Medieval II: Total War

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Title: Medieval II: Total War
Developer: Creative Assembly
Publisher: Sega
Version: 1.3 (May 5, 2007)
Released: Europe November 11, 2006
USA November 14, 2006
South Africa November 15, 2006
Australia November 16, 2006
Genre: Real-time tactics Turn-based strategy
Modes: Single-player, Multiplayer
Ratings: ESRB: Teen (T) PEGI: 16+
Requirements: 1.8 GHz Processor 512 MB RAM (1 GB recommended) 11 GB uncompressed free Hard disk space 128 MB Graphics card 100% DirectX® 9.0c compatible 16-bit Sound card 8x Speed DVD-ROM drive 2K/
Input: Keyboard and mouse


Medieval II: Total War, the indirect sequel to 2002's Medieval: Total War and the fourth game in the critically acclaimed Total War series from The Creative Assembly, is a game of turn-based strategic rounds and real-time tactically-oriented battles. The game is set between the years 1080 and 1530. Like the original Medieval, it focuses on medieval warfare, religion, and politics in Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East. However, unlike its predecessor, the timeframe stretches into the era of the historical discovery of the New World, and simulates the discovery and conquest of the Americas. Medieval II is built on the code base of Rome: Total War.

Contents

Gameplay

Similar to previous titles of the Total War series, the game consists of two modes of play: battles and single-player campaign. Battles can be played in multiplayer, in user-defined scenarios, or in historical scenarios which simulate real battles such as the Battle of Arsuf or the Battle of Agincourt. Battles are also featured in the campaign.

The campaign allows the player to assume control of a faction of the time period, and build a civilization, both economically and militarily in order to conquer other factions. Gameplay consists of controlling the faction's military, economic, and social systems via a large campaign map. During the player's turn, armies, fleets, and agents can be moved on the map. When an army engages another army, the player can choose to fight the battle personally, in the battle mode, or automatically calculate the outcome.

The goal of the campaign depends on which type of campaign is played. The short campaign requires the player to defeat one or two enemy factions (for example, England must defeat its historical enemies Scotland and France) and control at least 15-20 settlements. The long campaign requires the player to control at least 45 territories and one or two significant cities, which are faction specific, such as Jerusalem, Granada, Rome or Constantinople.

Settlements

Each faction controls a number of settlements, and must conquer others in order to continue growing. Unlike previous Total War titles, there are two kinds of settlements, each with different advantages and disadvantages: cities and castles. Castles have better defensive capabilities and have access to a larger selection of soldiers, but generate less income, cannot train as many priests as cities, and have no access to higher civilian technologies. Cities generate much larger income and are technological centers of a faction, but are more difficult to defend and only have access to militia troops, which are generally inferior to those trained at castles except for a select few unique units such as the Byzantine Infantry, Varangian guard, Italian spear militia, pavise crossbowmen etc although some quantity of militia troops, stationed in the city where they have been trained can be kept for free, without upkeep cost, required to pay otherwise every turn for every army unit. Players may convert a settlement to a different type, although larger cities may not be converted into castles. Castles also need less population to be upgraded.

As in other Total War games, in each settlement the faction may construct a number of buildings, each with different functions, such as training troops, upgrading weapons and armour, expanding the economy, increasing the settlement's defenses or strengthening religion. A new feature of Medieval II is the ability to build guild halls. A given settlement may only have a single guild hall, although there are several different types. The guild hall provides certain bonuses such as increased movement for troops, better weapons, or better agents; some even grant access to new units, such as the ahistoric yet effective unit of "Sherwood Archers" available to England upon construction and subsequent upgrade of a Woodsmens' Guild. Guild halls may also be later upgraded to a "Master Guild Hall", which may provide a larger bonus or even grant a bonus to all of the faction's settlements while still retaining a more notable bonus in the city the structure is built, and then possibly upgraded to the "Guild Headquarters", which provides the greatest bonuses, although each guild can only have one headquarters anywhere in the world at the given time.

