Total War(2002) and Rome:Total War(2004). Once I tried to start the battle, I discovered two things that destroyed any positive feelings I had left for this demo. First, the frame rate and animation was disgusting. Units didn't resemble Med2 in terms of just walking. But what really sent it over the edge was the camera. You cannot move it using the either the arrows or WASD. Camera control is key in real-time strategy games, even more so in Total War. The only way I could move the camera was through the minimap, which involved the camera awkwardly jumping over to that spot. If I had to use that in real battles I would be screwed. Using the camera would be incredibly clunky and make strategy impossible. I check ed the settings only to find my control scheme set as the classic total war style EXCEPT FOR THE GODDAMN CAMERA!!!! SO I played around with the controls for a little while, trying to figure out how to make this playable. Eventually I set off some sort of graphical auto adjuster, sending back to the loading screen and Mr.President's illuminating comments on war.

    After another eight minutes of staring at a loading screen I gave up and began my attempt to break out by repeatedly using CTRL-ALT-DELETE, only to find that is was useless here. After another five minutes of trying to get out of there, I finally gave up, flicked the restart switch and gave up for the night. The biggest thing that pisses me off is camera control. It is impossible to play an RTS if one is rooted in one spot, so changes will need to be made there in order to make this playable. Even if I can find a way to revert things to the classic WASD style, the difficulty in getting there means a lot of frustrated people. In the next look at this demo I will try the tutorials and see if those teach me anything or will just flip me off and I will also try the naval combat section. Unless this game starts giving out free copies of Med2 along with cake I can't see myself giving this demo any positive feedback. Still, I believe in miracles, so who knows. Until next time.

Posted by Hamz

Sounds pretty bad and worse for someone who is a Total War fan like yourself :S

Posted by Thordain
Hamz said:
"Sounds pretty bad and worse for someone who is a Total War fan like yourself :S
"
I can never unsee what I saw.
Posted by Claude

I'm down loading it. Let's see what happens. Thanks for the up... hope they fix it. Good Luck.

Posted by KindGalaxy

wall of text.

demo = me changing video settings, waiting 7 minutes on a loading screen, then me quitting and playing DoW2.
Posted by atejas

I loved it. Except for the rape hard, system crunching naval battle.
The land battle was brilliant. Tight terrain, perfect for ambushes and flanking, the AI was very responsive, and kept reforming after it routed and attacking me again or forming up.

Edited by Vecta

Maybe you never played the Rome: Total War demo, but the loading screens in that demo were horrendous as well, and the full games loading turned out quick and fine. Its all due to a large amount of compression used to keep the file size low.

Oh and by default WASD does move the camera. I think you just got unlucky.

Posted by TheJollyRajah

I tried it, and never got through the tutorial. Then I went back to Crysis Warhead.


I like TBS games better.... like the Civilization franchise.
Posted by Alcamin

Thanks for the heads up, Thordain! I'm downloading the demo at the moment but it's taking ages (curse my painfully slow internet connection!). Like you, I'm a huge Total War fan and reading this post has filled me with dread. I've been anticipating this game for so long, far more than any TW game before it, so the idea of it being the first one to be majority flawed is a terrible one. I'm genuinely nervous about this, if you can beleive it. Well hopefully this is just a a problem with the demo and doesn't actually reflect the finished product. Fingers, toes, and anything else you care to think of will be crossed. Keep us updated (it may be a while until I can try it out for myself after all).

Posted by ZeroCast

Thordain, this is EXACTLY what i have been experiencing with the demo, it's just pathetic to see a Bink video take so long to load, that thing is not even connected to the game, it's supposed to be pre-rendered and loaded directly for the Hard Drive.

Man, i really wanted to play this game, but even when the main screen showed up, i immediately went to Options to try and adjust the resolution because it was really slow to click on a the Tutorial button.So i went there,changed the resolution ,and what do you know, as soon as i clicked on a new one, the whole screen went black while the wonderful music played on the background...like, what the hell?!

Anyways, to keep this short, i played the game on a slowness level that is slower than a turtle(!) and didn't enjoy it one single bit. Hopefully, the full product is not like this.

Posted by niplfsh

Yeah... I have a C2D and 4gb of RAM, not to mention RAID 0 hard drives... the load times are obnoxious.  As for compression slowing them down... well, one would think the installer would decompress the files.  I thought the graphics were fine, but I'm not too picky about graphics as long as it runs smoothly.  Which it did, once it actually got into the game.

