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Review: Medieval II: Total War - PC - 9.3

01 maja, 2008

Medieval II improves on the stellar Rome: Total War and offers a unique, engrossing experience...

The Total War series has always been known for its depth of gameplay mechanics and intense battles. Rome: Total War was a triumph, winning many awards for its innovative gameplay and graphics. Can Medieval II live up to its predecessor?

Medieval 2\'s gameplay is divided into two "layers". The majority of your time is spent in the turn-based strategic layer, where you manage every little nuance of your empire. This is where you make all your diplomatic, infrastructure, economic, and other wide-ranging decisions. You can only choose from five factions in the beginning, but can unlock more as you conquer others. There are two real, "game-types:" a short campaign that requires you to capture 15 provinces, and a long one that can require two to three times as much. Even short games can last a while, so make sure you have the patience to handle them!

Medieval 2\'s economic mechanics have gotten a bit more complicated and harder to manage. You can now hire merchants, who can be used to obtain specific kinds of resources. While helpful, it does tend to make the game a bit more complicated, as you\'ll have to be on the look-out for others trying to buy out your merchants.

Medieval 2 introduces the dramatically game-altering mechanic of religion, and it does it well. You can construct places of worship such as churches, and can even influence the papal elections. If you manage to seat a pope who is sympathetic to your side, he will be more willing to ignore your aggressions against other, Christian empires. If you do manage to anger the pope, there\'s a possibility that he can excommunicate you and even call a crusade against you, meaning you\'ll have to contend with invasions from all sides.

The bulk of the game requires you to raise, maintain, and use armies to conquer your enemy\'s cities. There\'s a huge variety of units for each faction, and they all contribute to your army in specific ways. While all of this may sound hard to manage, the game features an impressive interface that makes things a lot easier to do.

The game\'s AI has certainly gotten an upgrade since the last installment, probing for weaknesses and attacking when appropriate. Unfortunately, enemy turns take a tediously long time to resolve on the default settings, as you have to sit and wait for every unit in sight to make its move. You can turn enemy movements off and the turns will go by much quicker, though you do lose the chance to see what the enemy is doing during its turns.

If you choose to fight the game\'s battles in real-time, you\'re in for quite a visual treat. The game gets rid of the clone armies found in previous games, and manages to create an illusion of an army made up of thousands of unique individuals. As they begin to clash, individual soldiers begin to engage in a series of duals, that often end with one guy executing an impressive finishing move. Make sure you don\'t get distracted though, as the game encourages you to use realistic tactics. Flank pikemen from behind with cavalry, protect your archers with swordsmen, etc.

While the game was a bit demanding when it was first released, consumer graphics cards have quickly caught up with the engine. A good midrange system can do incredible justice to this beautiful game. The campaign map has been upgraded, making it seem much more "alive" then it did in previous installments. Battles look incredible with thousands of units fighting in a variety of battlefields and climates.

Medieval 2 sounds great. There\'s a large range of music for the varying situations that you can find yourself in, and the voice acting is appropriate to the factions that you encounter.

There are a few modes beyond the standard campaign in Medieval II. There\'s a single-player skirmish mode that lets you create custom battles. Multiplayer features two modes: last man standing and scored resolution, but they both boil down to killing as many of the other guys as possible. Battles support up to eight players, so there\'s potential for some extremely large and epic battles, but the meat of the game is in the single-player campaign.

Medieval 2 is a crown jewel of strategy games. Strategy fans shouldn\'t pass up Medieval\'s deep gameplay, amazing graphics, and intriguing setting.

Gameplay: 9.5 - Quite a few additions over Rome: Total War, the campaign mode and skirmish modes can keep you occupied for days.
Presentation: 9.5 - Amazing production values: great voice acting, historical context, etc.
Graphics: 9.5 - Fixes gripes we\'ve had with the clone armies of previous installments, the world map feels "alive".
Sound: 9 - Fitting music and appropriate voice-acting.
Value: 9 - If you\'re patient, a single campaign can last you many weeks of engrossing play-time.

Final Score: 9.3 - Medieval II is a deep, turn-based/real-time hybrid strategy game that you shouldn\'t pass up.

Marcin Skok
"The Gaming Corner"