Medieval Total War
1 April 2005 | 0
The world of the real time strategy was revolutionised by the appearance of Shogun Total War. The mixture of turn-based resource management and full action battles with thousands of units was simply too much for the competition. At a time when Command & Conquer clones were still coming hard and fast, Shogun proved that the genre was capable of innovation.
Medieval Total War takes place as Europe emerges from the Dark ages. With twelve factions possible featuring France, England, Italy and the Holy Roman Empire in the running for total domination of Europe. Coupled with the famous historical campaigns of the times, from Jean de Arc’s great sweep through France, to the Spanish Reconquista, the scope of the game is truly impressive.
With a game this complex, it would be expected that the tutorials would be comprehensive, however, this is not quite so. The battle tutorial does give a good progression of the use of units and tactics and culminates in the siege of Antioch, which in itself gives a little thrill to the student of Medieval warfare. With catapults and trebuchets at your disposal, you must overcome a well-defended citadel. However, that is not the only consideration.
Skill, fatigue, morale and courage are all elements that must be taken into account as you fly at the enemy. Should your general’s will falter and he flees the field, then all may be lost despite numerical superiority. However the campaign tutorial does not fully acquaint the player with the nuances of the political game. With an extensive political arsenal, the tutorial is a little too shallow in comparison to the battle tutorial.
Despite the campaign tutorial being over simplistic, the campaign game is full of the intrigue and subterfuge of politics. Assassins, emissaries, bishops, and princesses all do the work of alliances, assassination and treaty negotiation. A troublesome general can be brought into line by marrying him off to a daughter, while a bishop can preach in foreign territories while observing the size and capacity of the forces on the ground. All of this is achieved through a very simple interface. To propose an alliance, simply drag and drop an emissary onto the leader of another faction, for bribery drop him onto a general. As the years pass, the “expand or die” philosophy is demonstrated as opposing factions wax and wane. By about 1280AD, I had all of France under my control, plus Switzerland, Milan, Genoa, Navarre and Aragon. With my sites set firmly on Flanders and Tuscany, the Kalif of Castille declared a Jihad and promptly took Toulouse and Aquitane. The Holy Roman Emperor took advantage of my weakness and attacked Normandy, Lorraine and Burgundy. Within a few years I had been reduced to Ile de France, Brittany, Champagne and Anjou. France was once more on the brink.
During the campaigns, when a battle arises, the option is presented to direct the battle personally, resolve it automatically on the odds, call off the attack or retreat to the castle, if there is one. Only if your forces are significantly superior, or battle-hardened, can you be sure that an automatic resolution will go in your favour. More often than not, if you take control of the battlefield, you will prevail, enhancing the reputation of your generals and gaining your troops much needed combat experience.
The interface for the battlefield is based around the icons for units and the orders for your troops. Select a unit by its icon, or directly by its standard and then select an order or a formation. A mouse over will let you know how it is getting on during combat. Should they triumph, they will become stronger. Should they falter, their resolve will be lowered and they will not fight so well and may be overcome by lesser numbers. If your men do flee, there is a rally option, however, fleeing men are difficult to control. But a flaw perhaps is that when your men are winning they are even more difficult to control. A routed army fleeing before your men can suddenly turn back and attack the distended flanks of your over extended lines and inflict a sore loss.
Though a sequel, the game play itself is not radically altered from the first outing of Total War. Some of the animation scenes have been removed, while numerous refinements have been implemented, with overall game performance improved, particularly in the multiplayer aspects. With the lure of historical campaigns and the romance of the dawn of the age of chivalry, Medieval Total War is a compelling package.