Medieval: Total War
Greg Gibson / Aug 21st, 2002 No Comments
England’s very own Edward II was a bit of a loose cannon its fair to say…he tried to invade Scotland and failed, possibly due to Mel Gibson’s influence in fairness. He killed anyone who crossed him and shared the countries riches with his closest mates, he fathered four children in all. Overall he lacked dignity and was an inept soldier…Edward died in September 1327, probably by violence. Now, with the release of Medieval Total War you have the chance to unleash the tyrant within and go on a rampage over Medieval Europe!
This last statement isn’t entirely accurate though as you can also run rampage over parts of Northern Africa and parts of Asia…you see Medieval is the sequel to one of the greatest games ever made, Shogun. Medieval takes the same theme, squeezes out all the Japanese flavour and replaces it with a heavy dose of chivalrous knights, peasants with bad teeth, very sexually active kings and Arabs on camels.
The reason Shogun was so good was because it did something different, it is one of the few RTS games that doesn’t play like Red Alert with different graphics…something I have (I feel justifiably) constantly referred to in past reviews of RTS titles. Shogun mixed up a turn-based strategy game with a highly tactical battle section of epic proportions. You chose your clan and you were allowed to invade, pillage and burn whoever you wanted to in attempt to gain more land, no two games were ever the same. Medieval takes this so much further its entering the realms of Civ in terms of open-ended gameplay…although you will probably always try and wipeout the French as your first objective…
The main area of improvement over the original is on the strategy map, there is now far, far more interaction and personality to the preceding. The setting initially helps with this, as I for one am able to understand the workings of Europe far better than Feudal Japan. Your kings, princes and generals all now have an individual personality with individual stats and character traits…the appointment of certain titles, such as the Duke of a certain region can improve a characters abilities as well as through experience. Stats come into play in several areas, a general with a high level of ‘dread’ is very effective in battle, where one with high ‘acumen’ may be best left managing a region and helping improve its income, also a king with low ‘piety’ might face a zealous religious faction rising up in his kingdom.
Thusly, another consequence of shifting the geographic region of the game is religions…Christians, Catholics and Muslims do not mix too well…throw in a few more independent religious fanatic groups and you can have problems. Religious ‘units’ can be deployed, they can help promote your faith in another region and cause unrest or try and settle one of your own regions…specialist Inquisitors can even have leaders tried for Heresy and killed! Christians can go on a Crusade and Arabs can even launch Jihad. It’s certainly a very interesting new spin on the game tactics.
Going back to your individual units, if you find you have a particularly weak king or general, it may be beneficial to have him killed…assassinating your own units is a very real part of the game. Having heirs is vital as games span over 400 years so you will see several monarchs on your way (some based on real life historical figures)…this can be done by marrying the princess of another country, this provides a secure alliance and more interestingly the potential to claim some of that countries land should they be overthrown. Add in sea based trade routes and naval battles, spies, assassins, mercenary troops, alterable tax rates, natural disasters, units unique to certain regions…you have a lot of things to consider when planning an invasion. There is so much going on I can’t possibly cover it all here.
The actual battles aren’t that much different to Shogun, they still look awe inspiring though, particularly the castle sieges…up to 10,000 units can partake in a conflict from 100 different unit types. These range from spearmen, crossbowmen, siege units, armoured knights on horseback… there is no shortage in variety. My only complaint here is that the unique troops such as your generals and kings don’t look any different to the other troops…they just have a big flag…it would have been nice to see them properly distinguished. A nice addition though is a running tutorial that flashes up a units strengths and weaknesses with its general feedback, useful when seeing something new in the heat of battle.
AI is sharp as ever on the computer armies, they use the battlefield intelligently which is the key to victory…getting up on a hill will make you very hard to defeat indeed, even if you are in small numbers. I have been caught out a few times too…attacking a huge Spanish army I took out several of their regiments and they started to flee. Chasing them down I reached the edge of the battlefield, then, out poured hundreds of reinforcements from in front and behind my army…clever girl…
Other battle improvements are mainly visual, the view seems to be further and the troops are far, far more detailed, it’s easy to identify which type they are from a distance and they look pretty good even close up. There are a few nice effects thrown in too such as dust being kicked up from charging troops. This is all backed up by some excellent battle cries and stampeding sounds with some perfectly themed music.
I don’t think I can really spell it out any clearer…Medieval is fantastic and you won’t play a better strategy game at the moment and probably not for a long time to come, genius.
FINAL SCORE: 94%