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Video Game / Empire: Total War

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Empire: Total War is the fifth entry in the Total War series of strategy games, released in 2009. Like other games in the series, it features a mixture of turn-based and real-time strategy, allowing the player to move armies and manage cities on a grand-scale strategy map, then zoom in to fight epic real-time battles when two armies meet. It is the first game in the series to make guns a major part of the gameplay, and the first to include real-time naval battles.

Taking place in the 18th century, it allows the player to control one of several European or Asian powers in a bid to found colonies, fight off rivals and establish a hegemony on the world stage. Changes in thought brought along by The Enlightenment allow experimentation with new kinds of governmental philosophy and research of more new technologies than ever before. The world is changing rapidly, and any rulers who wish to survive this turbulent century must adapt or die.


In addition to the Grand Campaign, the Road to Independence tutorial campaign follows the founding of the United States while teaching the basics of gameplay to the player. The Warpath DLC includes new playable Native American factions as an addition to the main campaign.

This game provides examples of:

  • All the Little Germanies: Set during the era's latter period. Bavaria, Saxony, Hanover, Westphalia/Hessen, and Prussia (the only playable one) are all factions, along with the Austrian Empire. Playing as Prussia brings how confusing and precarious the political situation was at the time; declaring war willy-nilly will quickly get your struggling kingdom in a war with Britain, France, Austria, Poland-Lithuania, and Russia in short order if they aren't dealt with carefully (You can also use it to your advantage: for example attacking Saxony gives you the ability to wage war with Poland-Lithuania without immediately provoking Russia).
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  • All Your Powers Combined: The games in the series that came before this one have the Assassin and the Spy as agents. This game just has the Rake.
  • Alternate History: Take Over the World as Poland? It's in the cards! A united Germany by 1750? Actually pretty easy! Native Americans expelling the European colonists? Go right ahead! All these and more are possible scenarios.
  • Amazon Brigade: The Amazons of Dahomey, actual Real Life Bodyguard Babes (albeit appearing slightly too early).
  • A Million Is a Statistic: Done in the Steam achievements. Killing a hundred thousand enemies is called "Bloody Madman", half a million is "Tyrant and Ogre", but killing a million is "Conqueror of All".
  • Anachronism Stew: Several examples.
    • Empire and Napoleon both feature Moscow as the capital of the Russian Empire. While Moscow was the historical kernel of the Empire and later became a capital once more, St. Petersburg filled this role from 1713 to 1918. This also includes the Russian unique buildings the Winter Palace and the Kunstkamera museum, which are located in St. Petersburg in Real Life but can only be built in Moscow in the game. Part of this is the fault of the game's design, which prevents the changing of capitals, which are the only places where the faction-specific capitol buildings can be built. And to be fair, in the year 1700, Moscow was still Russia's capital city.
    • The Flag of Prussia, which was not in use before 1895, the flag of Republican Prussia which is modern day German flag.
    • Some units can also be available before they were historically, if player has good economy and research. Although most notable example are steamships at the end of the naval tech tree.
    • Nassau starts out in 1700 as a British colony, but for most of the first two decades of that century, the Bahamas were a pirate haven. It wasn't until Woodes Rogers cleared them out that the colony returned to direct British administration.
    • Maine and the rest of New England are separate regions. In Colonial America, Maine was a part of Massachusetts Bay, and New Hampshire, Connecticut, and Rhode Island were separate colonies. There was an attempt at centralization, in the form of the Dominion of New England, but that experiment ended when James II was overthrown in 1688.
    • The capital of the British Province of New York was New York City, not Albany.
    • There was no Britain in 1700; England, Ireland and Scotland were three separate countries in a person union until 1707, when England and Scotland joined to become Great Britain, and Ireland wasn't absorbed for nearly another century.
    • Line infantry, the most common infantry available to European powers, start the game with no access to bayonets. Three different types of bayonets must be researched in sequence before they can be used: the plug bayonet, the ring bayonet and the socket bayonet. However, in real life, the socket bayonet was already in widespread use by the time of the game's start (1700 A.D.), while the player likely won't have access to it until a few decades have gone by.
