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VINE VOICEon 4 November 2007
Please: this is a health warning. I love this game. But after a Jekyll and Hyde existence, 6 months of deep escapism by night and red-eyed anguish by day, I have just got my girlfriend to give it to the charity shop. It is (or, I should say, was) just too good. Fantastic fun: at your feet lies the broad sweep of Europe, waiting for the imprint of your merchant's boot, receptive to your weasly diplomacy, unsuspecting of your dastardly spies and assassins... You choose the colour of your kingdom: pious, treacherous, mercenary, aggressive. You cultivate an entire dynasty of royals, generals and cardinals. And yet... this is only half the game!
Before long, even if you are the saintliest ruler, you will be dragged into war. And then the flipside of the fun emerges. Here, instead of measured diplomacy and plodding priests, we have the thrill of charging knights, the grinding march of infantry, death-at-a-distance dispensed by archers.
The Total War series is a masterly marriage of the strategic and the tactical. You must pick your way through the bludgeoning battles while administering your empire with a deft and subtle touch and a nose for trouble.
All this adds up to a quite wonderful game (and I haven't even mentioned the pope, crusades, princesses, navies, the Mongol invasion, bribery, the many factions, the voyage to the new world, and so much more...). But it goes on and on, and so addictively! I found it quite impossible to stop playing, and indeed to stop thinking about how to further my empire's borders. Hence my miserly allocation of only four stars instead of the well-deserved five: that blank star represents many, many lost hours. Don't buy this game unless you have a spare life to spend. Spare me a thought as I go cold turkey...
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on 16 November 2006
As with most Total War veterans I've been waiting for the release of this game with some anticipation. I won't go into the quality of the game, other reviewers have taken care of that, and any criticism of Medieval 2 as a game is churlish. However, and this is quite a big however, beware the minimum system specifications! I built my computer (on a budget) ostensibly to play Rome TW (amongst other things), approx 12 months ago, and it handled everything the game could throw at it. AMD 64 3200, 1Gb dual channel RAM, 256 Mb PCI express graphics card, etc. When I first started using Medieval 2 on the above machine battlefield movements were at best `clunky' and the response time was rather slow, and frustrating. Perhaps I'd been spoiled by being able to play Rome at its top setting seamlessly. After some research on the web, it would appear that all TW games are usually memory intensive, Medieval 2 being no exception, and therefore the greediest. Anyway I've whacked on another 1Gb of dual channel memory (so four banks of 512K), and it now works beautifully. Unless you have at least 1Gb of memory I wouldn't even bother with Medieval 2, you'll have more fun playing the previous TW games. I hope this helps any potential purchasers...
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VINE VOICEon 22 December 2006
I've been a big fan of the Total War series since its first release, "Shogun", a fair few years back. Medieval Total War 2 (MTW2) is the latest in the series and rather than move to a different period, is actually a further development of the previous game Medieval Total War. The most recent entry, Rome:Total War was one of the best games of all time, hands down. Read its reviews (and if you haven't played it please do!!!) to see why. The rest of this review is aimed at gamers who know the series quite well; if you've never played a total war game I would go and get Rome first, and come back to this one later on or if you are really interested in the time period.

MTW2 feels to me like it is version 1.5 of the original MTW rather than a whole new game in itself. Yes the graphics are improved, and yes there are some neat units out there. But really the game dynamics have changed very little indeed and there are still some underlying flaws which haven't been addressed since the first installment.

The first issue is enemy AI on the battlefield. Enemy spearmen are quite happy to stand there getting pelted with arrows when if they only charged you, you'd be ripped to shreds. Unless the computer has a sheer weight of units to use against you, you can usually defeat it on "medium" difficulty. So far as I can tell, increasing the difficulty just makes the AI's troops harder to kill, it doesn't make it particularly sneaky. This sense that you are just playing against a computer and not a devious general takes away from your sense of immersion and reminds you that you are just going through a routine, which in my view detracts from the experience.

