reviews\ Sep 8, 2002 at 8:00 pm

Medieval: Total War - PC - Review

Think of it as Risk meets real-time strategic warfare.

Medieval: Total War, a PC release from Activision and The Creative Assembly, takes players from a chess-like contemplation of global proportions to a three-dimensional battlefield where the combat takes place in real-time. It is up to the player to move his units into position, form them up and take advantage of terrain elements.

This is a game that treads the line of history, uses weaponry available throughout the medieval ages, and does a solid job of rendering the battles.

The game begins with players picking to either participate in the single-player or multiplayer scenarios. There are three time periods you can choose from – early, high or late period. Conditions of victory in the single-player campaign are either to achieve domination by conquering all provinces on the European map, or through glorious achievements.

Other elements fall into play during your campaign. If you have a king that is guiding the army, and his sons are generals of other units, and he is killed, you are in danger of throwing your country into turmoil. The queen can give birth to an heir during the years of war, and that may have some bearing on your combat strategy.

You will sign alliances with other nations, but you can trample them with a single aggressive act. Better be sure you have the numbers, though, when you enter combat. If there is one drawback to a facet of the game, it seems to be that numbers rule when unit leadership is equal. If you have a superior general with fewer numbers than the enemy, you may be able to squeak out a win.

The game is played out in two portions, the movement and development phase, and then combat resolution. You have an overview of the world and the provinces you control. You can move units across the board, build up forts, towers or develop mines to finance your war effort. You can also send spies abroad to check out enemy strengths. Once you have made all your moves, you end your turn (each turn equals one year), and then all combat is resolved. You can either retreat, manage the battle personally, or let the computer determine the battle outcome.

There are 12 factions to choose from, from the Almohads and Egyptians in the south to the Polish and Danes. Each faction has units unique to that nation. The game also allows you to take on the role of historical characters, like Richard the Lionheart.

Take the Almohads for example. You will take the role of the caliphate, Kahlifah Yusuf I. You start (in the early period) with Berber camel units, Saharan cavalry and Ghulam bodyguards (among others). The Danes would start with Vikings and Spearman Knights.

The player interface is set up for ease-of-use. You can click-and-drag with the mouse in the movement/development phase, and in combat, there is a unit bar to direct attacks, or form the troops. You simply pick a unit (a mouse click) and then give them orders. Clicking on the landscape will deploy the troops.

The combat environment is well rendered. You can take an over flight of the battle area prior to combat to get a feel for the lay of the land. The camera does allow for zooming into the action or backing off to get an overview of the battle.

The game AI is quite good, and regardless of the difficulty level you select, you will find this to be a challenging game.

Medieval Total War is the type of game that war strategic gaming fans will find quite enjoyable. But the game is what the name implies – war. If you are looking for a civilization building game, this is not the type of game you will want to play. If, however, you want a chess match with combat units, this is game that will appeal to you.

This game is rated Teen for blood and violence.

Gameplay: 8.3
The movement/development phase of the game is not quite as exciting as the real-time combat, but still is a great strategic set-up. Each turn equals one year, and units do have a marching limit for the time frame.

Graphics: 7.8
The game is a mixed bag. The movement/development phase is nice, though simple. The combat features solid animation and terrific environments.

Sound: 7
The audio aspect of this program doesn’t have a lot, and what is there is merely average.

Difficulty: Medium
The AI is quite good and this game is a solid cerebral challenge.

Concept: 7.8
The combat phase of this game is well done, and while this game features elements unique to the time frame, it doesn’t really have the depth of that ‘other’ Total War title – Shogun.

Multiplayer: 8.4
This is a game that is best played against other humans. The single-player game is solid, but like chess, it is best enjoyed with others participating. The game can be played online over the GameSpy network or through a LAN.

Overall: 8.6
The combat phase is very good, and the animation and environments are solid and well rendered. This game is combat-based and the civilization aspect is at the barebones level. You develop everything for the war effort. This is solid, enjoyable battle gaming.


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