Pikemen are a type of melee infantry in Empire: Total War.
Pikemen carry long spears of a type that would have been familiar to the soldiers of Alexander the Great.
Despite the fact that firepower is the key to battle, “trailing a pike” into battle is more gentlemanly than carrying a gun. Pike-men are shock troops, relying on mass and impact in melee. Pikes are not without their uses: a solid wall of spear points is a formidable barrier to any cavalry attack. Pike-men still march into battle because not every European nation can afford (or find) enough guns for everyone. Sending men into battle with an obsolescent weapon is better than sending them forward with nothing at all.
By 1700, most European generals realized that the pike and pike-men were hopelessly outdated and outclassed on a modern battlefield. Pike-men had been a vital part of all infantry formations, protecting musketeers from cavalry and being the “shock” element in melee combat. There was a fatal problem for pike-men: a musket could kill at a distance, and once a decent bayonet was developed, pikes really did lose their point!
Although a brilliant general in every (other?) respect, Maurice de Saxe, the great Marshal General of France, remained an advocate of the pike even in the 1740s. By then, it was obvious that pikes were useless against massed musket-armed infantry.
Pikemen are available to every European faction and are present in nearly every European army at the beginning of the game. Unusually, all factions lose access to Pikemen as they upgrade their training facilities, as pikemen are only available to the lowliest magistrates.
Pikemen are the only infantry that can utilize the pike wall and pike square formation, in which they level their pikes to devastating effect against charging cavalry. While in these formations, they gain a large defense bonus, and become near-invulnerable to cavalry. However, they become immobile and must break formation in order to move, during which they are vulnerable to cavalry. They are seriously limited by their inability to use firearms and their rather poor melee stats against infantry. Pikemen also cannot scale walls or enter buildings, further limiting their use in sieges and defensive battles. Early on, Pikemen do have their uses as supplemental melee infantry should regular line infantry and militia require assistance. However, they soon lose their relevance as the ranged capabilities of other troops become more potent, and Line Infantry gain access to Square Formation and bayonet technologies.
A useful tactic in the early game (before ring bayonets and fire by rank) can be to place these troops in a line infantry unit, just behind the front line of the unit, and order them to utilise pike wall - essentially a makeshift tercio formation. Seeing as the front line of the line infantry is the only one that can fire at this point, the pikemen will suffer no friendly fire casualties, but their pikes extend beyond the front line, meaning they can still cripple an oncoming cavalry charge. They also excel in melee before bayonets are researched, meaning they can easily repel enemy infantry that charge the line.