  • Anti-Cavalry: The square formation is the infantryman's very eloquent and persuasive argument against cavalry, but charging your cavalry head on into infantry is a bad idea in general. Cavalry are largely restricted to flanking and maneuvering when battling infantry by this time in history, and the vast majority of infantry can hold their own against any force of cavalry stupid enough to try a full frontal charge, thank you very much. Cavalry are best used as flankers; failing that, they are best concentrated against small segments of line to break units in detail while the infantry focus on keeping the other side's infantry from turning their guns on the cavalry. Some infantry units are also capable of placing a long row of spikes that are difficult to see and will shred any charging cavalry formation. AI-controlled cavalry regiments are happy to charge straight through the spikes and lose half their men.
  • Arcadia: When the game starts, all the agricultural buildings are small and peaceful farms (that is, when enemy armies aren't raiding them). This changes over the course of the game, as agriculture becomes centralised and industrialised.
  • Artificial Stupidity: Your artillery captains may need to be hanged in Empire. When told to cease fire, they tend to discharge their loaded guns directly into the line of battle. If they aren't relentlessly baby-sat, expect embarrassing friendly-fire incidents the second their target moves within musket range of friendly infantry. God forbid cannon arranged in a line, and the target moves to their immediate right or left. However unintentionally hilarious it is to see them shooting each other in the back from mere feet away, the fact that in many campaign battles friendly fire causes far more deaths than the enemy is frustrating indeed.
  • Artistic License – Ships:
    • All ships, including merchantmen, are shown as capable of fighting with both broadsides at a time. In reality, most warships had their crew size limited by logistics and the navy's budget, and would often keep just enough gunners to fight on one side of the ship. Navies with lower budgets often had to settle with a single crew for multiple guns, let alone merchant ships.
    • The Dutch fluyt is depicted as a 42-gun Lightning Bruiser akin to a proper frigate, while in real life it was a line of light merchant ships designed for maximum cargo space, with minimum accommodation for speed and combat power.
  • Awesome, but Impractical: First-Rate and Second-Rate Ships. Especially the HMS Victory. They're so slow and they hurt your economy so much just by merely existing.
    • Is a standard First-Rate not good enough for you? Well, some European nations didn't think it was big enough either so they invented the Heavy First-Rate. A literal barge that can absorb a thousand cannonballs but pays for it with sluggish speed and less firepower than a normal First-Rate. Oh, and you'll most likely bankrupt yourself in the campaign by building more than one of these.
    • Demi-cannons and Sakers are nigh-useless in field battles and siege assaults as they cannot move once deployed and lack the range to hit a fort without receiving counter-battery fire.
    • The Puckle Gun, much like the historical weapon it was based on, is an example of something with a lot of flash and almost no practicality. It's a very late-game technology that fires slightly faster and farther than a musket but is an expensive novelty that is purely defensive which means it's not going to do a lot of good for you in field battles and sieges unless you're the defender.
  • Badass Bookworm: Gentlemen can serve as both scholars and duelists.
  • Balkanize Me: Sometimes, capturing enough "home" provinces of a country results in its colonies declaring independence and forming their own minor nations.
  • Bilingual Bonus: Units will answer to your commands in their respective languages.
  • Boring, but Practical:
    • Sweden has a typical European army list, with only one unique unit, the Hakkapeliitta light cavalry. They're also the only faction in the whole game to not receive any new units through DLC. However, to compensate, their base-line units have fairly good statistics: Their Line Infantry are surpassed only by those of Britain, France and Prussia. While they're criticized as a boring faction to play, they remain high-tier in multi-player and quite a few players swear by them.
    • Most of Austria's available units are average if not weaker compared to their French or British counterparts. On the other hand, it's compensated by there being more men in each unit, the light infantry Grenzers and the Hungarian variants.
    • Line Infantry lives and breathes this trope. According to the ingame wiki, Line Infantry is THE backbone of every single army in the game. Their whole job is to bring their guns and shoot them at the enemy. And if all else fails, they'll give them the bayonet.
