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Video Game / Napoleon: Total War

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"My enemies are many. My equals are none.
In the shade of olive trees, they said Italy could never be conquered.
In the land of pharaohs and kings, they said Egypt could never be humbled.
In the realm of forest and snow, they said Russia could never be tamed.
Now they say nothing. They fear me, like a force of nature — a dealer in thunder and death!
I say: I am Napoleon. I am EMPEROR!"
—Opening cinematic

Napoleon: Total War is a game in the Total War series of strategy games. Somewhere between an immediate sequel and stand-alone expansion to Empire: Total War, this entry in the series follows the military campaigns of Napoléon Bonaparte around the turn of the 19th century. Unlike other Total War games, the single player mode is not centred around one particular grand campaign, but around a number of smaller ones. The player may control Napoleon's armies and lead them to victory, or side with his enemies and help check the French advance. Scenarios include the Italian campaigns of 1796-97, Napoleon's invasion of Egypt and the Wars of the Coalition after Napoleon's self-coronation as Emperor, with the Peninsular Campaign added as a DLC. The "historical battles" mode allows the player to recreate such conflicts as Arcole, the Battle of The Pyramids, Austerlitz, Borodino and Waterloo.

Like other games in the series, the gameplay features a mixture of Turn-Based Strategy and Real-Time Strategy. The player moves armies around and manages cities on a turn-based campaign map. When two armies meet, the game descends into a real-time battle mode. Napoleon: Total War puts more focus on ranged weapons and artillery than all previous games in the series, though artillery is not the dominant force on the battlefield (as it was in the actual Napoleonic Wars). Cavalry are reduced to supporting roles; artillery is deadly but vulnerable to attack when left unprotected.

This game provides examples of:

  • Alternate History: Depending on how one plays the campaign, it's very much possible to turn history on its head, whether it's defeating Nelson in Trafalgar or conquering all of Europe. There's even a special ending cinematic should you win at Waterloo.
    • Used as a Genius Bonus in the trailer/opening movie. Napoleon boasts of his victories in Egypt and Russia, campaigns he ultimately lost after initial successes in real life. It then shows his men burning the captured H.M.S. Victory after successfully landing on the shores of Britain, while some of his troops are marching on to invade London.
  • Artistic License – History: While the game is mostly accurate to the time period, the Egyptian campaign starts in June of 1798, and ends in 1800. In real life, the Egyptian campaign started in July of 1798, and ended in 1801. Also Napoleon left Egypt for France in August of 1799, but he stays in Egypt the entire campaign in the game.
  • Anachronism Stew: As in Empire, Napoleon features Moscow as the capital of the Russian Empire, when it is supposed to be St. Petersburg 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. During Napoleon's campaigns, the goal is to take Moscow, thereby defeating Russia and winning. Except, in Real Life, Napoleon did reach Moscow only to see it burned by the retreating forces following their "scorched earth" policy, and he was forced to return with nothing.
  • 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 restricted to flanking and maneuvering 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.
  • Attack! Attack! Attack!: The singleplayer AI's general plan is to just march in a line straight at the player's army, even if it is outnumbered. The only time the AI acts any smarter is if it is scripted to do so, such as in the historical battles.
  • Awesome, but Impractical: Ironclads. You pretty much have to max out the naval research tree to get them. By that point, you will have, most likely, beaten the campaign or lost it due to the time limit. In custom battles and multiplayer, they are speedy, due to being independent of the wind, but only 80 cannons meaning a sailing ship with more cannons can take it down in a straight up fight.
    • Also, First Rates, especially the Spanish-exclusive Santissima Trinidad, are just too damn slow to be remotely useful in most scenarios, and their upkeep is stupidly high - even a trade juggernaut like Britain has trouble keeping more than a few. Funny enough, Truth in Television as far as the Santissima Trinidad is concerned - in the Battle of Trafalgar, due to her huge size, she couldn't move in the light winds and got singled out as a target very quickly, so several British ships mobbed her and basically blasted her to splinters.
  • Ax-Crazy: There is one steam achievement called "The Medallion of The Imperial Psychopath". It's description reads: "Declare war on all nations the first turn, never negotiate peace, and win the game".
  • Badass Boast: The entirety of the intro, which serves as the page quote above, is Napoleon giving one.
  • Bilingual Bonus: Units will answer to your commands in their respective languages, like in Empire.
