Medieval II: Total War is one of the most impressive medieval based strategy games in existence. In this review I will be looking at the vanilla build of this game as well as the Kingdoms expansion pack.
Medieval II Total War puts the payer in control of one of 17 factions from the Middle Ages, each of these factions has their own strengths and weaknesses which can make them problematic in a number of areas such as economy, battle, diplomacy and religion.
The five starting factions whom you are able to pick at the start of the game are England, France, The Holy Roman Empire, Spain and Venice, but do not be alarmed, you can unlock the other factions once you have destroyed them in the campaign mode.
Once you have picked your faction you are thrown into the world of Medieval II, a birds eye view of your lands before you on the main gaming screen (Picture below is that of the Byzantine Empire as it appears on the main gaming screen. From this screen you manage all your settlements by clicking on them, you can adjust the tax, recruit soldiers, recruit diplomats, spies, assassins, ships, priests, merchants etc
There are just tons of things which you can do to build up your settlements, recruiting a priest will increase public order due to minimal religious unrest, merchants can move away from the settlement and set up new trade lines by standing on tradable goods such as fish, gold, chocolate, iron, weapons etc.
Your diplomats can move to enemy settlements to open negotiations which can range from requesting trade rights, alliances, map information to demanding money, settlements etc.
There are just so many options and units in the main screen its impossible for me to list them all, it is truly one of the most expansive games Iíve ever played.
Combat in Medieval Two is played out in 3D, you are given time before the battle to set your troops accordingly, grouping your units allows you to put them in some pre designed formations such as missiles at the front, spearmen behind, infantry behind them. There are also formations available to the player such as the schiltron and the phalanx, each have their own bonuses and each are animated on the screen so you can watch that large group of feudal knights crash into your pikemen in real time.
There really is no limit to how strategic you can be in the battles, you can move your cavalry around to flank the enemy, you can push against your enemies shield wall, use flaming arrows to put fear and death through enemy ranks and even make use of catapults and trebuchets.
No two battles are the same either, if on the main screen your army is next to a waterfall, and you are attacked, then the waterfall will be in the 3D battle. Throw in the constant change in starting positions and differences in enemy troop placement and its imperative that you keep on your toes and keep the situation in hand.
You do not have top kill all of your enemies to win in a battle either, if you can slay the enemy general then his troops may lose morale and begin to rout, blindly running away from battle, making them easy targets for your fast moving cavalry.
All of these elements make for some very interesting battles and with the inclusion of siege warfare, the sheer sense of achievement you get from taking the walls of an enemy citadel with ladders and smashing open the gates with a battering ram is fantastic.
Kingdoms Review coming up next.
Medieval II: Total War (and Kingdoms expansion)
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