  • Bribing Your Way to Victory: Inverted. If a war is going poorly, it might seem like a good idea to buy a dlc that adds more elite units to give your nation a leg up, but depending on who you are and who you're fighting, your purchase might give your enemy the advantage.
  • Cannon Fodder:
    • The Armed Citizenry are little more than local townsfolk hastily given muskets and would break before just about any other unit. They are mainly used in sieges, either in massed rushes or for garrisoning buildings.
    • The Brig and the Sloop-of-War are too small to be useful in naval battles. They're fast enough to execute flanking maneuvers and have sufficient firepower to outgun trade ships but they die very quickly to even Fifth-rates and Sixth-rates.
  • Creepy Crossdresser: Rakes can sometimes have crossdressing as a trait that makes his job easier. The creepy part is that Rakes are assassins/spies/saboteurs, meaning that they murder people and blow up buildings for a living.
  • Cutting the Knot:
    • Most, if not all of your problems, can be solved with some degree of violence. Troublesome Minor Nations? Go to war and crush them. Unhappiness? Wait for the rebels and then murder them all, which will put the populace back in check. Pirates raiding your trade routes? Wipe them out to the last man.
    • Generals too, are more easily dispatched in battle than by assassination or duels, since being surrounded by an entire army makes a Rake's mission difficult and being practiced blades make Generals formidable duelists.
  • Damn You, Muscle Memory!: In contrast to the previous installments, conquering the whole map by taking territories has become a counter-intuitive (perhaps even impossible) practice. This is because every additional territory you capture increases the costs of your administration until you reach a point where you can hardly make a tidy profit. And the problems with public order in those conquered territories become increasingly harder to deal with. You can very well pop your empire like a balloon by overexpanding and collapsing from bankruptcy, invasions, and rebellions.
  • David vs. Goliath: There are mods that let you play as minor factions, giving you the opportunity to stand up to or even surpass the major factions.
  • Dawn of an Era: The medieval era has become a distant memory as Europe enters the Enlightenment.
  • Death from Above: Get yourself a decent number of heavy howitzers and bombardment mortars with percussive shells and watch your enemies get blown to smithereens. Incidentally, this function is actually what makes it safe to stick your own units in front of them... as long as you're not aiming there, anyway.
  • Disaster Dominoes: Military alliances matter in this game; declaring war on a country with a lot of them can pit you against half of Europe, a kingdom in India, and a couple Native American nations all at once.
  • Elites Are More Glamorous: Elite units have more fancy uniforms that make them stand out from the rank and file units.
  • End of an Age:
    • It must appear this way from the point of view of the Native American Nations and the Mughal Empire. Several other nations, Poland-Lithuania being a good example, will often succumb to their aggressive neighbors.
    • By game's start in 1700, the European continent is looking forward to the end of the feudal model and the beginning of a new age of reason and progress. The Enlightenment will come to a close as you approach 1800, with the western world's optimism in progress being choked out by all the conflict and rebellion in the last 100 years.
  • Everything Is Trying to Kill You: Prussia starts in the unenviable position of having two discontinuous territories separated by hostile Poland-Lithuania, and bordering hostile Austria to the south, and Wild Card German microstates to the west. None of them start out as allies, and warring with one will likely bring more into the fight.
  • Evil Luddite: Certain Buildings cause unhappiness due to industrialization. If this industrialization causes too much unhappiness, then the people will launch a rebellion. Whether or not they win, between hundreds and thousands will die.
  • Faction Calculus: Every faction has unique differences in their unit rosters.
    • England: Superior ships.
    • France: Ships are faster but have less hull strength.
    • Ottoman Empire: Inferior navy with dated ship designs that are poorly armed and fragile.
    • Maratha Confederacy: Can field sword infantry which are excellent in melee combat. Inferior navy with dated ship designs.
  • Fair Weather Friend: Don't count on your allies to support you when you really need them. Conversely, abandoning your allies to fight a war on their own is bad diplomatic form, and will result in a hit to foreign relations.
  • Gentleman Thief: Besides serving as scholars and duelists, gentlemen can also steal technology from rival factions.
  • Glass Cannon:
    • Artillery. Despite being the core of a proper army, even moreso in the latter, they are extremely vulnerable in close quarters unless immediately supported by infantry (preferably line) or cavalry to check a charge... or with canister shot ready and waiting to be fired to do the same. Part of the role of cavalry in the game is to destroy (can't capture 'em) any undefended guns that they can charge... from the side or behind, that is.
