Medieval: Total War – PC


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On the heels of their successful Shogun: Total War Creative Assembly moves back in time and westward on the map to shed some light on the Dark Ages. Medieval: Total War concerns the power struggles of pre-Renaissance European kings and Middle Eastern powers, as well as the conflict between the last vestiges of paganism and the growing influences of Islam, the Orthodox (Eastern) Church, and the Roman Catholic Church. These were violent and passionate times to be sure, perfect for a historical strategy game that thrives on brutality, dynasty, and war.

There are three time periods to choose from, the earliest of which features more fragmented factions and primitive weaponry, the last represents a more unified period where most power struggles have been decided and gunpowder has entered the scene. With three time periods and 12 factions representing three different religions, there's a lot of replay value in the strategic game alone.

Like Shogun, the game is divided into two parts: strategic and tactical. The strategic part features a map of Europe, some of Asia, and some of Africa. It's divided into territories à la Risk or Axis & Allies, and each territory represents a kingdom. Each faction begins with its own holdings and must quickly begin to out produce and conquer its neighbors. Each kingdom has its own population, loyalty rating, economy, and religious affiliations. Installing a feared or loved general as governor can enhance the kingdom, but giving an unscrupulous general the job could lead to revolt. Building structures can enhance the kingdom as well; a dock or a salt or silver mine can lead to riches while a castle protects. A bowyer or spear maker can outfit new troops. As time progresses, your king will grow old, have children, and die. If he dies without a male heir a revolution can occur. Daughters are used primarily to reward your governors and generals or offered to allies as wives.

The tactical portion of the game is the 3-D battlefield, complete with deserts, rivers, rolling hills, forests, mountains, and the vast rainy plains of England. It is here that you will decide the fate of your empire. You have to use terrain effectively to win, managing your varied troops with efficiency and skill: pikemen against mounted troops, mounted troops against archers, archers against pikemen. The specialized troop types of the Turkish, Byzantine, French, and other cultures offer unique abilities and open up combat options to wily generals. Guiding the actions of thousands of meticulously researched troops and watching them execute historical military maneuvers on a giant battlefield is a joy, but if deep tactical combat is not to your liking, you can skip individual battles or have the computer control them for you. Creative Assembly added sieges to the game as well, and those can be spectacular undertakings--complete with castle walls, sorties, and machines of war. A multiplayer option is offered, but only using the tactical battle engine. There are also a few warfare only historical battles and scenarios.

The two halves of the game make a rich whole. The AI is sharp, and a sense of history permeates the game. From the eerie medieval chanting that underscores playing as a Western power to the lively Islamic music that you'll hear if you play as a Middle Eastern power. The game recreates history well, but more importantly it's also fantastic to play. --Bob Andrews


  • Excellent gameplay; strong AI
  • Two perfect game engines working together
  • Deep, intellectual subject matter might be too dense for some
  • Multiplayer only exists in battle mode