The second issue is one that is not unique to Total War by any means; the game is totally indecipherable without buying either an expensive (and usually poorly written) strategy guide, or reading one of the excellent FAQ documents you can find online (GameFAQs is a good place to start). As game boxes get smaller, manuals are becoming thin and flimsy with very little info on how to play the game. If you are not an experienced Total Warrer I think you would get quite frustrated playing this. The in-game "advisors" are as useless as ever, chiming in with repetitive reminders of what a spy does every time you click on one, but never actually giving you relevant, timely, specific advice.

That's enough of the negatives, let's move on now to some of the positives. One of the major ways in which this game is an improvement upon the first MTW is that managing your faction and your settlements is a lot less fiddly and prone to frustration. In the original MTW you only had to turn your back on a settlement for five minutes and they'd be revolting, forming a new faction, and generally needing massive troops garissoned there to keep a lid on things. In MTW2 your population is a LOT more forgiving and you are provided with several buildings which increase happiness by big chunks. That means less elite units stuck behind your castle walls filing their nails and more action out on the battlefield.

The religion system has also been streamlined and the relationship with the Pope works very well in my view. I have yet to play as a Muslim faction but the crusades, papal elections, and need to purge the heretics is a fun thread of the game that doesn't become too frustrating.

There is a welcome return to the fun in-game movies that appeared whenever your assassin attempts a mission, and even better once you've seen a movie you can opt not to see that type of movie again. My favourites are still the "geisha" assassin from the original Shogun: Total War and I wouldn't mind seeing a remake of that game too!

If I could give a couple of little tips to those about to embark on a campaign:

- Trade will make you more money than farming ever will. Only improve farming twice, then switch to trade buildings otherwise your cities will overpopulate.

- Merchants aren't worth it unless you're sitting on a resource making >100 gold per turn

- Specialise castles to produce troops, don't try and make every settlement a "jack of all trades and a master of none"

- Keep the Pope happy.

- When assaulting a castle, blow the gates down with catapults or cannons.

All in all then a worthwhile addition to the series and a good piece of workmanship. It takes some of the splinters out of the origial MTW but doesn't really advance the series forwards very much. Apparently there's an all-new era to be tackled in the next installment, I for one will be looking forwad to it!
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VINE VOICEon 30 July 2007
Other reviews have detailed the differences between this and previous installments of the Total War series, so I won't bother here. Rather I'm going to try and give you a perspective based on my 2 months of playing it.

Those familiar to RTS games will know the score here, you manage a kingdom and balance the expansion of trade routes, international treaties via your diplomats and of course, expansion by war.

You will spend a huge amount of time at the empire screen. Essentially a giant map of the world as you know it, from here you manage your towns and move troops etc. For me this is where I would have loved some in depth guidance from a decent manual, or perhaps even some tutorials. You CAN just go ahead and play, but the depth of this game is astounding and you never feel like you're getting the best out of your units.

Seasoned RTS'ers will instinctively know the order they dispatch units, and they probably release a swarm of diplomats to establish trade rights, then follow that up with merchants to gain extra money then release spies and assasins to gain a further advantage, but as the player, I never really felt like I was making progress because you can so easily become consumed by the micro details of managing individual settlements.

the other problem here is the quality of your troops. Certain kingdoms have certain skills inherently beneficial to them, England has longbow archers, Venice has strong priests. The problem I have is its never explained or obvious as to how you increase the quality of your troops. Even now I have every upgrade for my merchants achievable, yet my merchants are still constantly acquired by other factions and I still dont know how to counteract this.

People will mention the influence of the pope in the game. For me, this has been poorly implemented. Yes the Pope is in the game and YES through him you have the ability to call a crusade. So what. calling a crusade does nothing obvious other than encourage the other factions to send armies to the specified destination. For 2 months ive been playing this game and I am still the only faction to actually besiege the settlement. so you end up ignoring crusade requests until the game warns you that the pope is displeased and you risk excommunication.

