Napoleon: Total War was an interesting addition to the Total War series, created in hopes of improving upon the mechanics of Empire: Total War. On it's own, the game is not remarkable at all, but with the right mods, it suddenly becomes one of the best strategy games out there.
NTW obviously takes place in Napoleonic times and features prominently a series of campaigns that mirror Napoleon's wars from the 1790s to 1815. The main campaign of the game is his European war effort from 1805 to 1812, beginning with the War of the Third Coalition and ending around the time Napoleon was trapeezing about the Russian steppes. The campaign, like all Total War campaigns, features elements of economy, infrastructure, and regional control that bring about challenges to building your empire and maintaining control, as well as feeding, paying, and supplying your troops. In addition to this and the usual mess that is diplomacy, NTW features weather prominently, with zones of attrition existing across the map, in places where weather and terrain demoralize men while also killing them off. Spend too long in one of these zones, and you will have no army.
You can also play the parts of Russia, Britain, Prussia, and Austria, in this European campaign. It should be mentioned that without mods, you cannot play any other nation in this or any of the campaigns (which include an Italy-centered campaign and Napoleon's expedition to Egypt. In both of these, you can only play as the French). This totally take away from the fun of ETW, in which you can take any nation that existed at the time and turn it into a dominant power. And, because the game mechanics sevearly tilt the odds in favor of Napoleon (which is both fair and unfair), playing as any of the afore-mentioned powers can be a fruitless struggle in futility and swarms of French soldiers.
The battles themselves are where NTW, as all other Total War games, truly shines. commanding vast armies of a thousand soldiers on the field of battle in real time is exhilarating. NTW did a particularly good job with programming for soldiers (it is a step up from ETW, which is a relief to many), and especially with artillery. Spectaular graphics make the battles all the more incredible, but this has always been a hallmark of the Total War series. And of course, there are some problems with battles in NTW:
-1) You really can just sit there in a defensive starting position while the enemy AI bayonet-charges you. It's like Pickett's charge every ♥♥♥♥ing game.
-2) Shooting mechanics are not accurate for the period. There is no firing by rank, and light infantry, which have the same weapons as normal line infantry, can shoot as far and as acurately as most riflemen.
-3) AI controled soldiers are prone to fire towards you, no matter if there are three units of their own men in front of them. Again, it's not much of a fight.
-4) Battles seperate from campaigns have the added benifit of a complete lack of variety in maps, most of which seem to be geared towards tournament play.
NTW does offer compelling battles, when fought against other players in Multiplayer mode. They even tried to add in multiplayer mode for campaigns, which was a brilliant idea and could have been wonderful but instead is a poorly-programmed piece of ♥♥♥♥.
The only way to have fun while playing a campaign, or to add fun while playing multiplayer, is to use the mod known as DarthMod. There is a DarthMod made by independent sources for every Total War game, and in NTW it is almost essential to have this mod in addition to the game. The mode enhances the sound quality, texture quality (smoke lingers in clouds, and blood splatters when soldiers are shot), melee fighting programming, the number of soldies per unit (from around 160 to about 360!) and most importantly, AI programing. Soldiers now fire by rank, and the AI is a cometent and worth opponent, both in battle and in campaign. Additionally, you unlock every availible nation with DarthMod. I've gone on rampages as Hannover, Portugal, Bavaria, and many more.
In short, if you are looking for a good Total War game, this is probably not the one to get. However, if Empire was your favorite Total War game, or if you prefer guns and cannons to spears and arrows, then get this game and the DarthMod for it.
Without DarthMod, NTW is a 4 out of 10.
With DarthMod, I give Napoleon: Total War an 8 out of 10.