  • Book Ends: The battle tutorial and the campaign tutorial have Napoleon fighting the British, marking the start of his rise. The battle of Waterloo against the British will mark Napoleon's final defeat, or his ultimate triumph.
  • But Thou Must!: Anyone playing Napoleon's campaigns for the first time must do them in chronological order, Italy first, Egypt second, and Europe third.
  • 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. Their main utility comes from the fact that they're free, making them utterly expendable, and more over that they can fill out smaller garrisons with utter hordes of angry, armed townsmen. They cannot leave their home city, making them only usable for defense. Case in point, even skirmishers, a unit that is not meant for a straight up fight, let alone a melee fight, will beat an armed citizenry unit unless said skirmisher unit is seriously depleted. However, the fact that they always regenerate after a siege ends makes them very useful for players to accomplish maneuvers that could easily get a unit wiped out without risking a regular unit, and if they are used correctly, they can defeat professional line infantry.
  • Damn You, Muscle Memory!: Just like in Empire, trying to conquer the whole map in Napoleon is very hard and not practical as having too much territory will overstretch your finances and military strength, making you more vulnerable to bankruptcy, rebellions, and invasion. Unfortunately, getting an achievement mandates conquering all of Europe.
  • 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.
  • Demoted to Extra: Factions that were pretty major back in Empire now are relegated to punching bags that fall incredibly easily to a major faction.
  • End of an Age: The game primarily revolves around the French Revolution, and the end of the feudalism that had dominated Europe for a whole millennium. Even if the Coalition armies manage to beat Napoleon, they have to research new technologies that effectively end their traditional societies and unleash the forces of nationalism and equality.
  • Enemy Mine: The Franco-Ottoman alliance. It's one of few countries that doesn't openly hate France at the start of the main campaign, but except the mutual goal of fending off Austria and Russia, they don't share anything in common. On top of that, Ottomans hold a minor grudge over the Egyptian campaign, too.
  • Elite Mooks: Elite units can easily give a player a major headache if they are not careful, but special mention goes to Napoleon's Old Guard and Young Guard. They are very accurate, can fire very rapidly, and do morale damage just by being near their enemies, which no other unit in the game does, and the morale ensures they do not rout unless they get massacred to the last man.
  • Evil Overlooker: Averted. Napoleon is shown looming over the battlefield, but he is the main protagonist of the game.
  • Fragile Speedster:
    • Horse Artillery are relatively small cannons and are vulnerable without an escort, but they can run. Used in bulk, this means you can have a roving battery of artillery that can move from one end of the battlefield to the other as fast as cavalry.
    • Missile cavalry are incredibly fast, and can shoot very accurately, but will fall in a melee fight very quickly, unless it is artillery, skirmishers, or militia at the side.
    • Skirmishers and riflemen. They're mobile, have very high range, and the entire rank can fire at once due to their spread-out nature as light infantry. However, they do not do well in melee, cannot perform a square formation, and generally reload more slowly than equivalent line infantry, especially riflemen.
  • Friendly Fireproof: Averted, for the most part. PrinceofMacedon's YouTube videos for Napoleon have shown several incidents of artillery-induced friendly fire, the possible most hilarious being here. Light infantry are partially immune to this because of their skirmish ability, which lets them kneel down so as to avoid getting shot from behind by friendly soldiers. However, they may still get hit by friendlies depending on the terrain. The trope is somewhat in place compared to the infuriating friendly-fire incidents of the original Empire, where your artillery gunners would often respond to a "cease-fire" command by discharging their cannons into the ground a few meters ahead... usually where your troops were standing.
  • Frontline General: Averted. Unlike most other TW games, this one takes place in an age where nearly all troops have firearms and artillery is exceptionally devastating. This means you generally want to keep your army's commanding officer well away from the front lines, as it is very easy for him to be wounded or killed by a stray bullet or cannonball even if enemy troops are not aiming at him deliberately.
  • Gameplay Ally Immortality: All of the five main factions have one general - those being Napoleon, the Duke of Wellington, Gebhard von Blücher, Karl von Österreich-Teschen and Mikhail Kutuzov - that can only be wounded, even in the event of a successful "assassination" attempt — they simply respawn later at their national capital. If they are wounded on the battlefield, however, their unit loses his special abilities and aura for that battle, essentially putting them out of action for the duration of the engagement.
  • Gameplay and Story Integration: There are a number of times where the game is set to work with real history.
