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.
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.
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).