Imperial Glory is a historically based strategy game, set in and around Europe during the early 1800s, which features both real-time, 3D battlefield warfare and a more strategically minded, turn-based "Imperial" mode -- not unlike the games of Creative Assembly's Total War series. On the battlefields, units can occupy buildings or hide in forests for tactical advantages, and real-time naval warfare is featured as well. From the imperial overview perspective, virtual rulers must manage the economic, diplomatic, and technological development that fuels their nations' conquests.
Players choose to command the forces of Austria, France, Great Britain, Prussia, or Russia, each nation presented in a way that reflects its distinct cultural trappings. Each of these factions suffers different weaknesses and enjoys distinct strengths, though the game is designed to balance these advantages and disadvantages for engaging play no matter which is chosen. Imperial Glory was developed by Pyro Studios, the company known for its Commandos series of mission-based World War II real-time tactics games.
It's impossible to play Imperial Glory without thinking of the Total War series from Activision and The Creative Assembly. Fair or not, any game that tries to blend turn-based global strategy with epic 3D real-time battles is going to be compared to the watershed title of that particular genre. If you use Rome: Total War as the benchmark, Imperial Glory falls a bit short; it's not that it's a waste of time, but you can't help but think that it should have turned out a lot better than it did.
Imperial Glory is a gorgeous game. Developer Pyro Studios went to great lengths to give the game an authentic look. The battlefields are as good as (if not better than) anything you will see in a Total War game. The landscape of Napoleon-era Europe is spot-on, complete with rolling farmland, small cottages, and various other terrain. The models also look fantastic; flags wave in the breeze, smoke litters the battlefield as muskets fire and cannons roar from off the hillsides. Wargamers who love this era of combat will certainly appreciate the level of graphical detail, even though there is a surprising lack of drummers and leader units on the field.
Those same gamers, however, will be absolutely shocked at the actual battles themselves. For a game that seems to go out of its way to be historically accurate in terms of unit types, terrain, and style, it totally misses the mark in how Napoleonic warfare should be portrayed. Any 18th century wargame that fails to factor morale in properly starts out with a huge strike against it. Units and regiments in Imperial Glory all fight to the death, and will not retreat no matter the odds and regardless of how much damage they take. Infantry stand at point-blank range and take cannon shot to the face ... and they'll keep on taking it until you decide to manually move them. What makes the Total War games manageable is that regiments will flee if they take too much damage or get blindsided on a flank or from the rear. In those games, you get the feeling you are controlling actual people, while in Imperial Glory you are controlling 3D models with no fear for their own safety. This one element makes the battles much less compelling than they should be.
There's also no option to pause and issue orders, and you cannot slow down the game speed, which is a big, big problem because the battles move at a breakneck clip rather than the slower, more plodding pace that resembles this era of combat. Granted, not everyone will want an accurate portrayal of 18th century fighting, but those that do are left out in the cold.
The naval combat model is equally hit and miss. It looks great, just like the land battles, but the same problem rears its head: when you get more than two ships in your fleet, the fights become extremely tough to manage and you find yourself searching for that pause-and-issue-orders button. This seems like such a no-brainer of an option for a game like this, that it's really strange that it's not present.
The best part of the game is the turn-based global strategy mode where you build armies, work diplomatic angles, and position your troops on the map. In the campaign you control one of five major powers: Russia, United Kingdom, France, Austria, or Prussia. There are several smaller countries, but they are A.I. controlled and rarely become a factor late in the game. (Although early on they can be a real thorn in your side.) It takes a while for events to really ramp up, but after you are able to research the more advanced technologies and expand your empire, this mode of play becomes quite engaging.
The game's "Quest" system works very well. You are presented with certain tasks or goals for your empire that, once reached, grant additional funds, buildings, or units to your kingdom. This is a fantastic addition that adds some variety as well as sets alternate plans into motion in order to reach specific goals that otherwise might not be as important.
Multiplayer is limited to the battle mode via LAN play just like in the Total War games. Hopefully one day developers will figure out a way to make the entire game multiplayer friendly, as playing against a human mind on the global map would be a fantastic way to play this style of game.
Imperial Glory is one frustrating game. It gets so many things right and it certainly looks the part, but fans of the genre -- especially those interested in Napoleon-era fighting -- will have a tough time getting around the game's lighthearted attempt at modeling combat. Hopefully Eidos will allow Pyro to fix what's broken, because the game is a handful of critical tweaks away from being something special. As it stands, it's tough to fully recommend Imperial Glory unless realism and unit management are low on your list of priorities.
People who downloaded Imperial Glory have also downloaded:
Glory of the Roman Empire, Great Invasions: The Darkages 350-1066 AD, Immortal Cities: Children of the Nile, Homeworld 2, Industry Giant 2: Gold Edition, Lord of the Rings, The: Battle for Middle-Earth, Gary Grigsby's World At War, Homeworld: Cataclysm
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