The pope will warn you of his displeasure if you constantly attack other catholic factions, so you bide your time until alls well again and resume your conquest. Hardly challenging. I mean it was the pope that got rid of the Knights Templar, so why cant the pope in game have THAT level of influence?

The college of cardinals is represented in game and they are basically there as a reward for your hard working priests. You have no means to influence the goings on in the college other than to provide votes to elect the new pope. I was thrilled to have my english cardinal elected pope and was excited about all the possibilities of using his holiness to influence my evil doings. But no, the Pope is completely uncorruptible in game and you have no means to influence his decisions and actions. I really cant help but feel that they've missed an opportunity here. In fact the developers have approached the subject of religion somewhat sensitively, to the extent that there are disclaimers in the manual that they are making no claims or comments about the effects or desire of religion blah blah blah. Its a game people, its a real pity they took such a senitive approach to what could have been a really interesting 3rd element to the overall experience.

And finally, the Battles. Well they are awesome. The controls are flaky to say the least and you cant help but feel like there's a more elegant way to move your armies around. Also sometimes your men will walk into battle when youve told them to charge but hey, no-one said it would be perfect.

You will be thrilled at the sound of your men marching, their cheers as they hack their opponents to bits, the animations of them parrying an opponents sword, the whizz of your arrows flying overhead. The battles will have you hooked and its a shame that the game forces you to spend more time at the map screen rather than in these wonderfully entertaining fights!

To summarise then, the game IS fun and you will lose months of your life playing it. You will feel dissapointed that you cant find any decent information on how guilds can help you improve or even what guilds to have etc, you'll resent the pope and feel like theyve missed a trick with religions poor implementation in game. But then you wont care, as you'll have so much fun sending 2000 men to fight an army of 800, that you'll want to set your camcorder up to re-watch the carnage that ensues!
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on 4 February 2008
What people don't seem to mention is how much better the world map looks, compared to Rome and Rome Barbarian Invasion. You can zoom down lower to your castles or cities, and the trees sway in the breeze and the coast looks good, although I think they could have put more detail into the coastal definition, it's a lttle bit unrealistic. There's also very good sound effects like church bells, the wind, dogs barking etc.
I just bought Rome but can't be bothered playing it now, as Medieval is just better. One thing I found too hard was the initial campaign, where you have to hold Jerusalem and another city-state and hold them over a certain number of turns. I gave up with this and found a mod which enables you to go straight into the main grand campaign, playing as any nation you want, except the Mongols or another eastern hoard (forget the name now).
I found Denmark were always winning the overall power rating, (the game seems to be set to this) so I'm now playing as Denmark. The game opens up to include the americas, Aztecs anyway, but that's at a later stage in the game. These few negative points are far outweighed by what I think is an almost perfect turn-based empire builder.
The religion is a lot of fun as well, you can send you priest or imam to take out heretics or witches, and if you conquer a city, you have to be carfull that they arn't all heretics, like in Timbuktu, so it's better to ruin the city, and re-build it, and recruit priests, as the people will be much more content and less likely to revolt (except for Cordoba, which I abandoned).
The diplomacy is good as well, you can send your little diplomats to set up trade or alliance. I think the merchant function could be improved, as they just stand over a resource, and they have a limited life span. It would be better if they were able to build a little warehouse or mine over a resource, and be a family-dynasty which dosn't change over the game, unless the region is conquered. But that's not the case in this game, which is a pity.
The much older rivals to this sort of turn-based empire builder, such as Spartan, (and I think CIV, I could never understand what people see in CIV) has been knocked out of the race, me thinks, as the battle graphics and everything is just brilliant. You can zoom down to watch the individual soldiers hack it out with each other, but I tend to auto-resolve most of my battles, unless it's even/even odds.
Just discovered that Sega are building a new turn-based game called 'Empires' which might be good also. It's going to be set in the 18th centuary and feature full-on sea battles.. Medieval auto-resolves sea battles only. A bit off subject perhaps, but the old days of Egypt/Babylon/Persia, is not covered much in the genre. 'Have to wait and see what games come up in future, and hope that they continue to build on the improvements made in this game.

