Big wars, its something everyone gamer wants but has never been given, until Shogun: Total War that is, Shogun gave us battles of an epic scale, literally thousands of soldiers could be rallied into battle it was, to put it bluntly, magnificent. Carrying on the Total War tradition is Medieval: Total War.
The game doesn't really feature a story per-say; it features a, build an empire and crush all those before you. This is good but it doesn't have much incentive, in Shogun you were trying to propel your Clan into history, Medieval doesn't even really give you that, they just blonk you down and pretty much say, if you don't move your dead.
This was sad that they took a small step backwards in this respect.
But if you want a story then you can play many historical campaigns and battles, the word campaign may fool you into thinking you control the faction in the turn based model, but you don't, a campaign is just a string of successive battles, where as the historical battles are just one off battles that happened. This may help satiate ones hunger for a story, but since the game takes place in history it would be a bit of a stretch to have campaigns centred around a specific story.
The game plays identically to Shogun, but with a lot of tweaks. When you begin the game you are presented with the "play board", a large map that has all the different countries plotted out and is where you build your armies and economy.
Depending on your style chances are most of your time will be spent on the game board.The amount of objects on the games tech tree is quite staggering, it would be more than two times as much buildings as Shogun had, and maybe four or more times the units, it may just be the largest tech tree in a Strategy available.
To research new things you must have a certain building, once built there is usually another building that can be upgraded off it, but usually you will have to upgrade you main building, the Fort, to a Keep, then a Castle, so on. Each upgrade lets you build more units and buildings in the country it is built. The cost for most buildings is quite substantial and time consuming to build, so I usually found myself using only four or so countries to pump out my units for the entirety of the games length, all other countries I conquered we're used as additional sources on income, nothing more.
Medieval also features many strategic units that add a great deal to the game, assassins can be used to kill emissaries before they even get a chance to try strike up an alliance with your king, you can even send a assassin to kill on of your own men if need be. Spies can be used to, well spy, but also you can drop them onto generals and give them a chance to dig up dirt. Most of the time the dirt dug will be in relation to their virtues, so a secret incest may not stay secret for too long.
Also you must consider your navel forces, having ships on your coasts will protect your boarders from invasion from the seas, but can also be used to stifle an enemies trade routes in war time. You can even send your ships into battle, the thing is you cannot directly control them, which is quite odd and limits their use.
Also my favourite addition to the game is the ability to wage Crusades or Holy Jihads. Sometimes the Pope will call a Jihad against the enemies of Christianity, or against a Christian state that has been attacking other Christians, but generally the Crusades will be centred on the lower right part of the map, Egypt and the like. Crusades can be used to claim new land, the thing is with a crusade you have no direct control over it, as soon as you create it, it is left to its own means, along the way to its destination it can pick up more soldiers from your countries and even other peoples countries until it reaches its destination. A Jihad on the other hand can only be called to claim back land that has been stolen, not to conquer new lands like the Crusades.
Aside from the games game board style is the battles, this is where history is rewritten and countries are conquered, in the space of a day all you have made can crumble in your hands and be swept into the wind.Once you have made an army, or a unit of men you can attack the enemy, to do so you just move your piece into his country and end the turn, this is where the fun begins.
Once you have engaged battle you are taken to a new battle screen, and laid out before you are your units, the amount of units can be quite overwhelming when you have a few thousands troops standing at the ready.You then get to choose when to attack, the game does this by telling you various weather conditions for the day, a rainy day will hinder your archers greatly, but aid foot soldiers in hiding their movements, same goes for a foggy day. But a fine day archers will be at their best and the use of foot soldiers may be slightly hindered because of it.
The game features quite a deep battle mechanic in that your men all have different states you must take into consideration, your archers for example will become twitchy and maybe flee if their flanks are exposed, worse if their front is. So even the formations of your army can have detrimental effects if your not careful.
In battle you do not control individual units, instead you control their regiment, so if you have a regiment of 100 footmen you will control them as a whole, this may sound a little simplistic, but when you have an upwards of 20 regiments on the field it becomes rather messy if your not careful.During battles you can capture enemy units, although you have no real control over capturing them, once you have them you can kill them, but usually its better off to keep them and then get the ransom after the battle.
At first glance Medieval looks like an updated Shogun, which is most likely is. The battlefield looks basically the same just with more varied textures. The battlefields also have a lot more stuff on them than the Shogun ones ever did.There's not much I can say about the graphics outside of that they're not all that great, when Shogun first came out I was blown away by the amount of units and various stuff going on, Medieval has more, but I don't know where the justification for making the system requirements four times more is, because the game barely looks twice as good as Shogun did.
But that's not too say Medieval isn't a good-looking game, it is, its just it would have been nice to have a substantial graphical update over its previous instalment.
The sound bites have also come across from Shogun, a lot of the sounds have come, some which I could of done without, namely the sound that plays when a territory is lost, I would imagine that if Japan and Europe had sound bites back then they would have been very different.
But I give credit to The Creative Assembly in that every country has its own music for when in Battle and on the main board. My personal favourite music in battle is that of the Almonds, sometimes I wish the music affected the units, because if it did the Almonds units would be like Soldiers on speed and steroids, it's the sort of music that pumps you up.
Aside from the cool music and brought of sound bites, the new sound bites are questionable as well, especially the one when you send an assassin on a mission, a very annoying chime rings for about three seconds, that wouldn't be so bad if each turn you weren't sending multiple assassin around the map to create mayhem. No need to say but that sound is highly annoying.
Medieval aside from its shortfalls it has playability in spades, which is a lot more than most games can say.The normal campaign can take many hours, when playing I usually don't play the battles because I'm kind of useless at them, so I just use a swarm mentality and usually try to outnumber the computer by at least 3 to 1 this way I can either annihilate them or make them retreat from the region, what I'm getting at is that I never battle, I just let the comp automatically sort it out, and even so the game takes me at least 10 hours just to get to the point where I can finish (not a full finish). If I were to go for a full finish and no battling it would take me even more, if I bothered to fight it may well take me days.Also outside of the main campaign are the historical battles and campaigns, and if you really want to test your skills then you can play against other games over Gamespy Arcade, which is included with the game.So lets just say that his game has a lot of playability, wether or not you'll get hooked is up to you. But this is a very deep strategy game that puts most others of the genre to shame.
Minimum System Requirements: