I tried to keep my expectations for this game rather realistic. CA had a single year to develop it, and it was in all intents and purposes intended to be an improvement on ETW, as opposed to being that which would save save the whales and cure cancer. I shall talk about my experience with the much anticipated "improved BAI", and then at the end for anyone interested, I list the general improvements that have been done to the game. This is important, because over all I find this to be the best expansion pack that CA has ever done (albeit a little costly), since it improves on the base game, ETW, in virtually every respect, unlike previous TW expansion packs.
Before I talk about the BAI, I want you to know the score I have given this game. My final score that I would give the game out of 10 would be a 3/10, however, because CA added Hungarian units to the Austrian roster that have higher stats than their German equivalents, I give this game a solid 8.5.
As I'm sure everyone has heard, the BAI has undergone some improvements, but it certainly is still a way away from perfection. I played a second battle to test percisely this BAI (I'm trying to avoid using split-infinitives, but it just feels awkward and clumsy to not use them). I played a custom match, with full stack armies as the noble Austrians against the insidious British.
I was not expecting a great battle, just some improvements on the AI - such as it not sending its artillery into a head-on charge into my line infantry. I sat back and watched as the British crossed the desert to fight my straight line that I had not touched at all, aside from deploying my cannons. My right and left flanks easily fended off the enemy firing squads, and I watched in disappointment as the centre British line simply charged into the centre of my line, with their general involved in the ridiculous charge.
With a sign, I brought my attention elsewhere, watching the new eye-candy effects from the gunpowder based weaponry, and even as a riderless horse rode off into the distance. Suddenly I received the message that a unit of mine is retreating. Confused, I looked at where the source of this cowardice was originating, only to see that the British mass charge into the centre of my lines had not been an ill-conceived action of AI stupidity, but perhaps it was actually a calculated risk on their part that had paid off - the centre of my long line was broken, and hundreds of my men were retreating like cowards.
I quickly attempted to reform my flanks and reorganize my men so as to deal with this new threat that had come about. Unfortunately, British guerrillas, artillery and cavalry began to harrass my two flanks who had now turned to face the former centre of my line, cause me to suffer some serious losses. Fortunately, I had enough men and a couple of cavalry on hand to surround and overpower the British blob that had broken my centre, and the rest of their army fell shortly afterward.
To be honest, the fact that I almost lost was due to the fact that I am not exactly the most talented general when it comes to TW games, and my arrogance, expecting the AI's mass charge on my centre to be something that would inevitably fail. Had I been watching what was taking placed, and had formed my army up more efficiently, the AI would not have gotten so close to humiliating me. Nonetheless, the AI is clearly superior to ETW's, and this is what matters, even if it won't be defeating those of us who are not tactically challenged, and are wise enough to watch over their troops.
Below I have a list of improvements I noticed in my short time playing, for anyone interested.
During the three or so turns I played of the campaign, I noticed several welcome improvements over ETW:
1) Option to loot and occupy captured cities.
2) Replenishing soldiers can only be done in cities, or by armies that have a general commanding them. Furthermore, this can only be done in friendly territory, and if the army is able to receive supplies.
3) New types of buildable structures have been added to the game, which so far seem quite useful, as opposed to being empty additions. The one that I chose to build in town was one that improved the amount of supplies that are available to my army.
4) Much better campaign music than ETW's.
In the battles I noticed the following:
1) Not only do verbal messages come up telling you of what is happening on the field of battle (ie "Our general is under attack." ; "A unit is run out of ammunition."), but a mini-screen comes up at the top of your screen, displaying this unit so you exactly of its whereabouts and its current situation without altering your camera whatsoever.
2) The new and improved mini-map screen is a massive improvement over anything I seen in any previous TW game. During battle deployment, it shows you the exact territory where you can deploy your forces, making it easier to plan out where to deploy your troops in a short-period of time (which is important for multiplayer). This mini-map screen also does some other neat things, such as causing units to flash when they have lost troops - this includes enemy units. It is a very clear mini-map, allowing you to see without much effort exactly what is going on in the battle.
3) Smoke, craters and flashy explosions are a very nice addition, though I fear it won't be appreciated by many, due to the wide usage of mods that already added some of these features to ETW.
4) Custom battles now give you more options to choose from when setting up the game, such as a low amount of money.
5) I personally liked ETW's battle music, but for those who did not, NTW has some better and more dramatic music for its battles.