Reviews: CD ROMs

Imperial Glory Computer Game

Imperial Glory. San Francisco, CA: Pyro Studios SL/Eidos, 2005. For Microsoft Windows. 3 CD-ROMs, guide, reference card and folded map. Computer game. 34.99/$39.99

Imperial Glory Computer Game

In spite of all the work associated with beginning the new academic year, I have found some time, though not as much as I wish I had, to explore Eidos' new Napoleonic strategy game Imperial Glory. With a title that will likely remind just about any Napoleonic enthusiast or scholar of Napoleonic Alliance President David Markham's valuable book of the same title, the name and packaging alone for this game have instant appeal for those interested in Napoleonic warfare.

The game, like Napoleon's bulletins to his Grand Army, addresses more than just military matters. Appearing as a cross between "Napoleonic Conquest" in Civilization III for the PC and the European map option for Risk 2 for the Playstation, Imperial Glory similarly requires its players to expand a European nation's borders through diplomacy and alliances in addition to outright aggression. To that end, perhaps the most obvious similarity between Civilization III and Imperial Glory is how the latter game features a technological advances tree with great "Quests," including Simon Bolivar and the Rosetta Stone, that are somewhat akin to the "Great and Small Wonders" one can attain by playing any of the Civilization series. This feature, although seemingly aping the older Civilization games, adds to the realism of Imperial Glory by reminding players that great historic leaders like Napoleon needed to address domestic, scientific, and economic issues, while simultaneously conducting complex wars against other sovereign powers. Nevertheless, any player of Imperial Glory will soon discover that the game is no mere clone of existing PC strategy games.

Unlike "Napoleonic Conquest," the map for Imperial Glory covers part of North Africa and the Middle East la Risk 2 and has more independent countries than "Napoleonic Conquest" from Civilization III. Some of the more interesting non-playable "neutrals" featured in Imperial Glory include such powers as Moldavia and the Papal State (yes, the makers of Imperial Glory name this central Italian power "Papal State" and not "Papal States"). Unfortunately, whereas "Napoleonic Conquest" has a game editor feature that can allow one to alter the game rules to play as minor powers, Imperial Glory forces gamers to play only as France, Austria, Russia, Prussia, or Britain.

Battles, though, are what truly separates this game from both Risk 2 and Civilization III. In Imperial Glory, players get to command different types of nation-specific units (for example, Congreve rockets for England) in a 3-D real-time battle format on land or sea! In other words, players can move multiple units around as the enemy attacks and so on, which augments the realism of the battle experience as opposed to the turn system one experiences in Civilization III, i.e., the human player attacks, then the computer does, and so on. Moreover, if you don't feel like investing the time it takes to play in "Campaign" mode, you can select from a short list of historic Napoleonic battles, including the Pyramids, Salamanca, and Waterloo. This feature definitely helps the game's appeal to the busier gamer as well as the historian who enjoys recreating actual battles. Still, some major battles are absent, such as Marengo, Wagram, and Borodino, but, after all, because games disks can only store so much memory, one should not feel too much disappointment.

Where the game gets somewhat bizarre is in how, when a player starts campaign mode, the date is 1789, but the map is hardly what Europe looked like in 1789. For example, "Poland" is basically the Grand Duchy of Warsaw, Prussia has its post-Tilsit borders, Hanover consists of nearly the entire Rhineland, and so on. If you play as France, even though you start in 1789, you begin with captains Bonaparte, Murat, and other future imperial commanders already under your control and after a few turns you have to choose who your heir will be: Charles or Antoinette, or Philippe or Anne?! I guess Louis must have wanted no part of this or something. Regardless of the questionable historical accuracy, the game designers have put together a fun and fascinating strategy game for those who enjoy government and battle simulations. Although a more accurate map (and if possible a world map) and perhaps the option to start during Napoleon's actual reign would have made this game exceptionally great, these criticisms are not so severe that one cannot enjoy this otherwise well-made and intriguing exploration of that turbulent era in European history, which the Sovereign of the Grand Empire made his own.

Reviewed by Matthew D. Zarzeczny

Placed on the Napoleon Series: December 2005


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