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Medieval II: Total War Kingdoms Review
developer: Creative Assembly
PIV 1500, 512MB RAM, 5GB HDD, 128MB video card
|ESRB rating: T
release date: Aug 28, 07 (released)
|» All About Medieval II: Total War Kingdoms on ActionTrip|
Almost a year has passed since we've played the original Medieval II. Beyond question, it's still one of my favorite strategies (like Rome: Total War before it). In an effort to offer gamers even more content, Creative Assembly, released an expansion pack Medieval II: Total War - Kingdoms, featuring additional factions and new units to conquer with.
There's nothing like watching the local priest as he picks his nose.
None shall get in the way of the Teutonic Order!
After enduring an excruciatingly time-consuming installation, I was able to try one of the four different campaigns - Americas, Crusades, Teutonic and Britannia. Each of these brings a specific set of factions and units to control. Fighting in the Britannia campaign, means you take part in the 13th century conflicts between the English, Welsh, Scots, Irish and Norwegians - normally, your goal is to spread the influence of your faction across the British Isles, the map of which has been expanded by the way. Should you want to try out the Crusades map, you'll be thrown into a land where powerful Christian factions (such as the Kingdom of Jerusalem or the Principality of Antioch) fight for domination over the forces of Islam and the Byzantium Empire. Here you may also choose the Egyptians and the Turks, who are fiercely fighting to preserve their lands. The Teutonic campaign depicts the historical clashes of the Lithuanians and Christian forces, such as the powerful Teutonic Order of Knights (Denmark and Novgorod factions were also thrown in).
For my first strategic endeavor, I decided to try my luck on the New World continent and begin the Americas single-player campaign. Also, just to make things a bit more challenging, I chose to play with the Mayan faction.
The Total War gameplay mechanics aren't new to me, so I knew my way around; coping with war efforts, real-time battles, diplomacy challenges, assassination attempts and all those usual activities and features that the series is known for. Anyhow, the Americas campaign pits the player right in the middle of a struggle between Native American factions, such as the Aztecs, Apaches and Mayans, as they fight to fend off invaders from Europe - i.e. the forces of Spain, France and England. Although the campaign has plenty to occupy the player's attention, the situation sometimes seems a wee bit unbalanced. Compared to the invading forces from Europe, the underdeveloped Natives have fewer tactical possibilities, given their technological limits. (How historically inaccurate! Oh wait. - Ed) Although historically accurate, this painful fact sort of restricts the game if you happen to be playing with some of the tribal civilizations. For example, reaching certain parts of the map by water, won't be possible, because the natives simply cannot build boats. The technological boundaries may affect the turn-based portion of the game somewhat, but, fortunately, they don't influence other aspects of the game like diplomacy, spying or battles. In any case, I don't think such issues will bother gamers much, especially if they are fans of the series. Actually, for me, it made things even more challenging.
Single-player campaigns retain all those familiar Total War-esque elements that make the game exciting and challenging to play - the successful combo of real-time battles and the turn-based gameplay on the strategic map. Also, you get random missions to conquer cities, assassinate generals, establish alliances and trade routes, etc. These features help maintain a steady and dynamic campaign. In other words, throughout conquest, diplomacy and war, the game rarely feels dull. Mind you, it would've been nice if some of the campaigns featured even more historical events, or perhaps some story-driven missions.
Now, in spite of some of the aforementioned drawbacks, Kingdoms is far from a repetitive experience. Luckily, it also carries a tremendous degree of replayability, given the variety of content packed in all four campaigns. After almost completing the Americas campaign, I decided to take a shot at the Crusaders. There were some memorable moments in this portion of the game, like watching the Christian cavalry knights as they ram into enemy formations. In the very same campaign, you might find it quite rewarding if you choose to lead the Byzantine Empire. As their leader, it's going to be very difficult fighting against the cause of Islam or swaying the powerful influence of Catholicism. In this case, fighting battles becomes really exciting, particularly once the ferocious Greek Fire-throwers enter the fray. Still, these pyromaniacs must be used with caution, because they can just as easily wound your own forces on the battlefield (which happened to me more than once). So, once more, each campaign has its cool and unforeseen twists.
To avoid any potential gameplay monotony, the developers incorporated a number of scripted events to spice things up a bit. If you side with the Byzantine Empire, you can expect the crusading Venetians to come knocking on your door at some point, with the firm intention of sacking Constantinople. Good luck with that, by the way.
8.4 Very Good
Each campaign is fun in its own right and there's more than enough content to guarantee hours of RTS and turn-based fun;
A few lingering issues make their way into the expansion as well - like certain AI glitches in real-time battles.