"Epic" doesn't quite begin to describe the scope and scale of the latest Total War game--there's a lot of strategic depth, with plenty of amazing combat to enjoy.
- Epic, engrossing gameplay that lets you feel as though you're managing a medieval kingdom
- Impressive strategic depth that lets you play popemaker and dabble with espionage
- Beautiful graphics and amazing battles packed with cinematic moments
- Subtle, effective sound and musical effects.
- Beefy system requirements required to appreciate huge battles in all their glory
- Multiplayer limited to battles.
In our version of the Hundred Years' War, England was well on its way to spanking France in record time when those dastardly Danes betrayed our alliance and ruined the fun. About 150 turns later, we found ourselves bogged down in a three-front war against France, Denmark, and a late-to-the-party Spain, though at least those tenacious Scots were finally put down after a lengthy, hard-fought campaign in the north. Still, armies and navies were committed to battle as quickly as they were raised; spies, assassins, priests, diplomats, and merchants scrambled around the map and did their thing; sieges were laid and cities sacked; and battle followed bloody battle. And this is the "short" campaign in Medieval 2: Total War. In a nutshell, that summarizes what is both awesome and somewhat daunting about the latest game in the popular Total War strategy series. With its huge scale, deep gameplay, and beautiful graphics, this is perhaps the most seductive game about the Middle Ages yet, but it's admittedly quite a handful to take in.
Like in most strategy games, your goal in Medieval 2 is to try to conquer the known world. And as a ruler of a medieval kingdom, this means you have to rely on knights, men-at-arms, archers, catapults, cannons, and everything else you'd expect out of a movie such as Braveheart or Kingdom of Heaven. That's not all, though; you also have a small array of agents to call upon. Diplomats can negotiate cease-fires (useful when you need some time to rebuild your strength) or alliances; princesses can shore up the loyalty of a general or a neighboring faction through marriage; spies can give you a peek at a fortified city's defenses; assassins can take out enemy agents. Then there are priests, but we'll get to that a bit later.
Since it's a Total War game, Medieval 2 sports two layers. The "big picture" is covered in the turn-based strategic layer, where you can examine a map of Europe and manage your empire. From here, you have command of all your settlements, armies, navies, and agents. You can also construct improvements to enhance the economy or allow you to build the latest in 15th-century military technology. For example, building paved roadways not only increases trade in a province, but it also helps speed along troop movement; improving farmland, furthermore, can help generate more food, and thus more gold.
Medieval 2 introduces a few new twists to the established formula of the original game. Settlements come in two flavors now, towns and castles. Basically, towns and cities generate a lot more cash, but castles generate a wider variety of military units and are much harder to capture. It's an interesting idea, and it's not exactly a detriment to the experience that the supercities of the original game are no more, but this does add in a bit more micromanagement as you have to constantly shuttle troops and agents between various settlements. For instance, you might want to send depleted formations back to a castle where they can retrain and upgrade with the latest weapons and equipment.
All of this costs cash, of course, and it's safe to say that you'll be scrimping for every spare gold piece possible, especially early on in the game. The economic game has been bulked up a bit with the addition of merchants and resources. Basically, there are resources such as wheat and wine that are located on the map, and by enlisting a merchant and placing one on a resource, you can tap that resource for gold. However, one merchant can try and "buy out" another merchant sitting on a resource, so you'll be managing merchants while you're also busy maneuvering all the other pieces in the game.
Basically every aspect of medieval life is covered, not the least of which is religion. You must construct churches or mosques to support the faith, and if you're a Catholic nation you can even get involved in some popery by getting your man elected pope. This isn't just for fun, either; having the pope on your side can be a very powerful thing, because he'll be much more willing to overlook some of your aggressive transgressions against your Christian neighbors. On the other hand, if you hack off the pope or one of your sworn enemies gets their man elected, the best you can hope for is to get excommunicated, and the worst is that you find yourself the target of a crusade, which means that it's open season on you. The papal election basically works like this: You enlist priests to help maintain the faith in your provinces as well as take care of any heretics or witches that crop up. The more effective a priest, the more likely he'll be promoted by the church to become a bishop and then a cardinal. Every time a pope dies, the three most senior cardinals are put up for election--and here's where you can engage in diplomacy to buy votes for your man. However, if you fail and you vote for the losing side, the incoming pope will have a grudge against you.
All of this skullduggery and maneuvering is going on while you're busy with your main task, raising armies and issuing them movement orders. The sheer variety of units that you can call upon is impressive, and each faction has its own distinct units, such as the English longbowmen or the Holy Roman Empire's gothic knights. As you'd expect, it's combined arms that wins the battles, so you can create armies consisting of spearmen, men-at-arms, mounted knights, bowmen, siege weapons, and much more. And after a battle, you'll be sending these units back to a castle or a town to replace losses, so there's a lot of army management throughout the game. Put this all together and it sounds like a lot of management overall, and it is, though aside from a few interface tweaks that we'd like to see, this is an engrossing experience. There's so much depth in the strategic game that you could automatically generate the results of battles and you'll still spend hours trying to outmaneuver your opponents diplomatically, militarily, and religiously.
- Player Reviews: 486
- Game Universe:
- Empire: Total War Gold Edition (PC, MAC),
- Rome: Total War Gold Edition (PC, MAC),
- Empire: Total War (PC),
- Medieval II Total War: Gold Edition (PC),
- Medieval II: Total War Kingdoms (PC),
- Medieval II: Total War (PC),
- Total War: Eras (PC),
- Medieval Total War Gold (PC),
- Rome: Total War Barbarian Invasion (PC),
- Rome: Total War (PC)
- Number of Players:
- Number of Online Players:
8 Players Online