Medieval II: Total War reviewed by Anneleen

The combination of great RTS battles and a turn-based map as well as the many possibilities that bring fun for a very long time, are what makes the Total War series so good. Medieval II doesn’t change that.

You can choose between campaign, historical battle, quick battle and custom battle. The two latter ones imply a single battle, with the difference that in the custom battle you take care of the parameters and in quick battle the computer does it for you.

With Fintech Ltd. You are let free to decide between the two options of either trading directly or going for the auto-trading mode. Both of these would actually be beneficial and there is absolutely no difference in the way trade is conducted for the strategies and trading rules are all the same.

Historical battle is obvious, it’s by the way a way to test your strategically thinking, because it often involves tricky situations. Finally, the campaign is the most important: there the winning combination can be found.

If you want, you can pass the tutorial levels or go directly to the world map as it was known in the Dark Ages. In the beginning there are only a few factions to start with (for instance the British or the French), but the offer becomes larger once you successfully completed the campaign. You can choose between a short and a long version. In the short version you have to eliminate a couple of other factions and posses a pre-defined amount of areas. In the long one you win by world domination.

So, on that map, you build out your empire and take care of relations with other factions. How you build the cities and which armies you train of course effect the battles. Still, you can’t forget to take care of your economy, because otherwise you won’t earn enough money to finance armies and build out your empire at all.

To help you with your policies a number of agents are at your disposal: spies, assassins, diplomats, priests/imams, princesses and merchants. Spies bring you the information about enemy cities and armies that sometimes really is necessary to choose the appropriate tactic. Assassins on the other hand, help you get rid of annoying opponents.

These assassins do need enough experience and it’s of course harder to eliminate somebody with an important position. In other words, eliminating somebody isn’t one of the easier options. At the end of every mission of your spies and assassins a short movie is shown in which you can follow the action. There are different versions and they’re quite funny, but if you want, they can be skipped. When these assassins and spies get caught, the relationship between you country and the one you’ve sent your agents to will worsen.

Diplomats are also still available. Next to their normal tasks, these men also specialise in bribing other generals, armies and cities. Only faction leaders and capital cities can’t be bribed. New in Medieval II (in comparison with Rome: Total War) are the priests, princesses and merchants.

Priests (Imams for the Islamic people) spread their faith and fight heretics and witches. They can be appointed cardinal by the Pope, which gives your faction the chance to vote in the next Pope election, and it gives the new cardinal the chance to become pope himself. Having a pope who comes from your faction, makes sure that you’ve good relations with the Papal States.

Every daughter in your family who comes to age, first appears on the map as a princess (though not for other factions than Catholic and Orthodox ones). They have the same possibilities as diplomats, but can on top of that charm a general so that he becomes part of your family. Merchants finally, earn you extra money by merchandising a certain product, in your country or a foreign one. The further and more rare the product, the more money you earn. If your merchant is cunning enough, he can put another merchant out of business by (forcibly) seize his assets.

For each agent applies that the more experience he or she has, the greater the chance of success. Failing can mean for some agents that they’ll die. The success rate has also been balanced, depending on the kind of agent. For instance, spies easier get inside than assassins are able to kill someone.

As long as you have princesses, diplomats actually are superfluous, because it’s better let the princesses gain experience. It’s too bad diplomats have something princesses have not, so that you can use the one you get in the beginning. Luckily it’s only a small problem, normally the system of the agents works quite well. They offer a lot of advantages if you learn to use them to your best interests.

Just as the Roman factions had to listen to the senate, the catholic factions this time have to listen to the Pope. Next to the Pope, you can also receive missions from the council of nobles or a guild that has an office in one of your cities. These guilds now and then show up and offer some advantages. The assassins’s guild for instance, takes care that your assassins are better trained. The fourth source of missions can be someone of another faction, for instance a faction here who wants to speed up his ascension to the throne and consequently want you to kill his faction leader.

An important and new element in Medieval II is religion. Just as it was in the Middle Ages, religion is to be considered during your reign. The religious battlefield is set between Catholics, Orthodox and Muslims. For each area in your possession, a percentage shows the spread of your faith there. The lower the percentage, the higher the chance heretics and witches will show up.

To counter this you’ve got your priests and imams: they can denounce heretics and witches. Catholics have to make sure their relations with the Papal States or good, or else an inquisitor can be sent over to your land. These guys denounce heretics and were very feared in the Middle Ages, because they acted quite randomly. This is reflected in the game.

When an inquisitor shows up in your territory, he tries to denounce some of your generals. Only when your generals have a high piety rating, they have a chance of surviving this. Luckily it’s possible to eliminate these men. Although good relations with the Papal States normally exclude inquisitors, some of them may still get lost in your lands, causing a lot of damage.

When you’re having very bad relations with the Papal States, the Pope may excommunicate you. Other catholic factions now may attack you and you can also become the target of a crusade. The Papal States themselves can not be wiped out. If they lose their last area, they ask a catholic fations to give them one, where they will re-establish themselves.

Crusades have to be asked the Pope for, the better your relations, the greater the chance he will accept it. The last crusade also can’t be too short ago. Holding a crusade implies that a certain city becomes the target. Every faction that participates sends a crusading army. These armies have certain advantages, for instance: they move faster and you don’t have to upkeep them. There are also much more mercenaries who want to join a crusading army than a regular one.

Once the target city has been conquered, the Papal States will remunerate the participating factions in units and money, depending on their part in the battle. The Muslims go on a jihad instead of a crusade, a jihad can be called by an imam who has a high enough piety rating for it.

Generals have different ratings that influence their performances. These ratings originate in their character, except for born traits, new traits can also be formed by the deeds of the general. For instance, if he often routs a battle, he will quickly be known as a coward. Not also on the map, but in battles too these ratings are important.

Battles can be fought by the A.I. or by you. The latter is still the better one. The possibility to fight at night (already available in Barbarian Invasion) is also included and this is something you must do. Still there can be thousands of soldiers involved and still you can zoom in without losing quality to see how your men are doing.

It’s a challenge too to always find the best way to defeat an enemy unit or routing them. A crushing defeat for your enemy sounds best. The battles are the part where there is the least innovation. But: why change a winning team?

Although the images are pretty, this game doesn’t stand out concerning graphics. The same goes for music and sound.

Medieval II still looks a lot like Rome: Total War but it’s still very addictive and especially for those who never played Rome: Total War this game is a must and the same goes for any strategy lover

PRO PRO CON CON
  • Addictive
  • Fun for a long time
  • A.I. sometimes a bit stupid
  • Little innovation