Creating a successful series in the gaming industry can be a two-edged sword. On one hand, if at least two titles are highly successful, you can then count on the support of a dedicated (and potentially very large) fan base. On the other hand though, there’s the pressing question of: how many titles of the series will the fans play until they finally start to point out that game X+3 is just like X, but with a few tweaks? After Rome Total War took a major step forward for strategy games, the Total Wars series was bound to get a new title. And even though it doesn’t bring as many novelties, it keeps the elements that made Rome Total War an excellent game.
As the name suggests, Medieval 2 Total War takes place during the Dark Ages, when knights went on crusades to liberate Jerusalem. The single-player campaign covers several centuries, thus the units that will heed your command will vary from archers to cannons. At the start of the campaign you will be able to choose one of five factions (England, France, The Holy Roman Empire, Spain, Venice) each of them having some advantages and disadvantages regarding their troops. Also, besides the campaign, in single-player you can also play seven historical battles and also customized battles with many options to choose from.
Like Rome before, Medieval 2 offers two types of gameplay. First there is the strategic part in which you will move your troops and agents along the global map and then there is the RTS part where the actual battles take place, if you choose to personally lead your men.
The strategic part has suffered the most changes compared to the previous titles, and fortunately most of those changes are for the better. A newly introduced element is the distinction between castles and cities. Cities are much bigger compared to the castles, and also have the most numerous upgrade options, since they are at the same time the main source of income. But cities don’t offer the same fortifications like castles do, being more exposed at an attack. The castles on the other hand can’t sustain themselves from a financial point of view, but they are the main source for troop production. As such, for a powerful kingdom you’ll have to create a balance between cities and castles, also thinking about their position near the enemies.
Unlike in previous titles of the series, this time around religion isn’t something to be taken lightly. The Pope has an important word to say about politics, being able to start crusades against unbelievers and to excommunicate the uncooperative Christian rulers. In general the Pope takes care that each state fights on the right side. This element can be both helpful and a major source of trouble for the player. Building churches, having the majority of the population in your kingdom Christian and completing the missions that the Pope gives will bring you easily in his favor. Being a state appreciated by the Pope you’ll have the possibility to suggest the starting of crusades against unbelievers. The hard part comes when you try to stay in the Pope’s favor. With your diplomatic decisions at some point another Christian state will attack you, and from that moment everything can get out of control really fast. After a while, the Pope will order the cease of hostilities and if you don’t do what he tells you to do, he’ll simply excommunicate you. Once excommunicated you’ll be the number one target for the rest of Christian states, being able to rejoin them only after the Pope or your current King dies. Ignoring the Pope’s decisions will only make the game harder.