So then, Napoleon. One of history's greatest military strategists. A man who almost single-handedly took the reins of power in one of Europe's greatest nations, during a time of incredible open warfare, and raised an Empire which would encompass some of the great dynasties of the late 18th and early 19th centuries. A man born into conflict on the island of Corsica, who led charges from the front - revelling in battle until his age prevented him from doing so. A man who changed the face of warfare forever.
Quite appropriate, then, that he should receive the honour of a standalone Total War title - a game which will follow the diminutive leader's rise to power and subsequent rampages across Europe and Egypt, allowing payers either to follow or to alter the course of history - potentially defeating Wellington and the Sixth Coalition at Waterloo to continue the inexorable march across the nations of Europe. Of course, those of you who wish to see Bonaparte humiliated can don the caps of opposing generals too, stepping into Wellington's boots or mounting Blucher's several unfortunate horses in an attempt to see the great general cowed like the kitten-phobe he was.
According to Creative Assembly, what we'll have in the three available campaigns (Italy, the Middle East, pretty much everywhere else), is a distillation of Empire: Total War's 'This Road to Independence' campaign: a narrative and character-driven romp through one of history's most combatative periods, although this time the central character is a man with a natty line in bicorns rather than a fledgling nation. Here, Empire's strengths are to be built upon, its creases ironed, fitting snugly with the studio's revolution/evolution development model.
Visually, the differences are obvious, although not jarring. Empire's engine has been tweaked and refined, tuned to the point where detail has risen yet PC requirements have remained the same. Each unit will now, on the lowest detail settings, feature up to 64 different faces amongst the rank and file, and troops will vary in build and height as interchangeable body parts are stitched together to create different models. Shiny new touches such as epaulettes and buttons have been added, and units are crisper and more dandy, in fitting with the period's gentleman soldiers. New particle effects means that smoke swirls more effectively and forms hanging, melodramatic banks after volleys of musket fire, fog fills valleys and mountain passes on the campaign map. Some of these changes aren't just cosmetic, either - charging cavalry will now kick up dirt and dust - obscuring the vision of units in their wake. Architecture has been updated to reflect turn-of-the-century Imperial style too - towns on the campaign map are very different from their Empire counterparts. These towns will come in three variations, each with an accompanying speciality and bonus.