    • Light infantry are incredibly powerful. When deployed en masse and managed skillfully, they can rip an army of advancing line infantry to shreds, but there are only 80 men to a unit, they cannot form squares, and any frontal engagement usually ends with them being overwhelmed. Properly used, however, and they can cause disproportionate casualty ratios in every battle.
  • Goddamn Bats: The Pirates faction can quickly become a pain in the ass at the start of Grand Campaign because they already have Galleons and Fluyts at their disposal while everyone else only has access to weaker ships.
  • Hates Everyone Equally: The Barbary States are at war with every single nation, the Ottoman Empire being the sole exception.
  • Historical Domain Character: The starting generals and leaders are historical figures from the time of the War of the Spanish Succession. To give an example: Britain's starting generals are the Duke of Marlborough and the Earl of Galway, its fleet admiral is Sir George Rooke, and the first head of government is Sidney Godolphin. Occasionally, you will be able to recruit real historical figures as generals and admirals later in the campaign.
  • Historical Hero Upgrade: George Washington (the classic example) in the "Road to Independence" campaign.
  • Improbable Use of a Weapon: One of the possible non-fatal pistol duel resolutions: Both shoot simultaneously, both guns jam, so one of them throws his pistol into his adversary's face.
  • In a Single Bound: Boarding fights in a Naval Battle are quite ridiculous as the crewmen of the attacking ship will jump at unrealistic heights.
  • Inertial Impalement: You are suddenly missing an entire cavalry regiment? They have probably all impaled themselves on a cheval de frise while you weren't paying attention...
  • Jack-of-All-Stats: Third-Rate Ships have the best balance of Cost, Crew Size, Firepower, Hull Strength, and Mobility. For the price of one First-Rate you can have 2-3 Third-Rates instead.
  • Killed Off for Real: Westphalia is the only faction that will never come back if destroyed. If a local rebellion recaptures Cologne, the emergent faction is Hesse, which is the only emergent minor faction that arises by displacing another minor faction entirely.
  • Land of One City: Several factions (including the majority of the minor ones) start out with a single city. Exaggerated in that some minor factions only start with one small town.
  • Macross Missile Massacre: There are rocket troops and rocket ships, but their tactical effectiveness is limited compared to simply getting proper artillery (although rocket ships can kill any large and slow ship in the game, due to their forward firing weapons, long range and ability to start fires).
  • Magikarp Power: Artillery is at a point were it has matured enough to be practical but is not practical enough to be convenient and decisive, even with veteran crews to provide reliable accuracy.
    • Traditional Cannons have a very niche role in breaking structures and infantry squares with solid shot and shotgunning masses of enemy troops with canister as a last resort. Outside of that, solid shot is almost useless in any other situation. Shrapnel shot is a significant upgrade that gives them some utility in field battles but is a late-game technology requiring years of research.
    • Explosive shells offer a better alternative to solid shot but, due to being a very recent concept that's still in its infancy, are not reliable as they detonate at random intervals. Percussive shells are the best option for devastating field armies and fortifications from long-range but is another late-game technology.
  • The Missionary: Your religious buildings will occasionally spawn these, and you can use them to convert a province to your religion. If you send them to India or the Americas, they will eventually gain traits that can help or hinder their ability to seek converts there.
  • The Musketeer: Ranged infantry and cavalry can befit the trope with varying effectiveness depending on unit stats and abilities. Dragoons are the best example, but are limited to melee attack when on horseback (since they're basically "infantry who ride to the fight"), while several minor nations have cavalry who can fire carbines from horseback.
  • Nintendo Hard: Being a shadow of its former self, The Ottoman Empire truly is "The Sick Man of Europe" as their starting situation is potentially perilous. They have a lot of territory that is underdeveloped and whatever few troops and ships they have available are really behind with the times. Their economy has also stagnated heavily ever since the Europeans discovered the new world and established new trade routes, effectively circumventing the Ottoman's position as the gateway to Asia. All of this means that the Ottomans are hard-pressed to defend themselves against bold invaders seeking to annex their lands and rise back up to being a prestigious power in Europe.
