The key change is the switching of location. The original, Shogun Total War, allowed the player to take on mammoth battles across early Japan. Here, the warfare moves to Europe and North Africa and again there are two components to the action. Firstly, a map screen demands overall strategic decisions from you, and it's here that you'll build up your resources, plan your attacks and establish your defences. Should conflict ensue as a result of your choices (and inevitably it will), then in kicks the second part of the game--the battles themselves.
It's here that the game really hits top gear. Once you've enjoyed a mammoth, real-time strategy battle with thousands of units on screen at once, you'll be hooked. But the devil here is in the detail. There are hundreds of tactical permutations to consider, from troop positions and line-up through to approach and grouping in attack. In the midst of the battle, choices need to be made that can swiftly change the outcome.
Make no mistake, this is easily one of the deepest and most engrossing strategy games for PC, and while it's very easy to get to grips with--thanks to ample tutorials and logical controls--there's a very challenging, long-lasting series of battles ahead. Of course, the real fun is taking advantage of the online options and fighting it out with gamers worldwide. Suffice to say though that the single-player experience is worth the money alone.
Described several times on the packaging as "epic", Medieval Total War is just that. It's to the credit of the developers that it manages to keep its scope and ambition and marry them so well to such an outstanding game. For that, they deserve your reward--they might make a third one, then. --Simon Brew