Hopefully the full game runs a lot better... I was going to pre-order it, but now it looks like I'm going to wait and see.

Posted by Hdfisise
niplfsh said:
"Yeah... I have a C2D and 4gb of RAM, not to mention RAID 0 hard drives... the load times are obnoxious.  As for compression slowing them down... well, one would think the installer would decompress the files.  I thought the graphics were fine, but I'm not too picky about graphics as long as it runs smoothly.  Which it did, once it actually got into the game.

Hopefully the full game runs a lot better... I was going to pre-order it, but now it looks like I'm going to wait and see."

One would think it wouldn;t be compressed so much that it runs like crap as it is 2gb!
Posted by Snail

What are you talking about?

You can control the camera using the arrows or WASD... And it ran just fine in my computer!

Posted by niplfsh

Yeah the camera thing must have been an isolated bug... WASD and the mouse worked fine for me.  Although there was an annoying issue where the mouse would fly off the right side of the screen onto my second monitor, preventing me from turning the camera right with the mouse.

Posted by Thordain
KindGalaxy said:
"wall of text.
demo = me changing video settings, waiting 7 minutes on a loading screen, then me quitting and playing DoW2.
"
I can't upload any amusing pictures for some reason. I'll try to add those next time.
Posted by JudgeDread

Just tried to play the demo, TRIED

After 5 minutes of staring at a loading screen I CAD-ed out of the game, stopped the process and swiftly uninstalled the demo

I will NOT be buying this game

Posted by Alcamin

Well, I've finally been able to have a go with the demo and I'm happy to say things have been going well. My experience couldn't have been more different for yours, Thordain. No camera problems, no frame rate issues, nothing, which is impressive as everything was set to high. The only thing worth calling out  is the load time, which were pretty sluggish, but still not as bad as yours. All in all, I had a pretty good time. The game seems pretty solid when it works.

It makes me wonder why these problems have been occurring for some people though. After looking around various forums it sounds pretty random. People with exactly the same spec PC's are have wildly different results, while some top range PC's are being out performed by their low end cousins. It's all very strange. Hopefully this whole thing is being cause by a buggy, older version of the game and will be (or already has been) fixed in the retail version. I guess we will just have to wait and see.

Anyway, I am once again happy and excited for the game. The hope is returning! :)

Posted by ColonelSanders

I have played this game on two different computers and it worked on both of them.  The load times are long- on the better computer it was faster.  However, based on feedback from a number of guys at the twcenter forum who were lucky enough to get early look at the full game, the retail version loads as quickly as previous versions-i.e. MTW II.

I noticed on the lower end of the 2 computers that adjusting the graphics is a must.  It seems like in MTWII if you used too high a setting it would load and look nice, but it wouldn't run well.  With Empire, my med. range computer looked horrible at High settings(wierd sky, etc), but pretty good at Medium.

My high range computer simply looked awesome on ultra and ran beautifully.  You really don't get the full naval effect- shards flying, etc- without a good computer.

At the proper settings, camera movement was fine for both.

I've played through the both the naval and land battles several times and was quite impressed.

Naval battles are a new challenge.  I'm still getting the knack of  keeping my ships in formation, breaking off one or two to finish off a wounded Frenchie, and then regroup. 

The land battle is what is what I was most concerned about.  Creative Assembly came through with their promise to improve the AI.  Everytime I've played the AI has done something different and at times unexpected.  (If you're about to try it, be sure to use the second fjord).  The first one is covered by their artillery which will cut you're force to shreds with grape shot if they try to cross.)



Posted by Black_Raven

I haven't had too many problems with the demo, I can play it on ultra settings with no AA and it runs at around 30-35FPS on my 8800GT, the loading times are long for me but nowhere near 7 minutes. The graphics look a little ugly zoomed out but when you zoom in you can see a lot of detail on the environments and units. As for whether the game is good or not I'll have to wait and get the hang of the game since I'm new to the total War series.

Posted by TheGreenBastard

I'm also a huge fan of the Total War series and I really tried to like the demo but I can't help but feel a little underwhelmed, I mean, the demo is supposed to blow me away isn't it?
I pretty much had the same experience as Thordain minus the camera trouble... worked fine for me.
Loading screens seemed longer compared the previous games... big stall for the intro movie... frame rates were a little dodgy...