Religion

Religion plays a large role in the game. The major religions in the game are Roman Catholicism, Orthodox Christianity, and Islam. "Heresy" and Paganism play minor roles; heresy causes disorder in a province and spawns heretic agents, who in turn raise the heresy level and must be denounced by priests, which if they fail, may become heretics themselves, or chance of successful denouncments decreasing. Paganism is negligible in the Old World but is the religion of the Aztecs and is the only religion present in America by default. The player must monitor and safeguard the spiritual state of their faction's domain, maintaining it through building places of worship for their faction's religion and by training Priest or Imam units to spread their faith. The presence of faiths other than the faction leader's in a city tends to generate unrest, and so religious buildings and units combat this by converting people to their own religion and eliminating the heretics and witches that appear on the map.

Catholic factions must also contend with the Pope, who can issue missions (similar to the Senate in Rome: Total War), call for Crusades, or even excommunicate factions. A player who strongly enforces the faith, builds cathedrals and completes the Pope's missions will receive favor from the Pope; a player who ignores his missions, fights with other Catholic nations and allows the faith to flounder will incur the Pope's displeasure and may be excommunicated – which also leads to unrest, which may cost the player's faction entire cities immediately, and the possibility of a Crusade being declared against a settlement belonging to the player's faction. Papal missions pursue the interests of the Catholic Church, and include the construction of religious buildings, cessation of hostilities against fellow Catholics, and the assassination of heretics and witches.

The Pope also appoints Priests and Bishops from the various factions as Cardinals; when the Pope dies, the Cardinals elect one candidate from among the three most pious to be the new Pope. A player with many Cardinals can thus use them to influence who becomes the new Pope, and how the player votes in the election has an effect on the new Pope's relations with the player. However a player with few or no Cardinals can still influence a Papal election by bribing other factions to vote in a particular way. A chosen Pope that had belonged to the player's faction before being appointed will begin with a more favorable view concerning the actions of that faction, while a Pope chosen from among the units of a player's enemy may look negatively upon that player's faction.

From time to time, Crusades (for Catholics) and Jihads (for Muslims) may be called at the request of factions. To call the Crusade, one needs to be at good relations with the Pope, while the Jihad requires only an Imam with high piety. Crusades and Jihads both use a religious leader's authority to single out a region for conquest by factions of his faith; each faction of the appropriate faith may then raise Crusader or Mujahideen armies by committing a General and an army consisting of at least 8 units. These armies gain access to special religious units to recruit for use in battle. Crusades and Jihads move significantly faster than normal armies, but will begin to suffer from desertion if they fail to make sufficient progress or lose their leaders. Successfully capturing the target region gives rewards to the faction; failure results in negative traits for the faction's leaders and the loss of the army. It should also be noted that, perhaps due to a game bug, factions of religions not pertaining to a holy war (be it Crusade or Jihad) may be rewarded in their participation against a target city; Hungary, for example, may be rewarded at the end of a successful Jihad if it captured Constantinople from the Byzantines and granted ownership of the city over to a Muslim faction despite Hungary being a Catholic nation.

Agents and characters

Each faction has a number of agents it may use to maintain order and influence other factions. These include the Priests/Imams, as well as princesses, merchants, assassins and spies. Each agent has attributes that develop the more he is able to successfully be used. Princesses, for example, have a "Charm" attribute that governs their success in diplomacy and the likelihood that a proposal in marriage will be accepted. Spies and Assassins have a "Subterfuge" attribute which governs how likely they are able to infiltrate enemy cities or find information about enemy armies. Except for princesses, all agents are trained at settlements which contain the appropriate buildings - for example, Christian priests can be trained in any settlement with a church or chapel. Princesses cannot be so trained; they are born into the player's ruling family, and become active as agents once they come of age at 16.

In addition to their agents, each faction is ruled by a family, the male members of which act as generals in battle. Each general has a number of attributes which determine how well he governs a settlement and how well he leads an army in battle. A general's actions can affect his attributes - for example, a general who routinely kills prisoners of war may see his "dread" increase, making him frightening to foes; a general who prefers to release prisoners may instead increase his "chivalry", which makes his own troops braver.

