Medieval II: Total War (PC)

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The year is 1080 AD, the time of knights, crusades, and high chivalry. Across Europe men are dying in droves for their kings and lords. You play one of these kings and control the nation — , no queens though, no girls allowed (Well, unless you have a pope who’s secretly a woman but I’m getting ahead of myself). As a king you’ve got to perform administrative tasks like commissioning buildings, recruiting troops, and assigning agents like merchants, spies, and diplomats. Oh yeah, and you command those troops and DESTROY EVERYTHING THAT LAYS BEFORE YOU! BURN ALL THAT BURNS, STEAL ALL THAT SHINES! Or… maybe you could do that whole chivalry thing if that’s your bag.

History

There’s not much gossip or incident about this game but I can offer some basic information. Medieval II was designed and created by Creative Assembly, who worked on sports games until their breakout title Shogun: Total War, sparking off the Total War series. It was published by Sega, of all companies, who purchased Creative Assembly in a bid to maintain a presence in the North American and European game markets.

Medieval II: Total War was released on November 13th, 2006. It’s competition was Gears of War XBox 360, Final Fantasy XII (PS2), and Lord of the Rings: Battle for Middle Earth II: Rise of the Witch King (PC).

Experiences

Medieval II’s trait system guarantees that you’ll eventually have the most ridiculous king or lord ever in the history of the game. From Faradoc the Fat who died 8 years into his rule after going hopelessly insane. Or a general of mine in the Britannia campaign who’s name escapes me. A man who faced and killed William Wallace in single combat, who’s health was so immense that he became brutally scarred which further increased his health. The trait system is one of the most fun parts of this game. Priests can secretly be women, and if she reaches the rank of cardinal, and if she’s voted for pope, THEN THE POPE CAN BE SECRETLY A WOMAN! Factions can be held aloft by the extreme Chivalry or Dread of their King and when he dies things might fall to pieces. It’s just awesome.

Gameplay

The game is basically split between the administration section of the game that takes place in the overworld map and the real-time combat. When your governing you can commission building projects, adjust taxes, have agents like spies and assassins perform actions, and move your armies and navies around. Every county has a city in it which is either a town or a castle the difference being towns make oodles of money and castles (generally) produce superior military units.

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Behold the starting map position and county names.

Your armies march around and generally stomp your enemies. You can support these troops with family members who will command them, their command stat adding to your troops’ attack, defense, and morale. Your lords aren’t just for fighting though. They can govern your towns increasing their income and decreasing their building and troop costs — unless they have garbage traits. And traits are everything. Your most level-headed general might charge without command if he hates the French and he’s fighting his hated foes.

When your armies clash the world map will give way to randomly generated but terrain influenced combat map so try to fight someplace that works to your advantage. Combat in the field is all about shocking your enemies and breaking their morale at which point they’ll run and, unless they have a truly inspiring or terrifying commander, won’t turn back.

If your playing a Christian faction then you’re gonna have to deal with the Pope because he hates it when everyone’s fighting and being all non-Christ-like. If you work with the pope then you can call crusades on religious cities and get some free passes to attack other nations. If you don’t listen to him then your faction might get excommunicated and that’ll make your people really upset — It can also make you a target for enemy crusades. Muslim nations don’t have to answer to anyone but can only use their Jihads to re-take cities they’ve lost.

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If you’ve got cardinals you can control their votes to elect a new pope and if you’re faction controls the pope then you can do just about whatever you want.

There’s also a multiplayer component to the game but you can only fight over the internet. If you want to run a campaign with your friends then you’ll have to do it hot-seat style — and have a gentlemen’s agreement to only autocalculate combat between player controlled factions because the AI isn’t as good as you are.

The Gush

I love a siege. Nothing gets my blood up like defending some walls. None shall pass says I. No matter how grim things get defending troops have a morale bonus and will flee to the center of town instead of abandoning the field. The larger the city is the more defenses it has and it may even have an inner set of walls. The siegers will be hard pressed to get their siege engines that far into the city.

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Come and get me.

I love seeing what crazy pile of traits I can have on one character. I already mentioned the pope being secretly a woman but there’s nothing like my Danish king who was accompanied by an old war buddy and an classically trained Berserker.

Nothing like playing Milan. Milan gets their best military units from towns instead of castles so they have both economic power and military strength.

Sometimes things from history will happen in the game. I was playing as Egypt and born to my king was a son with the trait Born to Command and the boy’s name was Saladin. Naturally I threw him into every battle that I could and I couldn’t help but keep his chivalry high.

The Kvetch

There’s no real naval combat in this game. All you can do is auto-calculate naval battles so there’s no real skill involved. I also don’t understand exactly how they work. I don’t know what makes a good navy.

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In this image is all of the game’s naval combat. You can auto-calculate or run.

The fog of war in this game is your worst enemy. If you’re marching your army and it runs into another thing be it another army, a merchant, or a princess — doesn’t matter — they’ll get stopped dead in their tracks. They also lose all of their movement until the next turn. It’s just annoying for normal armies but it can kill a Crusade or a Jihad because if the army stops moving then the soldiers will desert as they doubt your devotion to the cause. I generally cheat to disable the fog of war because I can’t deal with inching along to avoid it.

Does anyone know how merchants work? Could you drop a comment? Because I’ve been playing this game for 5 years and I have no fucking clue. I know that if you put them on a resource they’ll earn you extra money and they can try to acquire assets from enemy merchants. But enemy merchants typically have such high skill that mine fail to acquire their assets and are often destroyed in retaliation. It just feels like a waste of 550 florins.

All of the non-English voice acting sounds incredibly awful and maybe even a little racist. I keep it on just to laugh and cringe at.

The Verdict

This game gives me “one more turn syndrome” so badly. I’ll turn it on play 50 turns real quick but why not 51? Oh, wait, I really want to finish this siege. Ope, a Crusade? I’ll just finish that up real quick and then I’m done. It continues like this until my weekend gets destroyed. This game is fantastic. It’s 25 dollar Steam price tag is just a testament to how well it’s aged.

Next Week: Iji

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