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If the game makes the computer freeze entirely, it might be an audio-issue.
Try opening Windows' Device Manager and disabling your audio-device (in my case Realtek HD audio was the culprit). If this allows the game to run, then this fix might work for you. Remove the device, and download a driver from the audio-device manufacturer's website.
Some users are unable to change the resolution from the in-game menu.
%APPDATA%\The Creative Assembly\Empire\scripts
x_res 0; # x_res <int32>, Fixed window width #
y_res 0; # y_res <int32>, Fixed window height #
The exact reason is unknown, but it seems that when you select and/or move a fleet consisting of only highest-end ship of the line and you have researched "Top Gallants" upgrade, the game will crash to desktop.
Merging a Brig or a Sloop (the ships with the lowest move points) to the fleet seems to solve this bug, by reducing the distance the higher ships can travel.