  • One-Hit Kill: There's a small chance for a cannonball to go right into the powder magazine of a warship and set everything off in an instant, turning what was once a well maintained vessel into a drifting pile of smoking timbers. If the enemy ship is close enough, this can also result in a Mutual Kill, as the flaming debris will set your own ship on fire, likely causing the crew to abandon ship in short order.
  • Pirate: They are in the Caribbean and the trade theaters. The Barbary States also count.
  • Please Select New City Name: Averted. This is the first game in the series to NOT include this mechanic. In previous titles, capturing certain historically-prominent cities with some factions would automatically cause this city to be renamed (e.g. a Muslim faction captures Constantinople and renames it Istanbul). This is a limitation of the new engine that also results in some Anachronism Stew, such as St. Petersburg being named that while in Swedish hands (it was only a fortress with a tiny settlement around it, which the game at least acknowledges since it has no buildings apart from level 1 capital at the start).
  • Politically Correct History: Game takes place in the 18th Century, with hardly a mention of slavery except that you can abolish it. The West African trade theater, which historically was at the heart of the Atlantic slave trade, is wholly an ivory market.
  • Protectorate: An option for minor nations is to become one to the larger nations, and you can even force a great power to do this. This provides no benefit other than military access and an alliance, which you can get in one package peacefully with a bit of diplomacy, as well as the protecting power getting to keep half the protectorate's gross income, and since you're likely only to get a protectorate after a war, you might as well just go the whole nine yards and wipe out the faction. Britain starts with the Thirteen Colonies, the French with Louisiana, Spain with New Spain, Poland-Lithuania with Saxony and Courland and the Ottoman Empire with the Barbary States and Crimean Khanate.
  • Reassigned to Antarctica: You will need to send a missionary to missionary convert a province in India or the Americas if you want to keep people happy. He can do well and get a bonus for conversions there, or do poorly and get a penalty.
  • The Republic: The United Provinces, Venice, and the United States are of this government type, but any faction can become one if the player sides with a middle class revolution in the capital region. Republics are powerful in that they give bonuses to economic development and provide the most freedom in getting a good government, but elections and term limits prevent any government from staying for more than twenty turns. Also, there is a greater chance for public disorder due to a clamor for reform.
  • Rising Empire: Naturally, this is your goal.
  • Sinister Minister: Averted. This aversion is noticeable because this type of priest sometimes popped up in the game's predecessor.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Empire introduces the "garrison building" mechanic which allows you to put infantry in selected buildings and turn them into defensive strongpoints that are resilient to musket bullets but are inviting targets for artillery. Two problems introduced with this innovation are that you can actually garrison a building that's already on fire and that garrisoned infantry will not evacuate a burning building unless manually ordered to do so. Because of this, it is actually possible to lose a whole unit of infantry in a structural collapse.
  • Vestigial Empire: There are a few. Portugal, Venice, the Mughal Empire, the Knights of St. John and the Papal States are just a few of them. Most of these factions are unplayable without using mods.
    • Portugal isn't so much a vestigial empire as most of its territory was located in Brazil and Africa, which do not appear in the game except as trade theaters you can't conquer or colonize.
  • Wolf in Sheep's Clothing: In real life, the Fluyt was a trade ship that was designed for maximum transoceanic delivery. Here in Empire, the Fluyt is a trade ship that is strong enough to bleed and sink any pirates looking for an easy score. Having a few Fluyts in a Trade Fleet can be sufficient enough to remove the need to protect it with an escort.
  • Zerg Rush: Encouraged at a strategic level. Being able to churn out four to seven units per turn in big cities allows for decisive blitzkrieg campaigns. Prussia, which starts with two big cities, is practically required to do this, since they are surrounded by a larger, hostile power, Poland-Lithuania, and little opportunity for economic development in Brandenburg or East Prussia.


Video Example(s):


Duel Failure

A possible (non-lethal) outcome to a duel.

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Main / ThrowingYourGunAtTheEnemy

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Main / ThrowingYourGunAtTheEnemy