Diplomacy is performed by diplomats and princesses and functions much as in previous Total War games, mainly involving negotiating treaties such as cease fires, alliances and marriages. The interface for negotiation has changed from previous games, however; a new system has been integrated to show the other faction's attitude toward the player's faction, intelligence estimates (such as how wealthy the faction is and what other factions they are at war with), as well as how fair the other faction feels the player's proposals are.

Turn system

Medieval uses a system of "turns". With each turn representing two years, although the season still changes each turn, as in Rome: Total War. A side effect of this system is that there are inconsistencies. For example, while each turn represents two years, characters only age six months per turn. Also, due to the movement system, when discovering America, it takes about 8-10 turns (i.e., 4-5 years) to get to America from western Europe; Christopher Columbus took about a month to make each of his first two voyages. It should be noted that time taken per turn can be changed, and the 1.2 patch now makes characters age the correct amount.

Battle system

One of the main focuses on the Total War franchise is its incorporation of battle within the greater sphere of gameplay. A battle consists of two or more factions' armies fighting each other. Battles play similar to those in Rome: Total War, with formations of various kinds of troops fighting. The objective of the battle is defeat the enemy army by completely destroying it or causing the whole army to flee; in a siege battle, the objective is to completely destroy the army or to take control of a plaza in the center of the settlement. There is also an option which allows the player to allow for time limits on battles, meaning that the attacker must defeat the defender within a certain time limit (determined by the computer) or the battle results in a victory for the defender.

Unlike in previous Total War titles, a new system of modeling troops on the battlefield has been introduced. Each soldier has a varying number of elements to it, such as arms, legs, body armor, shield heraldry, and so forth; each element has a varying number of styles. When a battle is entered, the computer randomly selects elements for each soldier in the unit, thereby making each soldier look different from the soldiers around him. Upgrades to a unit's armor are also depicted - a unit of unarmored spearmen upgraded to have leather armor will be depicted wearing it. Another departure from earlier Total War games is that combat is depicted more realistically, with soldiers performing motion-captured attacks - rather than one or two standard attacks - utilizing their shields, parrying blows and delivering killing strikes to downed foes, all sensitive to the weapon they are using and the weapon of their opponent. Blood can also be seen on the uniforms of soldiers who have been fighting and a mist of blood will be visible on soldiers hit by arrows. The amount of detail in the fight sequences can be turned up or down along with the other video options in the main menu.

Factions

An in-game image showing a group of English Knights attacking Dismounted Feudal Knights

There are twenty-one factions, of which seventeen are playable in the Campaign game, although only five are playable in the beginning:

  • Kingdom of England (Gules, in pale three lions passant gardant or) - Has excellent archers (Retinue longbowmen, Sherwood archers), and strong heavy infantry (heavy billmen) but little variety in cavalry, and completely lacking in late-period spearmen (infantry preferring to wield polearms). Goals include the destruction of Scotland and France, and the capturing of Jerusalem.
  • Kingdom of France (Azure, three fleurs-de-lis or) - Possesses superior heavy cavalry (gendarmes, lancers), strong professional armies and good all round units in the late period, however lacks effective early period infantry. Goals include the destruction of England and the capturing of Jerusalem.
  • Holy Roman Empire (Or, a double-headed eagle displayed sable) - Strong all around, with specialized late-period landsknecht unit. Goals include the destruction of Milan and Denmark and the capturing of Rome.
  • Republic of Venice (Gules, a winged lion or) - Excellent infantry (Venetian heavy infantry), militia (Italian spear militia, broken lances etc) and colonial units, but poor cavalry. Goals include the destruction of Milan and the Byzantines and the capturing of Constantinople.
  • Kingdom of Castile/Spain (Gules, a castle triple-towered or) - Powerful early-game cavalry (Jinetes), good late-period technology and have professional armies. Goals include the destruction of the Moors and Portugal, and the capture of Granada and Jerusalem.

The other factions may be unlocked one at a time, as soon as the player has defeated that faction in the campaign (regardless of whether the player wins the entire campaign). If the faction is already defeated, the player may unlock it by taking the last settlement they owned before being eliminated. For example: Scotland has fallen when the English took Edinburgh, their last city. If the player takes Edinburgh then Scotland should be unlocked, although if a fort holds out, the faction, while without territories, survives. The rest may be unlocked all at once by successfully winning the short or long campaign as one of the five initially available factions.

