Medieval Total War … ten(ish) hours in…
So after putting in about ten hours into Medieval total war 2, I must say I have been left with slightly mixed feelings. There is no disputing that the game is a lot of fun to play but what disappointed me is that it is not a huge leap forward from Rome total war.
The updated engine looks great (almost oblivion like in battle view when zoomed in) and the individual details are nice to look at however the difference is not always that noticeable. However, the annoyingly poor path finding algorithms (especially around towns/cities) are still not fixed. This was what irked me the most about Rome total war , the fact that assigning any strategic move orders to your troops in settlements either resulted in them turning 180 degrees from the indented path or just ending up in a traffic jam with the rest of your rail road-ed troops. I don’t know how the allowed movable area is defined but surely it would not have been hard to expand it to allow two separate formations to move with autonomy? In Rome roads/dirt tracks all seemed to have a narrow rail road like behaviour and its sadly almost exactly duplicated in total war 2.
What has been improved is the placing/moving/engaging troops on city walls which is encouraging. The AI is more challenging even on medium settings which means campaigns are brutal affairs that can stretch to almost 15 hours. In the same was as Rome Total War, when you destroy a faction, the next time you start a campaign they become an option which leads to a really fulfilling experience and lots of replay-ability given how the different factions have different specialities.
The main difference in Medieval Total War (apart from the era) is the political angle. Whilst in Rome total war the SQPR or senate was in pseudo charge of your political actions it has really been taken to a new level in total was 2. The Pope (presumably if you play as a Muslim or Pagan then a different religious premier would apply) exerts a huge amount of power from religious crusades to threats of excommunication. If a war between your faction and another displeases His Holiness then you risk bringing the wrath of Christendom down if you continue with your hostilities.
The political angle runs deeper than this though and this is shown in the negotiation scroll when addressing foreign dignitaries. Your faction’s allies and friends all carefully scrutinise your actions and will become displeased if you start to ally your faction with their blood foes. Apart from its role in politics, each territory has its own religious distribution which if not converted to your faction’s religion (with priests /imams / Churches /mosques) could lead to a religious revolt. Its not just Christianity and Islam that are presented, period authentic Orthodox churches as well as Pagans are also present. It is entertaining to watch Papal inquisitors accuse characters of insufficient piety whilst witches wander the land looking to convert the populous.
This hints at the subtlety of the game. In Rome total war you could amass and army and annex the known universe without much in the way of broader considerations. In Medieval this Tank Rush style is not only discouraged but will lead to financial ruin. Consideration of settlement types (peaceful town or military fortresses) and attention to foreign operatives such as spies and assassins is essential. To give am example, in a particularly troublesome but militarily strong region I utilised a priest to sow the seeds of rebellion in the largely pagan population. When they began to riot I used assassins to destroy public services and assassinate the ruling noble. The riots became worse with the garrison coming under attack from their citizens. Amid the chaos my spy quietly slipped in and held the castle gates open for my approaching army.
All in all the game is much better presented, superbly (and simply) put together and a lot of fun to play (and play again) its just a shame some old bugs linger. This is definitely one to play if you have not tried a total was game, for fans of the series, this game is fun but does not really innovate or bring much more to the party but is still worth playing.