Product Type: Sega PC games
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This time it's Anti vs the rest of Europe and the Pope!
Medieval II: Total War (PC)
Member Name: Anti
Medieval II: Total War (PC)
Advantages: Solid gameplay with interesting features, brilliant graphics and cinematics.
Disadvantages: Little original content compared to previous game, AI not great.
'Medieval 2: Total War' is a PC game that came out in 2006, as part of the successful strategy series, 'Total War', by developers Creative Assembly. This game is essentially a remake of 'Medieval: Total War', the second game in the series, but updated with the game engine used in 'Rome: Total War' (which I have previously reviewed and enjoyed a lot, along with the original 'Medieval'). As with the other titles, 'Medieval 2' combines a hybrid style of gameplay with a 'Risk'-style, turn-based campaign where you conquer the known map with your military prowess and real-time battle scenes that pit huge armies against each other.
This time the period is the Middle Ages, ranging from 1085 right through to the discovery of the New World in the fifteenth century, so much broader than the previous games. In the main campaign mode players choose a faction from Medieval Europe including the English, French, Turkish, Egyptians and Russians among others. On the map they start off with a small number of factions in their control and they must conquer as much of the known world as possible (at least 50 provinces in the "Long Campaign") by building up armies of units preferably led by a general from your royal family. You also must manage your faction's economy, diplomacy between other factions and, if your country is a Christian one, keeping the Pope's favour by building churches and not harming your Christian neighbours (yeh right!). As your faction advances in power and age, you get access to gunpowder and even get the chance to explore the New World, which involves fighting the Aztec tribes and then some.
This game has quite a few more features than in 'Rome: Total War' which I shall mention. Firstly as well as other agent units such as a spies, assassins and diplomats there are also now merchants and princess. Merchants are new to the series as a whole, and they are used to trade certain goods located around the map for a small amount of money each turn they stand on the icon. They also have the opportunity to seize the assets of merchants from rival factions which will help gain skills as well as whatever they were trading, but the same can also happen to your merchants too! Princesses were in the original 'Medieval' game and serve the same purpose here, as they both carry out regular negotiation like diplomats and can be married to nobles of other factions or have men from your own faction approach her for marriage. The former can seal alliances between factions, the latter allows young generals to join your royal family and bear children. Both these additions are nice touches to the gameplay although it does involve a bit more micromanaging as you move merchants around to find goods worth the most money.
Furthermore religion has a huge impact in this game. With Christian nations you need to keep the Pope happy by building churches, keeping a Christian majority in each province and not attacking Christian factions while crushing the Muslim/Papal provinces. Doing so keeps your Papal Favour high and lets you have great influence over electing the next pope who will be more lenient with your Christian conquests. Conversely, neglecting your religious duties and wantonly attacking Christian factions will cause Papal Favour to drop and the Pope may even excommunicate you, resulting in your Christian neighbours to freely attack you until you're forgiven. It adds another layer of difficulty to the game as you can't attack easy pickings for the kill until you make your way towards the papal state of Rome (it's a requirement to control that city) and then you can fully control the papal elections in your favour. However one negative aspect of religion are the inquisitors who travel around the map; these nasty guys will put your generals and agents on trial for heresy and if they are found guilty the inquisitor will execute them so you lose them for good. What annoys me here is that you can't tell how pious some types of units are and I can't make them less susceptible to heresy- it is dependent on chance really.
As with 'Rome: Total War' when two battles meet up on the campaign you can play the battle in real-time through the other half of gameplay. You control your army and aim to defeat or rout all enemy units off the battlefield. The controls allow you to move and turn each unit as well as attack via different methods. For example when controlling an archer unit you can widen their lines, allowing arrows to cover more ground, and set them to "fire at will" so archers will automatically fire when enemy units are in range. Utilizing your units best is paramount to winning your battles as well as taking into account unit strength, morale, strengths and weaknesses.
As you can see, the core strategy elements of the Total War series are still here and as strong as ever, but there isn't anything really original in this instalment, with most "new" features being from the first 'Medieval'. The New World portion of the game comes very late into the period and isn't that well-developed (although I believe the 'Kingdoms' expansion pack covers this). In addition, the AI still hasn't really improved since the last game. I mentioned in my 'Rome' review that enemy factions would attack you if you bordered one of their provinces even if they had no chance of winning a war. This is still the case in 'Medieval 2' and although it seems to occur at a lesser extent this is only because of the religion aspect of gameplay. Yet I've still played as the English and had the Holy Roman Empire attack me even when the Pope constantly threatens us with excommunication every other turn (although that is a strategy that I use to get around the Catholic rules!).
Other modes in this game include playing through real life historical battles,such as the Battle of Agincourt, and creating your own custom battles. Custom Battles are fun because it makes good practice for the other modes and I like to make "what if" scenarios (e.g. can archers take on a whole side of melee units).
I can say that the graphics are a big improvement in both cinematic cutscenes and in-game battles. The real-time battles are very crisp even on my fairly mid-spec laptop. There is also a lot of attention to detail as each man has a different face from the guy standing next to them so you don't feel you have an army of clones- individual soldiers even demonstrate unique behaviour such as nervously shuffling when the army is still. When siege weapon projectiles hit the ground they stay in the ground (as do arrows) and bring up dust upon contact. To appreciate the brilliant graphics at their best however make sure you have a powerful computer!
Overall 'Medieval 2' is another great strategy PC offering. Admittedly it is more of the same with the similar design to the previous game's engine plus a few gameplay tweaks, along with AI behaving rather idiotically again. However there is graphical improvement especially in the real-time portions of the game and is a solid strategy game on all accounts. You easily find the original game for about £4.99 from online stores which I think is an excellent bargain now!
(Also on Ciao under the username Anti_W)
Summary: Another good, if safe, strategy game that I recommend!