  • Byzantine Empire - purple and white (purple dominant); Byzantine units show a blend of Western (good heavy infantry) and Eastern (excellent missile cavalry and archers) influences. Excellent all around Early Period infantry units like Varangian Guard and missile cavalry, but lack of Late Period units and gun technology (highest level of artillery is bombard) and cavalry are weak. Can recruit professional soldiers in cities (Byzantine Infantry, Varangian Guard) with proper construction of barracks. At the beginning of their campaign, you are Emperor Alexius Comnenus, and his historical daughter Anna Comnenus.
  • Kingdom of Denmark (white raven on a red field) - representing the Norse Scandanavian countries - Special units are Vikings (Viking raiders, dismounted huscarls); infantry mostly use axes instead of spears or swords, making them effective against armour but weak against cavalry; limited archers.
  • Egyptian Sultanate - representing the Fatimid and successive dynasties - yellow and black (yellow dominant) excellent cavalry, such as mamluks, but weak infantry.
  • Kingdom of Hungary - salmon pink and green (salmon pink dominant); Strong cavalry but lacking in effective basic infantry, can generate Battlefield Assassins with proper building of Assassins' Guild and/or Inn.
  • Duchy of Milan (linked with Genoa) - green and white (green dominant); strong Italian militias and excellent crossbowmen (Genoese Crossbowmen); excellent Late-Period technology; poor cavalry (with exception of Famiglia Ducale: elite heavy cavalry unit from the duke's family).
  • Moors - representing the Almoravid dynasty - orange and white (orange dominant); Useful fusion of Camel cavalry and spearmen; has few, but effective, late-period units like Camel Gunners.
  • Poland - red and white (white dominant, white eagle on a red field); Possess excellent cavalry (hussars and Polish nobles) but poor infantry.
  • Portugal - (linked with Pamplona) - white and light blue (white dominant); Many units (such as arquebusiers and javelinmen) improved over normal units and excellent late-period technology and best navy in the game, however lack late period professional armies and heavy cavalry tend to be fairly weak.
  • Russia - dark blue and red three-barred cross of the Russian Orthodox Church (dark blue dominant); Possess the best cavalry and missile cavalry in the game (Tsar's Guard, Dvor Cavalry) and some excellent archers (Dismounted Dvor archers), and great firearm troops, but poor Early Period infantry and lacking in powerful defensive heavy infantry.
  • Kingdom of Scotland - dark blue and white (dark blue dominant); Excellent pikemen and skilled archers and heavy infantry, but has little variety in cavalry and faction lacks any kind of notable gun technology aside from artillery.
  • Kingdom of Sicily - grey and black (grey dominant); mix of units including Muslim archers, Italian militia units and Norman knights, but cavalry is poor. However, it can field Chivalric Knights.
  • Turks - representing the Seljuk dynasty (Early Period) and Ottoman Empire (Late Period) - green and yellow (green dominant); Game's strongest siege artillery upon inclusion of gunpowder as well as powerful late game infantry and ranged units, especially janissaries, but poor armour.

Also, certain computer-controlled factions appear during the campaign game, but are only playable in custom, historical and multiplayer battles or by editing the game files:

  • Aztec Empire - light blue and yellow (light blue dominant); no weapons or armor technology, but high-damage and cheap units, along with certain fear-inspiring troops. No cavalry.
  • Mongol Empire - representing the Golden Horde or the Ilkhanate - dark green and cream; Very strong cavalry and archers but bad infantry; lacks late period gunpowder, however can recruit rocket launchers; arrives in the early 13th century.
  • Papal States - yellow and white (white dominant); Strong militia and Papal guard units, but have little valuable cavalry. This faction can never be completely destroyed in the game, even if all of their forces are destroyed and all of their territories taken.
  • Timurids - black and red; Possesses the strongest (and most expensive) single regiments in the game, such as war elephants, elephant artillery, monster bombards, and rockets; lacking in infantry units. Arrive in the late 14th century.