    • In Italy, Piedmont Sardinia does not work with Austria unless the player really drags their feet. Historically, Austria and Piedmont distrusted each other brutally.
    • The Egypt intro explicitly calls Egypt Ottoman territory. Egypt was a technical Ottoman province, and while the Ottomans will send soldiers into the province eventually, they really hated the Mamluks.
  • Gentleman and a Scholar: Its gentleman unit provides the page quote.
  • 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.
  • Greater-Scope Villain: Great Britain serves as this for Napoleon. All three tutorials feature the British as the enemy, outside of France, they appear in every single campaign aside from Italy, and they are directly responsible for forming the coalitions against Napoleon.
  • Hot Teacher: One of the ancilliaries a minister can get is a private tutor. The blurb explicitly mentions that it's purely for "stern teacher" fetish, rather than requiring tutor for non-existing children.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 long range and tendency to start fires). Rocket artillery also cannot move, though its wide and extremely long-ranged field of fire, as well as its massive psychological effects and explosive radius, make it quite useful as a battlefield weapon, especially when defending.
  • Magikarp Power: Artillery in general requires patience to become a significant contributor.
    • Although cannons are a crucial arm of 18-century armies, freshly recruited and inexperienced cannon crews will struggle to significantly weaken enemy units before they get too close. And even if they survive long enough to become reliably accurate, you'll find that solid-shot cannons only have a niche role in breaking structures and infantry squares at long-range and shotgunning the enemy with canister as a last resort. Also, cannons can quickly become useless on maps with hills and very uneven terrain: Even a small rise between a battery and the target will result in ineffectual fire.
    • Explosive shells are your best and only option for quickly devastating enemy units from long range. The problem is that you need to invest a lot of time and money to research and prepare your infrastructure in advance as Howitzers are far in the tech tree.
  • Mission-Pack Sequel: Fans disagree as to whether Napoleon was this in regards to Empire, or simply a stand-alone expansion. The Creative Assembly's silence on the issue just makes things more complicated.
  • More Dakka: Canister shot can pretty much massacre entire units and send them routing within seconds, especially if the unit is in a tightly packed formation. Furthermore, the morale impact skyrockets as seeing such a massive amount of casualties so quickly can easily convince other units to break and run.
  • Never Bring a Knife to a Gun Fight: In the Egypt campaign, the Mamluks have a melee-only armed citizen unit. Not only does it get shot to pieces relatively easily, but even if it gets into melee, they quickly rout regardless.
  • Nice to the Waiter: The final tier of rake's infiltrator trait explicitly mention being nice to servants and similar, even if ultimately for insidious purposes.
  • 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 mêlée attack when on horseback (since they're basically "infantry who ride to the fight"). France have cavalry who can fire carbines from horseback, such as Napoleon's chasseurs à cheval.
  • Obvious Rule Patch: In Empire you could turn just about any town into a school, allowing to research multiple technologies in the same time. In Napoleon only pre-definied towns can be used for schools and no country has more than two slots within its borders. On top of that, they are in capital regions, so it's not an easy task to conquer someone else for them (unless you're Prussia and go directly for Saxony, that is). By Shogun 2, the next game in the franchise, schools were removed entirely and you can research only one tech at a time.
  • 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.
  • Pint-Sized Powerhouse: The diminutive Bomb Ketch is armed with a mortar that gives it the longest attack range of any naval unit in the game. This provides a considerable first-strike capability at the start of a battle which can really turn the outcome in the other side's favor. As shown in this video where a few shots set a fire on the flagship that eventually destroys it. And the flagship was a Santissima Trinidad, no less.
  • Plot Armor: You can NEVER kill Napoleon in the Campaign Mode as any successful assassination attempt will only incapacitate him for a few turns. The same will occur if he gets "killed" in battle; even though the icon will report "Enemy General Killed", and you will clearly see Napoleon's body lying on the ground, it will simply report him as having been wounded, even if he was directly hit by a cannonball to the head. And if you are playing as France, you can't overthrow him via revolution mechanics - he is the revolution.
  • Power Creep, Power Seep: While keeping most upgrades from the vanilla Empire game, infantry regiments oddly can no longer fire in ranks (even if you're Prussian, or British!). The firepower of an infantry regiment takes a major hit as a result. While this does lengthen engagements (rank-firing regiments can level each other with just a few volleys) it seems a strange regression for a sequel which is chronologically later than the main game, especially considering how many "late game" technologies from Empire are the opening tier of research in Napoleon.
