Medieval II: Total War – PC review

4 out of 5
£34.99

For

Scale, lots of action, emphasis on strategy

Against

Power demands as game rolls on, battlefield camera control poorly conceived

Medieval II is the latest game in the Total War series, using the acclaimed Rome engine with Medieval content. But is this war sim worth the time? We campaigned to find out.

From the outset, Medieval II feels like a quality game. The opening scenes and the sound is very impressive and this is a trait the runs through the game – this game should not be played on tinny little speakers – you really want to experience the full thing here.

The game is based around two basic elements that players of the series will be familiar with – the campaigning: running your expanding territories, and the battles: beating the life out of your opponents.

Running your lands is mostly a way to provide enough men and money to run the war machine as you battle against other factions for control. But this is a land war strategy game, and not “Sim Empire” so you can get as engaged in the minutae of trade agreements and religious conversion, but if you can’t win on the battlefield, you’ll not get anywhere. Having to create your armies does mean that you need to consider your moves very carefully, so as to not leave yourself open to dangers all around. Although this is a turn-based strategy, the battle parts are played out in real time.

The battlefield elements are extraordinary. The graphics are very good for the numbers involved – you can zoom right down and see what it happening in the melee, but without an overall view, you’ll soon lose control of the battle. Again, this is a battle sim, so you need to consider the numbers and the types of troops you are committing and against which enemy. All the wily battlefield tricks can be used here – but get it wrong and your men will be slaughtered.

Having large numbers on the battlefield provides for a great game, but also places the demands on your platform – the minimum requirements on the box (1.8GHz CPU, 512MB RAM, 128MB graphics) allow you to play the game, but you should be looking at beefing up the RAM and graphics to get the most enjoyment. Common complaints are that the frame rate slows down so much that you get slaughtered before you can respond.

Another complaint is the battlefield camera which seems to be ill-conceived, the rotation seems a bit limited and the zoom is more like a swoop down function – it is a minor gripe – something you learn to live with, but could have been better. You will also need to use your navy to move troops around and defeat other navies, but this aspect of the game barely exists – the naval combat is all resolved in the click of a button.

Verdict

Medieval II is a great game. The historical detail and the choice of 21 factions means that there is plenty to do. But be warned – this is not a game you can play in 5 minutes – even on short mode you are looking at hours of gameplay. There are a few elements perhaps not as slick as we might have wanted, but none the less, a worthy title to keep you going through the long winter nights.