"Rebels" are also a faction, representing territories not governed by one of the other major factions. Their color is grey, and they wander the map, disrupting trade and ambushing the armies of the other factions. Rebels can appear if the people are disgruntled with their rulers or if the entire family line of a faction dies (the faction is eliminated from the game), but the cities/castles remain, ruled independently by whoever was the governor at the time of the death of the faction's last ruler.

In addition to the above there is one faction that is non-playable in both the campaign and custom battles.

  • The Saxons - (yellow and black), representing the Anglo-Saxon rulers of England prior to 1066, appear in the historical scenario depicting the Battle of Hastings and the game's tutorial. They have very strong spearmen and shock infantry.

Note - see the Komnenian army for more information on the Byzantine army of the crusading period.

While European factions develop full plate armor, other factions use lamellar armor and splinted mail.

Critical response

The exclusive review was given to PC Gamer (US), which awarded it an "Editor's Choice" 90%. In its December 2006 issue, PC Gamer (UK) reviewed the game, hailing it as the "new king of war games". The graphics and depth of gameplay were highly praised and the game received a score of 94%. IGN gave the game 8.8/10, saying that the game was not as revolutionary as its predecessor, but still introduces some new ideas and builds on others from Rome: Total War, which would still be enough for anybody to buy it. GameSpot also rated the game 8.8/10, noting its "epic, engrossing gameplay" whilst criticizing its "beefy system requirements"; fan reviews at GameSpot have it rated at 9.1/10. The Australian magazine PC Powerplay gave the game a rarely awarded perfect score of 10/10 due to the sheer amount of content the game contained and the next generation graphics.

Other Perspecitives

Swedish historian and member of the Swedish Academy Peter Englund reviewed the game for Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter where he made comparisons to traditional battle depicitions such as old copper engravings and paintings, and the more recent film medium. In the review Englund concluded that Medieval II represents a form of battle depiction that is superior to the older art forms and far more dynamic.

Patches

Although most reviews were positive, weak AI and some uninteresting new features. Creative Assembly developers stated on December 1, 2006 that they were working on a patch to solve reported bugs, specifically mentioning a major bug in how the game handles cavalry charges (the cavalry doesn't always use its lances when charging); the patch was released on December 15, 2006. A second patch was also released on May 4, 2007 solving many other problems not addressed in the first patch, though many of the pathfinding bugs in siege battles still remain.

An unofficial version of patch 1.2 was circulating in the community for a while. This patch 'escaped' due to the CA sending the download to various mirror sites before the official release time. They subsequently discovered some bugs, which where not resolved at that stage and decided to cancel the release of the patch, but the few of the sites that had been sent the preliminary patch released it anyway. This patch is outdated by the "final" 1.2 patch.

Another problem with the patch is that the game may become unplayable on some computers and may require re-installation of the game. For many people this issue is as yet unresolved, and the game, although playable, still contains many bugs and gameplay issues, as they cannot use the patch without reinstalling the game, and may be unwilling/unable to do so. At the time of writing there is no comment from CA or SEGA regarding fixing this issue, except to suggest that users experiencing problems applying the patch should re-install the game. Most, but not all issues relating to patch failure have been traced to the presence of third-party file modifications (user-installed Mods) or to user-modifications of certain game files.

Many people have also commented on the size of the download for the second patch, being approximately 613MB in size (compared with the English-language version of patch 1.1 at 39.46MB), making it one of the largest patches in gaming history at the time of its release.

Patch 1.3 for the game was released at the same time as the Kingdoms expansion and addresses some compatibility issues and is automatically installed with the expansion. It is another large patch, at 546MB. This patch includes online multiplayer fixes to allow owners of the original game to play with those who have installed Kingdoms. However, aside from making multiplayer games compatible between main game and expansion, this patch addressed none of the hundreds of bugs that still noted in the game, resulting in widespread disappointment among fans.

Expansion

On March 30, 2007, an expansion, Medieval II: Total War: Kingdoms, was announced. It was released on August 28, 2007 release in the US, August 31 for the UK and September 7 for Australia. It adds four new campaigns to the game:

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