  • Power Up Letdown: If you were expecting the Rocket Ship to be better than the Bomb Ketch by virtue of being faster to build and firing more projectiles per volley, then you've set yourself up to be disappointed: The Rocket Ship has less accuracy, higher upkeep, and less hull strength.
  • Protagonist Title: The game is named after Napoleon, the vast majority of achievements often involve his faction, and Napoleon is playable more often than other factions in the game.
  • Rape, Pillage, and Burn: You can loot captured enemy settlements. While this gives you a massive one-time treasury boost, it also destroys the province's ability to produce wealth and makes everyone in that province hate you, making it a desperation move at best, or for those that really hate a certain conquered micronation.
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: If you loot a captured enemy province, everyone in that province will hate you for years to come. A rebellion is all but assured, and if your forces in the province are not strong enough, then the rebels might win.
  • Salt the Earth: As noted above under Rape, Pillage, and Burn, looting captured provinces is generally a terrible idea... unless you know you can take it with ease, but won't be able to keep it against incoming enemy army. Not to mention tearing structures down, too. This leaves your enemy with a province that's utterly worthless upon recapture and AI will gleefully spend time and effort to reconstruct (rather than upgrade other places), while you got away with all the money. Since there are more and smaller provinces than in Empire, this is a viable strategy to soften nations you can't simply overwhelm in a turn or two.
  • So Last Season:
    • Lion share of late-game technologies from Empire come back - as the very first tier of your research. Justified, since the game starts more or less where Empire ends.
    • A plot point in the Egypt campaign. The Mamluks have a very medieval cavalry, not a lot of artillery, and only militia. They get curb stomped by the French with ease due to being incredibly outdated.
  • Then Let Me Be Evil: As France, you start the Grand Campaign either at war with major powers or with historical greviances against your "allies". And your goal is to conquer a whole lot of provinces, meaning earning further diplomatic penalty for territorial expansion. Since everyone hates you and the rest will start to hate you along the way, you might as well ignore diplomacy and simply wage war in all directions. In fact, there is even an achievement for going to war with everyone in the very first turn, as eventually all countries will turn into enemies anyway.
  • Unexpectedly Realistic Gameplay: Quite a bit in this game.
    • In battles where there is rain, either via a slight drizzle or a thunderstorm, the weapons technology of the time guarantees misfires.
    • In the Egypt campaign, the French soldiers are not dressed for fighting in the desert and will notably tire out a lot more faster than in the three other campaigns set in Europe.
    • The Mamluks are horribly outdated, with medieval cavalry and no professional soldiers. They get routed by the French with ease in every battle unless the player really screws up or overwhelming numbers.
    • The Egyptians will not take kindly to French occupation, and you will have to garrison every single city with some regular soldiers to get rid of rebellions.
    • In the event France is severely weakened, expect to see the Coalition start fighting each other. Many of them have goals they need to meet that inevitably means fighting each other, so the Coalition breaks apart once France is presumed to be defeated.
  • Unreliable Narrator: The narrator in the campaigns is a veteran who fought under Napoleon. Naturally he is extremely biased in favor of that figure.
  • With Friends Like These...: French opening situation has them allied with Spain, the Batavian Republic, Swiss Confederacy and few German minors. They all uniformly hate France due to historical greviances - they've been conquered right before the start of the campaign and being governed as French puppet states to exploit. You can forget they will keep their alliances going as the campaign unfolds, unless you work really hard to keep them loyal, which is rarely useful anyway. On top of that, Spain and the Dutch control few trade nodes, monopolising certain goods and you can't exactly kick them out without being at war with them.
    • The only exception is the Kingdom of Italy, a minor state that has cordial relation with France, but in turn, is in such position and so weak economically, it will never achieve anything on its own. If properly bolstered however, Italy becomes a very useful ally to conquer and secure Austria.
  • Worthy Opponent: Enemy generals will be dubbed as this should they fall on the battlefield. Napoleon also admits the Russian soldiers are "amazing" even when "they are led by fools!" should you lose the historical Battle of Borodino.
  • Your Terrorists Are Our Freedom Fighters: L'Empereur himself is given this treatment. The Napoleonic Campaigns are from his point of view and their cutscenes are narrated by a soldier in his army, but the Campaign of the Coalition portrays him as a menace to Europe and the Peninsular Campaign portrays him as an invading tyrant if the British or Spanish factions are chosen.