Medieval II: Total War Review
developer: Creative Assembly
PIV 1500, 512MB RAM, 11GB HDD, 128MB video card
|ESRB rating: T
release date: Nov 13, 06
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Conquering, pillaging and fighting your way to glory!
In many ways, Rome: Total War represented the peak of Creative Assembly's well-established real-time strategy series. I for one played the game until I managed to conquer the entire map in the single-player campaign. In fact, I've enjoyed the game up to the point where I would start seeing little red roman legionaries marching through my living room. In a nutshell, it was a fun experience and it's still a game I'd wholeheartedly recommend to true RTS fans.
I vow to hunt down those heretics, your Holiness!
The English empire thrives.
Here we are, a couple of years later, facing yet another addition to the popular strategy series. Medieval 2: Total War moves away from ancient history and Roman military supremacy and puts players right in the heart of war-torn Europe. (And Rome, according to you, is in ...Minnesota? -Ed) Facing political intricacies and religious turmoil of the middle ages, you must cope with innumerable unforeseen events that could easily plunge your entire empire into massive revolt; unless, of course, you prove your worth as a good military tactician and sharp leader with a knack for international politics. Let us say you should establish a perfect balance between a charismatic war veteran and an intelligent politician. It's the only way you can keep a majority of citizens satisfied.
At the beginning, you can choose from an assortment of modes - Grand Campaign (the main single-player campaign), Custom Battle (setting up the battle yourself), Quick Battle (diving into the fray as swiftly as possible) and Historical Battle (as before, players can revive some of the famous battles that took place throughout various periods of our history). The game allows you to pick from five different factions: The Holy Roman Empire, England, France, Spain and Venice. Don't worry, as you progress, you'll be able to unlock additional factions. In case you were wondering, Medieval 2 includes quite a lot of different factions such as Milan, Scotland, Russia, the Moors, Turkey, Denmark, Egypt, Portugal, The Papal States, Hungary, Poland, the Aztecs, Mongols and more.
At first glance, Medieval 2: Total War appears to function the same way as the previous game. That shouldn't discourage you from digging into its many traits, most of which come into play after many hours of fighting and conquering. Rome: Total War had its own appeal with well-balanced gameplay, which combines epic real-time battles and classic turn-based strategy. Medieval 2 delves deeper into the complexity of ruling a huge kingdom and handling important things like economic growth, city management etc.
Progressing further through the main campaign, players may be able to discern several changes that make this title a lot more engaging and challenging than Rome: Total War. Spanning through a rather turbulent period of European history (between the years 1080 and 1530), the game underlines the significance of religion. Yep, and that's where the Pope comes in. (The Pope who lives in Rome... the capitol of Minnesota. -Ed) As one of the most influential figures, the Pope and his delegates strive to preserve harmony and order amongst all Christian nations. Each faction has its standing in the eyes of the Holy Church and must therefore attest its devotion by carrying out certain deeds. Some actions require subtle diplomacy, but others will call for necessary aggression and confrontation. Mind you, disregarding Christian neighbors and declaring war on them, significantly decreases your reputation with the Pope. Then again, should any neighboring Catholic nation assail your city without warning you can be sure they will soon be excommunicated, losing the support of the Church and all of its followers (small comfort as I lay dead in the smoldering remains of my empire -Ed).
Religion has brought another key ingredient to the gameplay. Priests may be assigned to deal with any potential heretics that might be roaming freely across the land. They restore faith and spirituality throughout the nation, wherever it is needed, and can help you get on the Pope's good side. Of course, if you wish to be the Pope's enemy, others may join you if they disagree with the ways of Christianity. Well, to be honest, I tried getting in the way of the Church's policy and that had consequences. Pretty soon I watched as one of their untiring inquisitors moved in on my best general, proclaiming him a heretic and hanging him at the gallows. Bugger!
The Pope is also likely to commission a crusade to test the religious devotion of all Christian factions. Before heading out on a crusade, you must delegate your most loyal leaders to amass new armies and follow this holy quest. At this point, it's advisable to view the statistics of a leader chosen for the task. If his Piety level is low, it's the gallows again (just stay away from inquisitors and you'll be fine), or you should simply consider someone else for the mission. Of course, there are other important facets to think about when any leader is concerned - loyalty to your faction, leadership abilities and chivalry. Fighting a Holy War also opens the possibility of enlisting more troops such as Crusader Sergeants who are extremely effective against cavalry and can be a huge boost to morale. The important thing to remember is that you must keep heading towards the Holy Land, otherwise your troops may break ranks and withdraw from the cause.
Running your settlements also involves additional consideration. Once occupied, players may decide whether they wish to govern a settlement and expand it as a town or as a castle. Towns are maintained to produce food and more income, whereas castles exist to provide your kingdom with miscellaneous military units.
As I've stated earlier, the general happiness of your populace depends greatly on your skills as a sovereign. To a certain degree, Medieval 2 focuses a bit more on micromanagement and expanding the empire through economics and diplomacy, as opposed to plain old warfare. This is the part I enjoyed the most because it allowed me to gain financial power in many different ways. For instance, if you manage to weaken your enemies to the point where they are begging for a ceasefire agreement, you'd be wise to use this to your advantage and obtain as many demands as possible: regular tributes in gold, crucial map information, trade rights and so on. Obviously, you won't get very far if you fail to muster enough forces to defend the kingdom. So, don't forget to set up a strong military presence as well.
New units, new factions, more possibilities in the turn-based mode, detailed visuals and excellent sound;
AI bugs, steep hardware requirements.