Medieval: Total War's opening cut-scene talks about a "brutal age" when "a few forged their destiny." The grisly delights available to the "few" are then presented in a mixture that combines the gameplay of the Civilization series and real-time strategy games like Age of Empires II: The Age of Kings by offering both map-based strategic planning and tactical real-time battles. Directing an empire on the strategic map is complex and rewarding, but the titanic tactical battles, involving thousands of troops, siege engines, and horsemen, make the game great.
As the general in charge, you command armies during the tactical battles with up to 16 battalions of troops, each consisting of up to a hundred soldiers controlled as a single unit. Battalions react to the battle with messages like "Happy flanks are protected" or "Worried by so many casualties," allowing shrewd commanders to gauge troop morale and prevent the embarrassment of routed troops. As in most real-time strategy games, favorable unit match-ups are an imperative part of victory. Archers can decimate the ranks of foot soldiers, halberdiers tear through cavalry groups, and siege units take down castles. However, numbers are king, and though undermanned and out-gunned armies can triumph, it takes superb generalship and some luck (generally in the form of blunders by enemy generals). Fortunately, most battles are evenly matched and a real joy to fight.
The camera system during battles requires some acclimation, but, once the system is mastered, you can quickly zoom in on hot spots and out for a broad view. The latter, with thousands of soldiers marching towards each other, never fails to impress, but it's also tactically vital since smart enemy generals will frequently try to outflank you and using this view helps to sniff out the attempts. The designers went to great efforts to ensure that tactical battles are both fun and realistic, and they succeeded.
Flanking maneuvers are devastating, as they were historically, and your troops will not usually stand and fight to the death. They will run, and quickly, if you send them into a suicidal situation. The battlefield terrain must be a large part of every battle plan too, since all troops prefer the high ground. Weather can affect troop movement, and a commander's Dread ranking can intimidate opposing troops. Planning and executing on the fly during a heated confrontation is a very rewarding experience.
The strategic map mode, where Europe and the Mediterranean are ripe for the plucking, keeps players busy and interested as well. Like the Civilization series, Total War players can choose from any number of possible diplomatic routes. Alliances and intimidation work equally well. Economic domination always works wonders, but an overwhelming military presence can force surrounding nations into submission. Religious trickery, marrying off daughters, lines of succession, defensive fortifications, the balance of power, rebellious generals, and military infrastructures all play important roles.
In many ways, Medieval: Total War is the perfect sequel to Shogun: Total War. Shogun offered the same fantastic tactical battle sequences, and suffered only from limited strategic options. With the expanded breadth and scope of the strategic map, those deficiencies have been addressed. The tactical battle sequences have also been improved, giving players a wonderful war simulation promising months of gory action.
Graphics: The tactical battle graphics are adequate, though not especially crisp. Still, seeing hundreds of troops marching around, fighting, and dying is impressive.
Sound: The stirring and appropriate soundtrack adds a nice touch, as do the sound effects, especially the pithy comments of your generals.
Enjoyment: Both strategic and tactical gameplay are offered, and both are tons of fun. The combination is electric.
Replay Value: With 12 different kingdoms, each with varied troop and building options, strategy options, and multiplayer possibilities, Medieval: Total War will endure.
People who downloaded Medieval: Total War have also downloaded:
Rome: Total War, Shogun: Total War, Medieval II: Total War, Empire: Total War, Age of Empires 2: The Age of Kings, Napoleon: Total War, Warcraft 3: Reign of Chaos, Total War: Shogun 2
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