Imperial Glory is a good Total War clone that packs a lot of unfulfilled potential.
- Picturesque 3D land and naval battles
- Rich diplomacy system
- Enjoyable, if slow, turn-based strategy.
- Land battles lack epic feel
- Lack of morale system creates unrealistic results
- Naval battles tough to coordinate
- Only five historical battles.
Imperial Glory is a game that wants to be the next Total War. Not that there's anything wrong with that. After all, Creative Assembly's popular strategy franchise has gotten bigger and better with every release. However, in copying the formula of Total War, Pyro Studios, the designers of Imperial Glory, have missed the small nuances and details that made the Total War games, in particular Medieval and Rome, something special. That leaves Imperial Glory feeling very much like an uneven first step, which is a pity, because it does have a lot of promise.
In Imperial Glory, you can control one of the five principal European powers of the Napoleonic Wars: France, the United Kingdom, Prussia, Austria, and Russia. While there are about a dozen other minor countries in the game, such as Portugal and Denmark, you aren't able to play as them. However, you can assimilate them into your empire, through conquest or peaceful integration, and that's pretty much what you'll spend much of the game doing as you attempt to conquer Europe nation by nation. Following the Total War formula means that you spend a lot of time on a strategic, turn-based map that looks a bit like the board game Risk. And when armies meet, you have the option of letting the computer automatically calculate the results, or you can drop down into a real-time, 3D battlefield and control your various infantry, artillery, and cavalry battalions on the map. Imperial Glory also goes one better than Total War by including naval battles, so you can take your sloops and frigates into action.
That all sounds good, but in practice it turns out that Imperial Glory finds itself lacking in many departments. The turn-based strategy section is perhaps the best part of the game, and it can be an enjoyable, although very slow-paced, affair. Your challenges will vary, depending on the nation you choose to play as. France perhaps has the easiest road to travel, whereas Prussia and Austria find themselves surrounded on three sides by three very menacing empires. The United Kingdom, on the other hand, can afford to sit back safely behind the Royal Navy, though it has trouble generating the production and population that the other empires can. Russia is huge, but it's stuck on the outskirts of Europe.
As a strategy game, Imperial Glory, for the most part, captures the diplomatic balancing act that was the Napoleonic Wars. In order not to be swept into the dustbin of history by its neighbors, nations formed varying coalitions to try to stave off this threat (namely France). And this is something that you'll spend a lot of time doing, thanks to the full-featured diplomatic system that lets you grant rights of passage, loan armies, form defensive alliances as well as coalitions, and even marry off a prospective heir to another heir to improve relations. However, the peaceful route can be a bit frustrating, as you can easily spend years and thousands of resources to improve relations with a country to the point that it's almost ready to join your empire, only to see a rival empire simply invade and take it over. This makes diplomacy a fairly weak option in the game, as it's far less effective than simple force.
There are four resources in the game: gold, production, population, and food, and each province in the game is capable of generating a certain amount of each resource. A province's resource production can be enhanced by researching new technologies and building new structures (or, in the case of gold, creating land and sea trade routes). Still, when you get down to it, you'll eventually face a bottleneck in a certain resource. The easiest way to solve this, though, is through expanding your empire.
Imperial Glory also introduces an interesting quest system, which is sort of like the great wonders found in Civilization. Your nation can lay claim to some of the great achievements of the era, such as unearthing the Rosetta stone and building the first major railroad network, by fulfilling a list of prerequisites. For example, the quest for the Rosetta stone will require you to establish a sea link to Alexandria, as well as to commit several light infantry units and warships. However, if you manage to do the quest first, you get a boost in your technological research, reflecting the burst of scientific knowledge that resulted in that important artifact being discovered. However, the game lacks other features that are found in other strategy games. For instance, there are no random events to shake things up a bit, nor do there seem to be any efforts to take the rest of the world into account. The result is that, once the alliance system locks into place, not a lot happens over long stretches of the game.