I'll just update this here.. it's possible to find out how to modify the files and totally cheat.. and that spoils the game.. the setting of the victory ... Denmark also spoils the game, and also untrue settings for Cordoba, - now hoping that Empire will be better.. I eventually just got fed up with the siege system on this game.. would be better with just open field battles to resolve things.. it's tedious having to lay siege to every city and work through the streets..
and dont know if the 19th century will be good for Empire, the ideal empire age is perhaps ancient Greece and Persia...
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on 13 November 2006
For reference, my PC is 2-3 years old - I have a 3000+ Athlon, 1G of Ram and an ATI. I have played all the total war games - Japan, Medieval, Rome and now this one

Extraordinary.

I have had this game now for one weekend and have had to come up for air to go to work.

Installation - faultless. The game comes on two discs. No problems loading up.

Campaign:

Very similar to the Rome:Total War campaign map. Seems like there is more graphical detail though. It's easier to choose appropriate terrain, although there is still the issue that you think you're on high ground, but when a battle comes you find yourself fighting uphill. No biggy, but slightly annoying.

The main change from Rome is that now your settlements are either cities or castles. Cities produce more cash and have walls, but are not as easier to defend as castles. Castles have great defensive walls but do not produce as much cash. It's a small change but actually does change gameplay significantly - you now have to think more strategically. In addition, cities can only produce infantry - no cavalry or decent missile units (although they can produce ballista and later, artillery). This means that you can't get away with having just cities - you need castles for those units.

The change also means that after a battle, you have to get your cavalry and missile units back to a castle to retrain. Difficult sometimes. It means that you need castles on your borders. Once you expand territory, you then need to think proactively about changing castles to cities that are secure within your borders.

There's so much more I can talk about but no room - the merchants are new. Assassins and diplomats work in a similar way as before.

Battles:

Wow. Just wow. I know gameplay is everything, but let me spend a few moments talking about the graphics. The difference between this and what has gone before is amazing - I keep losing more men than I should in battles because I spend so much time zoomed in watching close up melee battles. In particular the cavalry units. If you still have the original medieval on your pc, load up a battle from that and then one from this. Just gives you an idea of how far they've come.

Ok, now the gameplay. It's much more realistic. Some things I've noticed -

Tiredness and morale seem to play a bigger part. You really can't just run your cavalry everywhere and expect them to fight. That may be just me though - I never played on hard settings. I'm a coward like that.

Battles with rebel armies in your territories - seem to be harder than before. You can't just roll over them with a few decent units as you could in Rome - more thought is needed. They don't seem to run away as willingly.

My old trick when I'm besieged of luring besieging armies towards walls so that the towers and missile units on the walls can pick them off with arrows - doesn't work anymore. Enemies are not just going to sit next to the wall dieing off in great numbers. They'll sit out of range, even with no commander. Much more realistic.

So, I've only been playing for a weekend. Clearly there is more to discover, but for those who have played and enjoyed the other total war games, there really is no question - you must get this game. For those who have not played the total war games before - there is a lot to learn. You have to invest a lot of time in learning how everything fits together, but definitely worth persevering. I have no hesitation in recommending this game.
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on 19 November 2006
I am a firm collector of the total war series, and this is by far the best so far.

Here are some of the many good points

The graphics have improved - there are now differnt soldiers with different armour in the unit

The fight scenes have improved - now your units can unleash combos and units that have been damaged have blood on them

The seiges are more fun - Flames and pain all round

The generals speeches are funnier and more entertaining

The are a wide variety of factions that you can play as including, England, Scotland, France, the Turks, Sicilian and much more.

Some of the bad points

Campaigns require that you unlock other factions by killing them on the long campaign.

It takes a while to get better units if your a quick gameplayer do that you finish before anything good comes along.

