The Empire is a faction composed of men - their mounts are the only mythical creatures available. This faction is the one that closest resembles the ones present in previous titles of the Total War franchise, such as the Total War: Attila, or Total War: Rome II, as the gameplay is very similar to the one that can be found there.
The Empire's army is characterized by being the best when it comes to balance. The army consists of a large number of different types of infantry, marksmen, horse marksmen, cavalry, or artillery units. Empire units are average when it comes to squad sizes, as well as decent parameters. Additionally, the costs of recruitment and the upkeep of those troops aren't as high as the army of Dwarves. The biggest flaw of this army is the complete lack of any flying units (aside from flying mounts that Lords and Heroes can use), as well as a relatively small amount of units that cause terror.
This faction has wide access to magic - both the six magical heroes (Grey Wizard, Amber Wizard, Jade Wizard, Celestial Wizard, Light Wizard and the Bright Wizard), as well as one of the starting Lords (Balthasar Gelt) can use a wide array of different spells for offense and defense. Using them can make any encounter a lot easier.
A unique mechanic, which is used only be the Empire, are the Offices. Those allow you to assign a Lord to a specific function (he retains the ability to command an army), which give immense bonuses to your kingdom. Those can, for instance, increase the recruitment capabilities or the starting experience of the Reikland cavalry, increase the amount of gold you gain through trades and your production buildings, or increase the amount of Winds of Magic points at your disposal. The player can assign up to 6 Lords to different offices, which allow you to customize your kingdom in a variety of ways.
While playing the Empire you will be able to conquer the settlements belonging to both humans and vampires. You won't be, however, capable of seizing control over the terrains belonging to Dwarves and Greenskins and Athel Loren that belongs to the Wood Elves - in case you attack their settlements (or when they attack you) you will only be able to pillage them to gain gold, or raze them to the ground.
The biggest flaw of playing the Empire is the number of potential enemies - numerous humans factions which must be conquered, factions of Dwarves that like to declare wars out of the blue, Vampires that you must get rid of and Beastmen raids. Furthermore, Warriors of Chaos will appear later in the game.. The arrival of armies of Chaos comes with another problem - the land of men are located the closest to those forces and will be attacked by them as soon as they leave the Chaos Wastes.
As with all factions in the game, The Empire has its own victory conditions - completing this set of objectives will allow you to emerge victorious in the campaign. To do so, you must:
- Control all provinces of the Empire either by direct ownership or through vassals and military allies: Norland, Ostland, Hochland, Middenland, Talabecland, Ostenmark, Reikland, Stirland, Aveland, Wissenland and The Wasteland.
- Reclaim, either by direct ownership or through vassals and military allies: Eastern Sylvania, Western Sylvania.
- Destroy the faction: Vampire Counts.
- Ensure that the military presence belonging to the Warriors of Chaos faction exists only in the region: Chaos Wastes.
- Ensure that Archaon the Everchosen is in a wounded state.
Victory conditions are very similar to all of the factions (aside from the Warriors of Chaos) - you must conquer (or control them through vassals and military allies) specific provinces, destroy a faction (Vampire Counts - The Empire, Dwarves - Greenskin), and drive out armies of Warriors of Chaos back to the Chaos Wastes.
Available faction leaders
There are two different Lords to choose from - Emperor Karl Franz (who is also the leader of the whole faction), as well as Balthasar Gelt. Those with DLC The Grim and the Grave will also have Volkmar the Grim. Depending on the Lord you choose as your starting one you will be given different starting units and the gameplay itself will differ slightly. Differences fade out in the latter part of the game when you gain access to all of the Empire's units.
Karl Franz starts with the following units: Halberdiers, Handgunners, Reiksguard. Those units can be unlocked quite early (as soon as you reach the third level of your main building in a capital), which is why they are worse (when it comes to technology requirements) than those offered by Balthasar Gelt. However, you will still have a huge advantage over your enemy. The thing that makes this leader stand out is his combat prowess - after unlocking appropriate abilities (as well as the Deathclaw, his unique flying mount) he will be able to fight on the frontline and take on most of the units on his own. Regular melee units won't even stand a chance against him - he can easily destroy a number of them at the same time. Unfortunately, he doesn't have access to any spells (aside from the ones offered by spells) and he needs to have a mage hero in the army if you want to cast spells during combat.
Balthasar Gelt starts with the following units: Outriders, Greatswords, Mortar. The last unit is worth the most attention. A single Mortar unit will increase the effectiveness of your army tremendously and will allow you to attack settlements protected by walls without the need to construct siege equipment. This Lord differs greatly from Karl Franz - he is useless in melee combat, but has access to extremely powerful spells. Thanks to that you will be able to cast spells from the very beginning of the game - a rare sight even amongst all of the factions.
Volkmar the Grim starts the game with the following troops: Knights of the Blazing Sun, Tattersouls (Flagellants), Flagellants. All these units are part of DLC The Grim and the Grave. The most important are Knights of the Blazing Sun - they are a strong cavalry unit that will grant you a major advantage early in the game. Keep in mind that this unit will become available after you take over Talabheim. The very lord (just like Karl) is a warrior but among the available skills, there will be prayers that can boost nearby units.