Medieval: Total War
Medieval: Total War is the second instalment of the Total War franchise, the first one being the well know Shogun: Total War. Now for all those that have never heard of Total War here is a little clarification:
The Total War formula consists of two parts, the first being a “turn based top view game” where you manage a number of provinces where you can raise taxes, build buildings and fortifications that allow you to construct armies and invade other provinces that belong to enemy (or neutral) factions.
The second part of the successful formula is the part that’s the most exciting: WAR !
In most turn based games, combat means watching animations move back and forth and letting the computer decide which party has the best army. In total war you yourself can dictate the outcome of battles or you can at least try to do so. Every time you decide to invade a certain province or when you’re defending against an enemy attack, your view changes to a 3D map of the terrain of that region. Then you must decide the fate of your attack or defend yourself against attacks made by your not so friendly neighbours.
The first instalment of this formula “Shogun: Total war” took place in feudal Japan where you had to lead your family to domination of all the Japanese islands. This time round, you can choose to become a king, a sultan or even the Russian tsar in one of three medieval timeframes starting from +-1000 AD and ending about 1450 AD. A total of 11 factions can be played and even more participate when playing the single player game.
There are a large number of improvements made in comparison to Shogun, the sheer number of different units is one ! Every country has at least some unique units that can give that extra edge to dominate the world (if you use it properly). From the English longbow to the Turkish gulam slave cavalry to the Swiss pikemen that can be rented as mercs on the condition that you build the proper buildings for their production and have the money to keep paying their fees.
Battles can be won in several ways, the death of the enemy general can mean that the entire opposing army breaks and runs or the sheer number of your units can persuade the AI that the ‘day is yours’, which means he retreats to a nearby province bolstering his troops there. Or the day can be claimed on the edge of a sharpened lance after decimating the enemies troops.
But off course, war wasn’t the only thing medieval rulers dabbled in, between wars they plotted and schemed, proposed and broke alliances to protect their borders and marry off their daughters in the hope gaining claims to the others lands. All this and more is also possible in Medieval: Total War, assassins, diplomats and bishops can all be used to convince rulers to ally with you. This means they will sometimes help you conquer provinces or at the least not attack you without due provocation. You can even train assassins to kill generals, heirs or the king himself !
Killing an enemy ruler is not so easy though. The higher or tougher your target the more skilled your assassin has to be to achieve success. Diplomats, generals and assassins gain experience by successfully completing missions (proposing alliances, winning battles and successful killings). Generals and kings can throughout their career gain ‘honour’ and even develop vices and virtues making them more (or less) skilled in combat, economy and politics
Graphically there is a huge difference between Shogun and Medieval.
The resolution and detail of the “world map” for one, has been greatly improved and the detail of the 3D battlefield is also very good. Although individual units themselves might not be the most detailed models around you must remember that battles are played with up to a 1000 troops on each side so individual details is not really important.
The sound on the 3D battlefield is not so great. Each class of units has its own sounds but different units of the same type do not have individual sounds, which would have been nice. A nice touch is the ‘advisor’ that seems to comment on your success or lack of success throughout the battle. With each faction another voice comments on important events on the battlefield, like your general dieing or the enemy general fleeing. The best thing about the sound however is the music, I really liked the different tunes for each faction and some of the ambiance music used in the menu’s is really surprisingly good.
If you liked Shogun: Total War, you are going to love Medieval: Total war, there’s no question about that! The game has vastly improved and expanded exponentially giving a very rewarding playing experience and thanks to the large amount of different faction and the vast diversion of units it has excellent replay value. But even if you’ve never played Shogun but you are in for a nice strategic game, you can’t go wrong with this one. It is currently the game that offers the best value for money out there. So what are you waiting for …go Medieval on their ass!