Jan 8, 2007

PC Review: 'Medieval II: Total War'

Medieval II (that's latin for 2, mind you, oh uneducated masses) Total War really is an aptly named game, as it's the second PC wargame in the Total War franchise that is cunningly set in the medieval era. Pointless and not particularly funny observations aside, it also is an excellent game. A game, console owners could only dream about. A sophisticated, smart, historically accurate and complicated game, that epitomizes PC gaming.

For the few of you that haven't played any of the previous Total War games and dare call yourselves PC gamers and for the action-minded console masses, Medieval 2 is a game that wisely combines turn-based strategy with RTS tactics into a coherent and enjoyable, yet immensely addictive and time-consuming, whole. This means that your Civilization-esque empire building is interrupted by pure RTS battles, while you are constantly witnessing impressive visuals and experiencing a megalomania inducing atmosphere.

What's even more interesting, and I'm still talking to you dearest Total War virgins, is just how amazingly accessible and intuitively controlled this game is. And, please do believe me, this is quite a feat for such a complex and multi-tiered game. Thankfully, the two brief but enjoyable tutorials, the well-voiced and fully customizable advisors and the ever helpful ...err... help buttons will make things even easier. Then, there's always the trusty 70-pages long manual, only I seem to appreciate.

On to the veterans then. What's new in Medieval II, I swear I can hear the infidels among your ranks ask. Is it any good? Really? Is it better than Rome? Well, to be rather blunt, yes. It's definitely better than Rome, and even though it's more of an evolution than a revolution in the franchise, it also is the best Total War game ever produced. The one offering the deepest gameplay too.

Most of the changes, besides the ones regarding the visual side of things (more on that later), are on the subtle side and mostly regarding the now divinely enjoyable turn-based part of the game. The role of religion for example, be it obeying (overthrowing even) a Pope, or calling for a Jihad/Crusade, even though it's an evolution of Rome's Senate mechanics, plays like a totally new feature, as does the -admittedly 100% original- division of settlements into cities and castles. Non-combat units have also been expanded, now featuring princesses, priests, imams, spies, assassins, diplomats, merchants, whatnot, while the AI feels both better and more organic. Slight changes have also been added to the already brilliant RTS bits. The sieges remain absolutely fantastic, mind you.

And now for the more impressive feat of Medieval II Total War: the graphics. Well, they are bloody amazing, and unfortunately to fully appreciate them you might need a slightly up-to-date PC. The game, you see, builds heavily on Rome's engine, updating the strategic level's visuals and making sure the 3D RTS parts are jaw-dropping, by adding tons of special effects, shadows and quite a few thousands of polygons. The greatest improvement though, is that each unit on the battlefield is no longer a stiffly animated group of clones, but more of a proper unit consisting of individual -thus quite different to each other- soldiers, fighting in an animated way that puts Dawn of War to shame. Yes, it's that good, really.

Actually, my only complaint regarding this brilliant game is the multiplayer part of it. Still no online campaign option, only RTS battles. Tsk, tsk, someone better have a look at the turn-based multiplayer orgies organized by dear Civilization 4 methinks... Then again, Medieval II Total War does offer you the chance to fight with 21 factions and even be a Native American hero defending his homeland against European brutality. Lovely.

That's -easily- a (nine) out of (ten).


Related @ Gnome's Lair: Kudos, Civilization IV, an Ultima-ish MMO freebie



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24 comments:

  1. Besides seeing an ad for this in Computer Gaming World (now known as 'Games for Windows') I never really put much thought into it. Now judging by your review it sounds really good. Great review.

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  2. Thanks a lot ross! And it really is an amazing game... Only problem is you can't drink and play really, but that's ok I guess. Good for the liver ;)

    Games for Windows... Pah! What a horrid name...

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  3. An extraordinary well written review, and an absolute pleasure to read... from a former Total War "Shogun" nut.

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  4. Ah, you should definitely try thin one out then... Much better than Shogun, and a simple 400 euros PC upgrade should be enough...

    And thank you for be so kind and the one and only master of up to date reviews...

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  5. (blushs) well i do my copy and pas

    er thank you!

    pc upgrade is tempting..... must get comfy computer chair first..

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  6. Of course, of course. A chair is paramount to the gaming pleasure of the wise...

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  7. The dude on that cover looks like Ethan Hawke.

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  8. Yes? Yes! How astonishingly perceptive and quite frankly weird oh J!

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  9. ..it might be ethan hawkes great great great grandfather... surely the picture was taken in the middle ages..... judging from the fashion accesories....

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  10. You're so wise Mr. Elderly. Never knew they had such good photographers back then... Amazing. Just amazing!

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  11. ..well you know how it is, the older you get the more stuff your remember......

    erm... where was I?

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  12. In Ireland I believe...

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  13. lol

    ..Ireland? how did i get here again?

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  14. Why do you want to know?

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  15. Great review! You have an excellent way with words!

    I played the demo and it worked pretty well for the most part - apart from one battle which terribly slowed down my computer even on low (it had way too many soldiers involved). Rome plays fine but I'm reluctant to put down the cash for Medieval II until I get an upgrade (which isn't happening anytime soon, sadly).

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  16. Thanks a lot Tom. Oops... there, I blushed again...

    As for the game, truth is you'd be missing on a lot if you totally had to skip the tactical part. Better wait for that upgrade, it'll be on budget then :)

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  17. Great review, Gnome! I'll have to try the Total War series one of these days.

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  18. I think you especially dear possum will enjoy any of the later Total War games... Especially the turn based bits that is...

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  19. Hey i was wondering if this will run at highest settings on my comp before i buy it. And not just run but run smoothly. My comp is
    intel core duo 2.4
    2gb ram
    320gb harddrive
    GeForce 7900GS

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  20. Well, Will, seing you got quite a moonster rig there, I can't see how you'd fail running Medieval 2 in all its glory. Then again, you could try the demo first, just to make sure....

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  21. hey guys i'm new to these games, do you think medival 2 will run (decently) on my computer?

    AMD athlon 64 3800 +
    4 gb of ram
    50 gb spare memory
    NVIDIA GeForce 6150SE / nForce 430

    thanks.

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  22. Yes, it definitely will do fine!

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  23. really? awesome, i was thinking about getting a graphics card.. if i did what would u recommend?

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  24. Oh, but I'm definitely not the hardware expert...

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