Written by  :  Mirrorshades2k (282)
Written on  :  Jun 15, 2007
Platform  :  Windows
Rating  :  3.8 Stars3.8 Stars3.8 Stars3.8 Stars3.8 Stars

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Real-time Land Battles

The Good

(Note: As mentioned in the game summary, there are really 3 separate components to this game -- a turn-based strategic management game, real-time land battles, and real-time sea battles. I have really only played the land battles, so my review will only be of that "game" within Imperial Glory.)

The real-time battle component of Imperial Glory is a lot of fun. I always shied away from real-time strategy (RTS) games, as they proved to give me more than I could remember to keep track of. From the main menu of the game, you can select either a Historic Battle (scenarios included with the game, designed to mimic historic conflicts) or a Quick Battle (wherein you select the forces for each side and a map).

I have found that, as I am still a relative newbie to the RTS style of wargaming, the Quick Battle option allowed me the most flexibility. It starts by allowing you to select the countries that will represent each side (England, France, Russia, Prussia, Austria), and then purchase units for each side of the battle. The unit types will be familiar to any Napoleonic-era wargamer, the venerable infantry, cavalry, and artillery. Each unit type, however, has different "levels" of unit -- for example, infantry units available may include:
  • militia (unskilled citizen soldiers with no guns; very cheap)
  • light or line infantry (the basic building blocks)
  • one or more types of elite infantry (dragoons, old guard, etc)
Likewise with cavalry and artillery. Additionally, different countries offer some slightly different unit types, though nothing that upsets the balance tremendously. Having selected units, you may add to their experience for additional cost, and you may add additional battle tactics/skills to your army as a whole. Experienced units will be able to fire/reload faster, change formation more quickly, and tend to hit what they're aiming at more often. The advanced tactics allow your units to use additional formations (such as the square or double-line), or attack with increased efficiency or damage.

I like the ability to customize each side of the battle; to a newcomer like me, I can start small. For example, I can model a conflict with two infantry, one cavalry, and one artillery unit on each side. In this way, I can get used to the interface and controls with a relatively small number of things to keep track of simultaneously (because, heck -- when trying to re-fight the battle of Waterloo, you could have 30 of your units wiped out in the time it takes you to remember which key moves the camera in which direction).

Battle maps are selected by clicking on a particular area of the map of Europe and North Africa. Terrain and weather are determined by the location; north and east will give you barren, snowy landscapes, while to the south (North Africa) you will be fighting in hot, dusty deserts. The maps themselves are breathtakingly beautiful, even a couple years after the game has been released. Each battle begins with a flyover of the map, and you have the chance to view the map in its entirety before beginning the battle.

Battles begin by each side deploying their troops within a set region, and deciding on initial formations and groupings. The controls for unit and camera movement are not too difficult; you can do most of what you need to do with the mouse, though you will find that the keyboard shortcuts are faster and have the added benefit of freeing up the mouse for other action (important in a real-time game).

The sounds and music are also very nice; an added touch is that when you give orders to your units, you will hear the orders being given in your army's language. (Although I tend to pick England so I can understand what they are saying.)

The battle ends when one side has eliminated or completely routed the other site ("Total Victory") or, alternately, maintained control of an objective until the game time runs out (not available on all maps). After the battle, you can review statistics for each side of casualties, kills, and enemy flags captured.

There are a number of small details that complete the overall image, such as:
  • weapon fire causes black powder smoke (though nowhere near a realistic amount)
  • marching through the sand will kick up dust
  • units that get wiped out may still have one or two wounded soldiers twitching around (a bit disturbing)
Overall, a lot of fun.

The Bad

As with any game, it takes a little doing to get used to the controls. This is compounded somewhat in large battles, since there are a number of detailed formation and operation options that can be a bit confusing to a newcomer (hence my recommendation to start with just a few units and work your way up).

There are quite a few load screens, which seem to take longer than they should. None during gameplay, but they happen frequently enough that I got impatient. My computer may be a factor, though I don't think that is too big of a part (it was a year old when the game was released).

One especially frustrating thing is that there doesn't seem to be a way to break off a melee engagement (or if there is, I haven't found it). Usually I have the infantry units firing on each other, which is not so much of a problem. However, this really makes me re-think the idea of a cavalry charge. I have no trouble ordering a charge... however, since I can't break off the engagement, the cavalry stay and fight until either they or the enemy unit are wiped out. Napoleonic tactics involve the use of both heavy cavalry (for which the above may be appropriate) and light cavalry, used for quick strikes to disrupt and demoralize a unit. Not being able to order a retreat means that my light cavalry stay fighting, which I don't usually want.

Also, I have a couple minor gripes about the camera operation. Firstoff, I have found it difficult to keep the camera steady on the battle when there is a hill or structure involved -- the camera will sometimes either "fall down" the side of the hill while the units are on top, or will fail to zoom in on a building that has fighting going on inside (there is one plaza that was particularly troublesome, as it kept "climbing up" the surrounding walls). Additionally, when you reach the out-of-bounds line on the map, the camera just stops in that direction but may still slide along the edge. This becomes problematic if you have units near the edge of the map, as they may all of a sudden disappear from view as your camera moves off in an odd direction that you did not expect.

The Bottom Line

This is my first real effort at playing a real-time wargame, and I have ended up liking it a lot more than I thought I would. My gripes and complaints are minor and will probably go away as I get more familiar with the controls, and it is a lot of fun to see the level of detail while your little guys are running around trying to blow each other up.

There is a "Napoleonic Total War" mod for the game Rome: Total War; if you have played that, then you should have a good feel for what the gameplay is like in Imperial Glory (actually, I believe that the real-time combat in most of the Total War games is very similar, though I have only played Rome). Fun way to spend a few free minutes!

Imperial Glory also has a turn-based strategic component and real-time sea battles... but I have not even felt like trying them out. I would recommend getting the game for the land battles alone.