The things I'm most disappointed about are: the music, textures, combat sounds and ai control... mostly just the little things. But the little things count.
The music in previous Total War games really made the game for me, I loved them. But the music in the demo felt kind of... "meh"... which really crushed me a little inside. It didn't  have the "oomph" or force that previous TW games had. Jeff van Dyck did the previous soundtracks with a couple extra composers on the M:TW Kingdoms soundtrack but I can't remember if he is doing Empire's soundtrack... I would look it up but I'm tired and its late...
The textures in game, specifically the individual soldiers, look pretty weak to me (had settings on high). All the soldiers had the same face... thats not even an improvement. M:TW 2 solved that didn't it? (beginning to think maybe this is just a problem I had... can anyone else confirm?)
Combat sounds... these are the little sounds in game that made previous TW games so awesome to watch. The warcry a unit would make when it charged, the sound effects of a melee when you got the camera close to a fight, the death rattles of soldiers falling in battle... those sound effects seemed weak in the demo.
The AI.... yep, pretty much the same problems exist from the previous TW's but I lived with it before I can do so again.

For me, I felt they put alot more effort in the naval battles than the land battles. It shows... the men climbing around on the rigging of a ship, the individual control of vessals in battle, the detail of men on the decks of the ships etc... those were pretty impressive. Oh and another thing! Where was the narrator for the historical battles? The fella who outlined and explained the historical context and told us what the hell was going on in the battle... remember? Like what they did in Rome TW. I miss that.

Meh, I'm trash talking this game pretty bad but don't get me wrong, I *want* to like it... its just the demo didn't impress me. I hope they sort out these things in the final game or I have a change of heart in the next couple of days. I'm still hopeful for the grand campaign.

Oh btw, my computer is pretty decent (thats what I like to think anyway), it runs all good games fine and it has the 8800gt so I don't think the problems I had were because was trying to run a brand new game on a machine that was built in the last millenium...


Posted by Dev175

I am a decent fan of the Total war games. I loved rome total war, and played through it with almost all factions. Not so crazy about MTW2, as the units were a little too weak fighting their supposedly inferior enemies like peasants and such. Anyhooooooow i downloaded the Empire total war demo a few days back, and as u all have experienced the loading times were extremely long!!!! it took almost 10 minutes before the game decided that I had suffered enough and let me into the main menu. I was on cloud 9 and obvious to the world. Happy days, Hurray!!!! i start the land tutorial to get the feel of the game. All was well, until i was given control of all the units. I zoomed out max to get the lay of the land, but the game freezed, and not just any freeze it would not let me ctrl-alt-delete or even move the mouse. i tured my computer on and off and started the game again. The loading times were still very very long and boring reading the legal s***.  I tried the battle for Brandywine Creek this time and, and guess what the same s**** happened. the game froze just 3 minutes after i started playing.  I restart computer, start demo start sea battle, same thing happen only this time it happened 2 seconds after i started the battle!!!!!!! So here comes the question: Does any other person out there have the same problem???? I am desperate!! My computer has 2GB ram, 8600 Geforce, AMD Turion 64 X2 mobile tech processor, Windows Vista Home Premium. Any help is greatly appreciated. Thank u for reading this :)

Posted by Thordain
Dev175 said:
"

i tured my computer on and off and started the game again. The loading times were still very very long and boring reading the legal s***.  I tried the battle for Brandywine Creek this time and, and guess what the same s**** happened.

"
Relax bud, you can fucking curse here. Still, it is strange to see how everyone's impressions of the demo are kept to either "demo is awful" or "demo is bad-ass"
Posted by CactusWolf

I didn't have any particular problems with the demo, it ran smoothly and played great. Already have it pre-ordered via steam.

I didn't really enjoy the naval battles though I guess those never interested me in the first place.

Posted by Dev175

YAYYY A PLACE WHERE I CAN CURSE!!!!!!!! FUCKING AWSOME!!!!!!

Posted by tweeter53

Alas, I also have been a Total War fan for several years. I have been looking foward to the release of Empire for over a year. Got my copy via Best Buy. No problems with the install. Like Thordain, I also have absolutely no camera control. I have tried multiple settings and it flat DOES NOT work. I reckon in five or six years I'll get a patch that will fix this problem. Also, when I buy a game, I want to play the game. Steam sucks.