#503 Medieval: Total War

Posted: 17th May 2012 by Jeroen in Games
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148th played so far

Genre: Strategy
Platform: PC
Year of Release: 2002
Developer: The Creative Assembly
Publisher: Activision

Right, here’s another game that came up randomly, but happened to be a game in a series one of us already loved (this time, perhaps surprisingly, not me).

The Total War series is a historical strategy series, with this incarnation set in medieval times. Command your armies and conquer Europe! Really? Yay!

Our Thoughts

The best way to describe this game? Civilization, but simpler (and with territories instead of cities) with battles being done RTS style (like… well, it seems like we only played Dune II so far, but I’m sure you know the type of games – Command & Conquer, Starcraft, that sort of thing… we’ll get to them!), but simpler.

That’s probably the one thing that describes this game best – it does what other games do, but simpler, more streamlined. I would argue against that to be honest. At the time the battling system in this game was incredibly advanced, but that is something more for when we get to the later title Rome: Total War. You develop regions/forts/cities, but aside from some basic loyalty buildings, it’s about making money and getting better units. In the mean time, the RTS bits (which are completely optional during the campaign) are probably a bit more complicated than the original games, but with you moving units around with some different options (flanking works better, hiding and so on), it’s leaving out anything resource-based, instead focusing solely on unit warfare, similar to what you might know from Warhammer.

With that said about gameplay, let’s move on a bit further in-depth. The strategy in this game really is about gathering and moving units. You’re fairly constrained here, having to pay upkeep for each unit, meaning that the best way to build a larger army is to gather more territories (some buildings can help grow it, but this is expensive on its own). As it’s turn based, this makes the whole thing a lot more predictable… but also means you can see certain defeats come from far. Then there are times when can be absolutely trounced even whenย  you vastly outnumber your enemy *grumble*.

Diplomacy, in the mean time, is simple – you can be enemies, neutral or allies. No negotiations or similar, alliances just get created and broken easily. It’s similar to how we found alliances to be in Civilization. Then again, when you read up on these eras in Europe the alliances were rather mercurial in their making and breaking. I mean, it was part of the plot of my favourite episode of the original series of Blackadder. So it must therefore be true.

Most of what we saw of the battles was during the tutorials. Yeah, you can do them during the campaign – which is probably more efficient when you get used to it – but we mostly saw it during the tutorial (with a fairly annoying narrator) where you get to learn these controls. One interesting thing happened here – during one example battle, we ended up in a siege on a Turk city. This city had a mosque, which you can target and destroy with your siege engine if you want. That would not have been easy nowadays, and makes you wonder whether that was a worry at the time.

Graphics are of the time. The main campaign screen is simple but useful – you’re more or less playing on a dynamic game board, with some differences based on your actions. This looks nice, but is now annoyingly -. Functional, that’s all I can say.

The battle screen, in the mean time, has a similar thing. They’ve tried to spice up the battlefield slightly – flowers, hills and so on – but in general it looks a bit grainy at times. I know we’re playing on a large nice PC screen, but it still stands out slightly. It’s nothing too bad – you can still make out what’s going on and all that – but there are cases where it got annoying, when your troops were battling the enemies and it got difficult to target the enemy to get some additional forces in.

One thing that is strangely enjoyable to watch is how your choices (as well as the random choices made by the computer) really does fly in the face of European history. In a game we played the Germans were wiped out completely, the Danes took over most of France and Spain whilst previously wiped out groups (like the Ukrainians) came back with a vengeance and eventually became a dominant power… I mean really!? Still, the idea of Denmark as a major power in the Mediterranean did make me chuckle.

Final Thoughts

Seriously, Denmark controlling Portugal still makes me smile.

We have plenty of RTS games coming up so it is actually a real strange quirk that we’ve barely had any up until now. I am still a little sore that my favourite RTS of all time (Kessen II) did not appear on this list but I am sure my letter of complaint will have some traction in the next list… maybe… ok it won’t… SHUT UP!