I stayed away from Empire: Total War because of early bug issues and bad reviews. I got the Gold Edition, which fixed a lot of the previous problems and it is a really fun game.
There are a lot of fun aspects of this game, the first is you actually get to fight navel battles. Seeing a line of ships on beautifully-designed water is quite impressive, as is the damage graphics after you fire a broadside into an enemy ship. The downside of the navel battles is that the learning curve is incredibly steep. Still haven't quite figured this part out yet.
Another aspect is the Independence Game, where you lead forces, started with Jamestown and finishing with the Revolution. Once you win the Revolution, you can go back and play the world campaign as the newly independent U.S. This series is fun, because its one of the few games where you can fight the French and Indian War and playing as the new United States makes it really interesting in a world of much stronger powers.
Then there is the Warpath game, which could be better. I've played it twice; once as the Iroquois and once as the Cherokee...didn't win either campaign. Essentially, you start off pre-firearms and must somehow work your way up to this if you ever want to stand a chance against the superior European/American powers and claim the lands you must have in order to win. I didn't like this because the American Indian tribes were quite well-armed prior to 1783...even 30 years before this, the Iroquois employed firearms quite effectively. What is so annoying about it is that more often than not, the American Indians used the ambush to great effect and that is all but impossible in this game because no matter where you have an Indian force, they still line up on an open field like they're a European Army. It would have been much easier to set up real ambushes in mountain passes or in the forest where European line units would be at a disadvantage.
The pros of this game include:
-Ability to research technology
-True world map for building empires
-fantastic gunpowder battles in which you must use strategy compared to the hack-and-slash medieval or Rome series where you simply bash armies together.
-difficulty level is much more complex
-distinct cultures affect how you play at a much higher level than previous Total War games.
The cons of this game include:
-sea battles are cool to watch but very difficult to figure out.
-your AI is terrible on its own in just about any battle. No matter how great a general you have leaving an army, they are likely to have their army decimated unless you command them personally. So unless you outman your enemy by a massive margin, you should probably fight every battle on the map yourself.
-The controls have been moderately modified from previous and these can be a bit annoying until you get used to them.
-Steam...not sure why so many games are going to a "cloud" gaming system...it only slows down the load time. On the flip side, it does automatically check for updates and patches. Overall though, I could do without an ever-present-online presence of Steam.
As a big fan of the colonial period and of these types of wars, I love this game. It is really a lot of fun to see two armies march in close order and fire volleys, or have American Indian warriors plow into a line of European infantry from the sides, decimating them.