And thats about it.

This is a truly awesome stratergy game that lets you use thought and recklessness equally to achive world domination.

Buy this game, and you won't regret it if.
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on 3 January 2007
Just to let you know I have played all of the total war games and expansion packs to death. I was always impressed with the way the series progressed and kept it fresh but I have to say this one has come as a bit of a disappointment.

Let's start with the negatives.

- Still no naval battles! Control of the sea is such an important aspect of the game yet you have no control over the battles only a roll of the dice to see if you win or not! This has to change.

- The fact that we are doing the medieval period again gives you the feeling that you have seen it all before. I know it's supposed to be very complicated to do but please let's have Napoleon Total War.

- The only real difference from Rome is the improved graphics which seems pretty superficial to me as I would prefer to see greater leaps in actual game play. Plus after reading several reviews it seems as that only about 30% of people have the PCs to take advantage of the improved look. If you play it on low (that's me) it looks pretty similar to Rome.

Now the good point.

- It is still by far and away the best strategy game on the market.

I would still recommend you to buy as the 5 stars shows but it just feels like a MOD of Rome without bringing anything new to the table.
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on 21 July 2007
The first thing to say about this game is that it looks great, and runs well. Ive had no real reliability issues, especially after downloading the first patch to be released. Other than the fact that it takes an age to install even on agood system, and i really do mean an age.

However the 2nd patch, which is a whopping 630mb! can make the game unplayable on some systems. A fault which has apparently not yet been addressed. There is help avaliable on the forums from a commited group of fans, who seem to be doing the developers jobs for them. I think its a disgrace that a patch should be such a hassle to install. For one thing when you buy the game you expect a finished product. It is understandable that patches are needed as bugs / issues become resolved through gamer feedback etc. However surely they should make sure any patches work! and should be easy to install, not every gamer knows the ins and outs of modding etc! However one way to solve this is not to bother installing it...

Other than the patch issues theres not much wrong with the game itself, the only thing i struggled with was the victory conditions. The game is still directed toward the complete conquest of the known world, becuase if you dont do it one of the computer factions will! Now this was fine in RTW as the empire was trully international. The problem is that the medieval period saw much more localised conflict and conquest. England and France had no ambitions to control North Africa, but simply to out do one another, fighting over single regions and cities.

O and I didnt like the way factions heirs were chosen, i.e not by you (although that mau be more accurate). Or the names that the computer gives English Kings, e.g King Hugh, sounds ridiculous :)
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Technically this is a monster of a game, my old computer couldn't run it and with my very brand new computer the gameplay settings must all be turned to low and it doesn't run smoothly (the computer was set up with MS Vista, against my better judgment). It crashes unexpectantly now and then.

So what do I get. Great graphics but the units handle worse than before and frequently stop or tangle up with themselves. Previous games where better than this.

Now I have played two campaigns and find them tedious, with only a few bright moments. The AI doesn't provide any challenge, I am winning large battles on the hardest settings against vastly superior armies with rubbish armies.

There are a few improvements, you can raise more units at a time, I mentioned better graphics but that is it.

The game advertises more intrigue and diplomacy but again this is fouled by extremely poor and silly AI. A friendly nation with everything to gain by peaceful relations will all of a sudden blockade your harbor because it can? Soon you are fighting all of your neigbors but that doesn't matter, if you are half way decent you will win most of these anyway (and I have always played the TW games on the hardest settings, both in battles and campaign and this game is a let down in this respect).

Turns, you can sometimes make yourself tea and bread while you wait for a turn to complete. The game is now in turns but you can also see the year on the fraction screen.

I am of old a great fan of the TW games and I feel duped this time. I have played it apleanty and it simply isn't much fun. Rome was a lot better and it started to go down hill from the Barbarian Invasion.

Sure we go better graphics, but the game is unstable, the AI is bad and the new features don't really work. The TW concept is still brilliant and this is the best strategy and tactical game there is, but the old games were MUCH BETTER.
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