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Medieval: Total War - Viking Invasion Review
developer: Creative Assembly
PII 350, 128MB RAM, 16MB Video Card, 1.7GB HD
|ESRB rating: T
release date: May 07, 03 (released)
|» All About Medieval: Total War - Viking Invasion on ActionTrip|
In 793AD the Vikings attacked the monastery at Lindisfarne in Northumbria, killing the monks and nuns, destroying one of Northern Europe's great centers of learning, and carrying off every precious object they could pry from the cold, dead hands of the monks.
I shall rule the world with an iron fist!
Our pajamas are prettier than yours!
Yep, those were Vikings for you -ruthless, savage and very, very angry. When you think about it, they make a perfect candidate for a war game, and it seems Creative Assembly thought so as well when they started work on the expansion pack to Medieval: Total War entitled Viking Invasion. The game takes place in the 8th century, and it portrays the time and politics of the British Isles way before the kingdom was even born. Back when the island was divided into small kingdoms with a predominantly Catholic population; the Scots, Picts, Irish, Welsh, Saxon and others, who besides fighting amongst each other had to fend off constant raids from the Norsemen - the terrible Vikings. The expansion pack lets you play one of these sides, with an obvious focus on the Vikings. It may be frightening to be on the receiving end of a mighty Viking hammer, but it sure as hell is fun swinging one, at least in a game.
Creative Assembly is known for solid expansion packs. Remember the Mongol Invasion? As was the case in the Mongol Invasion, the Viking Invasion brings a multitude of new units and some subtle changes in the way that players handle economy and their generals, making the Viking Invasion a worthy expansion pack - one that is definitely worth your attention.
The new units include warriors common for that time period. Remember, the Viking Invasion takes place way before the time in which Medieval: Total War was set (although, technically, 793AD is Medieval Times), so you can expect less sophisticated siege weaponry and a little more rudimentary (and savage) unit types - like the dreaded Berserkers, who would strike fear in the bravest of foes with their "I don't care if I die, as long as I kill something" attitude towards war and fighting. Besides these more generic units, there are also kingdom-specific ones; for example, the Picts have their Pictish Cavalry. The Pictish cavalry are tough fighters, just like other highlanders and hill folk. Their ferocity in combat, combined with the mobility of cavalry, make them an effective raiding and skirmishing unit.
The rugged terrain of Wales is ideally suited to irregular warfare, as invaders from the Romans onwards have discovered to their cost. Armed with bow and sword and skilled in attacking from ambush, Welsh bandits are deadly and versatile opponents.
Then, there are the legendary Viking units like the Jomsvikings. The sagas tell of the great city of Jomsborg, a mighty fortress whose enormous harbor can hold 300 longships. Here, where no women are allowed, the Jomsvikings devote themselves to the arts of war. Every Jomsviking is a hero in his own right, and a unit of Jomsvikings is feared more than even the terrible berserkers.
Other faction-specific units include the Saxon Fyrdmen, Horsemen and Huscarles, Sherwood Foresters (Robin Hood's ancestors), Viking Carl and Raiders, Irish Bonnachs and Rus Spearmen.
...Quite a view! Yes, it is. Quite a view.
A perfect place for an ambush.
All in all, there are plenty of new units to satisfy the tastes of Total War fans. But, besides introducing new units and structures (like Pagan Shrines, Drinking Halls, Mead Halls, etc.), the expansion brings some subtle novelties in terms of placing more emphasis on your generals by giving them some very human and rather uncivilized traits of enjoying secret incest, pedophilia, etc, and also, being a lot more prone to rebellion than in Medieval: Total War. During the game, I would often commend myself for having such a solid and well-balanced kingdom and then, all of a sudden, a seemingly loyal general would rebel and turn my armies against me. A most unpleasant experience that wasn't all too common in Medieval: Total War. Besides paying close attention to the economy, religion and military, you will have to calculate the human factor more than ever before. It's really not insignificant who you choose to lead your armies into battle. You can choose a skillful commander, a born leader, who will ultimately turn against you because he thinks he can do a better job than you. Balancing out allegiance with fancy titles and marriages will be crucial to keeping your army together. Medieval: Total War introduced a much more sophisticated economy system than what we had in Shogun: Total War. The Viking Invasion expansion goes even further by adding more emphasis on human treachery amongst other things. This naturally makes the gameplay even trickier in terms of balancing out all the relevant factors and making your little kingdom prosper.
Let's suppose that you've managed to make your kingdom work somehow. You have achieved the right formula for the economy and the military; the people are happy, the religion is prospering and the generals are loyal to you. Even then, you only got about half of the job done, as you will have to fend off numerous raids by the Vikings, not to mention that playing as the Scots for example will put you in a vastly inferior position when it comes to the strength of army units. Viking Invasion is a tough game. It is much tougher than Medieval: Total War. This expansion pack is for people who enjoy a good challenge and know the ins and outs of Medieval: Total War. No matter how hard I tried I had numerous difficulties trying to expand the borders of my kingdom (I played with The Scots, Picts and Saxons). Playing as one of these nations is most certainly going to put you in an inferior position, especially against the Vikings. Their troops are just way too strong, especially their foot soldiers. You can have as much low level troops as you like, but unless you skill on the battlefield is truly advanced you'll stand no chance against the Vikings, or some of the more evolved kingdoms.
That being said, there are still ways to trick the enemy AI, as it doesn't all too well, nor does it take advantage of the terrain as much as it should. In addition, it's still very easy to separate the enemy troops and then surround them with a few clever flanking moves. Still, playing as any other nation, but the Vikings proved to be a very tough task for me. Make no mistake about it, even on the normal difficulty setting, Viking Invasion is a very challenging game, and if you hadn't played the original before, I suggest paying extremely close attention to the tutorial or just spending some time on the Totalwar.com forums where you can learn some valuable strategies and hear good advice.
In a nutshell, it's pretty much a given that Medieval fans will love Viking Invasion. It not only brings new stuff, it also polishes the gameplay and fixes some bugs that have plagued the original release. For all intents and purposes, this is a very solid expansion pack. The fact still remains that the game obviously favors the Viking side, and that makes the campaign somewhat unbalanced (and certainly difficult if you don't chose the Viking), and the graphics are beginning to look old, but if you like a good challenge and depth in your strategy games, I suggest buying Viking Invasion. It's worth it.
8.5 Very Good
New units, structures; the Vikings are very fun to play with. Subtle gameplay tweaks that make the management/strategy aspects even more in-depth than in Medieval: Total War;
The game clearly favors the Vikings, making the main campaign somewhat unbalanced. It's very hard playing as one of the smaller fractions. Some-old AI quirks still present. Fairly dated graphics by today's standards.
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