I picked Empire: Total War up recently and while slowly working through the Road to Independence campaign got to my first sea battle. Some quick reactions to sea combat:
1. What is up with the controls? They're terrible! When you order a ship to turn you can barely see the turn indicator unless you are zoomed in close. At one point I had two ships grouped and instructed them to turn right, but they both turned left.
2. I won the battle but elected to hunt down the routing French sloop to practice a bit more. The damaged sloop could make speed while sailing directly into the wind! It should not have had headway at all. My sloop had to tack, of course, and with sails at battle level could not keep up, needing full sail to stay with the routing French sloop.
3. I was appalled when I saw and heard the tutorial instructions that spoke of "zig-zagging" instead of tacking. However, now that I've seen that the sailing simulation is crap I understand why the term wasn't used.
This title is my first exposure to this series. I bought it because of the high metacritic score and good reviews. It's not a bad game, but so far I don't feel it's living up to the scores and reviews.
Except for the graphics (which are of course dated now) Rise of Nations is still unmatched in the category of historical RTS games. In particular, the UI and controls (both land and sea) in RoN are far superior to E:TW.
[This was also posted to GameFAQs.]