Game Review: Napoleon: Total War – The Peninsular Campaign
Release: June 22, 2010
Developer: The Creative Assembly
Available Platforms: PC (Steam)
MSRP: $9.99 (Requires ownership of Napoleon: Total War)
ESRB Rating: T
The Peninsular Campaign is an independent campaign that adds to the Napoleon: Total War saga. Taking place on the Spanish Peninsula between 1811 and 1814, you will take part in the struggle for or against the Spanish resistance to French occupation of the land. Spanning over 32 regions, you will engage in the standard warfare expected of the Total War series, as well as having to endure or unleash guerrilla war tactics. Whether you decide to control the French, British, or Spanish troops your mission is the same: take control of the region through whatever means necessary.
Being a campaign addition to an existing game, the target audience for this release is already well versed in the controls for the game. You seek to complete objectives through a series of turns that involve building armies, conquering regions, building nations, achieving diplomatic relationships (though less-so in this campaign than in the traditional one), waging war, and sacking towns. If you didn’t play much of the original campaign, or took some time away from the game, it will be a good idea to play through at least the tutorial, as this expansion will assume you know most of the gameplay options already.
You start by choosing which nation you will control, and have a choice of 3. The French army controls most of the peninsula, and is looking to squash the last of the English and Spanish resistance. You will start with a sizable territory advantage and significant troop placement, but will struggle with a strong Anti-French movement in your regions that will have to be handled, as well as having to defend multiple points of attack from opposing armies. Playing as the Spanish or British starts you off with considerably less in terms of regional control and army size, but have the advantage of working with each other. They also will be able to employ guerrilla tactics to frustrate the French army, and in the case of the British, will be able to get quality troop replenishment via their naval support.
Going back to the guerrilla warfare – a new addition to this campaign is the ability to employ guerrilla style tactics in an effort to turn the tides against the French. These guerrilla military units are able to be placed outside of the normal deployable zone, and remain hidden (!) until moved. You can imagine what juicy ambushes you can set up with a properly planned out setup. You also have new agents that play similar to the spies already in place, but with a few tweaks; they can move into regions to increase sentiment for their home nation, which leads to more or less unrest for your cities, depending on where they are. Another new troop is the Guerrillero agent, who can harass opposing troop movement, forcing opposing armies to stop for a turn and lose morale in the process .There are other troop additions as well, but the Guerrilla type units are the big draw to this campaign, as they change how you’ve played the game so far.
If you liked Napoleon Total War, but couldn’t commit the time to all of the nuances of the game, you may find The Peninsular Campaign to be up your alley. The Peninsula setting means you’re fighting in an isolated area, with limited diplomatic or trade market manipulation. The focus is on controlling the minds of the regions you own, and working to sway the other regions through force or subterfuge. This is more of an action oriented campaign, and for my short attention span, this worked well. This is also primarily a land-based campaign, so it really declutters the experience for the more casual crowd. I also enjoyed the deployment options afforded by the Guerrillas (or was endlessly frustrated with them when I was commanding the French), and felt this was a great addition to the game’s core troop availability. The use of the provocateurs is useful, even if it is essentially a spy unit with morale boosting abilities.
There’s no hand holding in this campaign. The action starts out quick and, if you’re not on top of your game from the start, you’ll quickly find yourself losing territories, losing armies, or just plain losing. The benefits of having the campaign take place in isolation also leads to one of the drawbacks – it is isolated. Those who enjoyed the diplomacy and trade portions of the game will have to look elsewhere for their fix. The addition of Pro/Anti Spanish/French sentiment in the cities also feels like a compensation for the reduction in real diplomacy or trade, making the number just another slider to have to balance, just with a military unit rather than a tax rate.
That being said, The Peninsular Campaign is a great addition to the Napoleon: Total War franchise. It does what a good expansion should: focuses on a particular part of the game, adds new gameplay tweaks to keep it fresh, improves playability through mastering 3 different nations with 3 distinct playstyles, and it doesn’t break what worked in the original. I felt the learning curve was a bit steep at first for those that were new to the series, but seeing as this is an expansion intended for those that had logged massive amounts of playtime already, this was to be expected. If you liked the action of Napoleon: Total War, and want a campaign that won’t require weeks to complete one iteration, you’ve found your match.