Review by kn1gh7

"Activison gave Creative Assembly a hammer and a piece of iron, and said, 'make it better'."

Breifing Room

Medieval: Total War an epic, real-time strategy that gets to the heart of the Early Period (to the High Period) middle Ages. Leaving you in control of any pick from, numerous nations. The key points to this game that I will highlight are: diverse (even special) military units, a magnitude of diplomacy options, and a 3D battle engine that is breath taking.

Gameplay: (9.5)
Here is where Medieval moves and flows like Randy Moss into the endzone. The 3D engine that runs Total War's is insane gamer perfection, to say the least. Not only can you select formations, lead your archers to high ground, select a wedge for your horse men to advance (marching, or charging), you can siege a castle, and even watch as your catapults demolish a 3D castle that is almost fully destructible. I had many hours of fun in the combat aspect of the game alone.

Also a nice feature is the 'autocalc'. With this feature used, it will calculate battles for you. But I couldn’t see any reason to do, unless you can’t seem to grasp the strategies that are used on the battlefield. Believe this, there are so many ways to lead your army, and attack that you may find yourself loosing to a better strategist. With this new 3D engine you can hide your troops in the forest, make it look like troops are leaving the field, attack enemy flanks, and all the good details that were in true medieval battles.

As for outside of this 3D battle driven game, the movement is like the well embarrassed board game Risk. Each faction has its territory, which is split into provinces. Each one you control for your faction. In this side of the game you have political disputes, the ability to wed into other factions, province building, province unit management, the birth of children, and of course the Pope. (Who asks for crusades against other factions, or you, if you’re aggressive to other members of the church.) Personally I became fond of this aspect of the game as well. The battles are great, but the inner workings of how you handle each race comes together on this end of the game.

Now imagine this scenario; there’s political unrest, provinces are loosing loyalty, religious zeal is at an all time low, your troops are being bribed by other factions, princesses are spying on you, your own general is demanding a bride, yourself needing a heir, and your leading commander with 5 stars for bravery in battle, dead. What do you too? There’s so many goodies to control in this game, playing it over and over will not stunt its replay for quite some time.

An RTS that puts the crown on your head, the assassins blade in your hand, the generals horse under your legs, and gives you full control over every aspect a medieval time period could offer.

Graphics: (7.0)
The graphics on Total War were lacking, and had no real shine. The units are tiny little icons. At best they look like tiny stick figures. I understand the amount of units that the game can have at one time made it almost impossible for state of the art 3d units. Supporting over 50,000 units at one time, the resources would be phenomenal to develop such an engine. But the time spent behind the unit artwork is really disappointing. When they engage in battle its hard to tell if the unit animations are of fight scenes or nothing more then stick figures dancing.

But move towards one of its better features, and that is battles. The textures in the 3d engine are very good. You felt as if you were truly on a battlefield. Yet this is the only time Total War took off in the graphics department. So it’s hard to give Total War a clean cut, bad or good graphic review. As it seems to blend, ''the good, the bad, and the ugly'' into one solid release.

I think even a little more work behind the unit animation/art would have propelled this game to new unseen limits. But as it stands, it’s just to weak graphically to compete with other RTS’s that don’t even give even half the control, or maximum unit capabilities that Medieval did. Which to me is a shame. Perhaps it was a released rush? But the update this title has, did little to no graphical change. Yet another disappointment in this aspect of the game.

Total War does quite well in many parts of the graphical world of gaming. You do feel as if you’re in the battle. But keep in mind as it melts together, it seems a key ingredient is missing. Unit animation and unit art is one, perhaps more?

Sound: (7.5)
With decent all round music, and a music theme based on the medieval period (which was well done), and changes to the music on the fly based on battle options selected.
I must say very good, I may even go so far as to say impressive. While in the 3d battle's, you hear your soldiers cry out as they are dieing, or cheer as they slaughter their rivals.
What really grabbed my attention was that your warriors have different accents, depending on your faction.

When I loaded this game I anticipated much more than was delivered. Like music themes for each faction. For example, I select the Celts; I expect the Celtic music theme. It just didn’t happen. Which leaves me to wonder, specialized voices, yet not music? The drums start rolling after I select my marching units to charge the enemies first line, and this was a very nice music/sound feature. Definitely something new, but at the same time I wondered, “why aren’t there any horns blowing?'' ''Why aren’t there any customized attack sounds'', and so much more. There was room to make this a game unequaled, and it just fell short.

Replay Value: (9.5)
To the new comers of an RTS (real-time strategy), load up the tutorial. You’re going to need it chummer. The game soars in replay, allowing multiple players on GameSpy. Here you can test your strategies and new learned tactics of the game against others doing exactly the same. Perhaps you may even team up to defeat the pc driven factions? If anything stunted the replay it was the lack of any server to play on. For example Dungeon Siege, or Diablo (battlenet) which have dedicated servers.

But myself, I like to play single player and learn the game mechanics and concepts before I dive into any online game. Strategy based or not. Here as well replay value is at an all time high. Firstly, the tutorial mode will benefit you greatly. Single or multiplayer it’ll have you driven your forces right down the enemies neck, and better yet you’ll look good doing it! After learning these new battle tactics, and what formations to use for different situations you’ll be a one manned medieval wrecking machine. After you had your fun with tutorial mode, and think your ready to get your feet wet. There’s an assortment of game play options that are at your grasp. Like the campaigns, historical battles, and of course multiplayer.

Closing Comments
Activison gave Creative Assembly a hammer and a piece of iron, and said, 'make it better'.
That being its predecessor, Shogun: Total War (Shown at E3 of '99). They did just that. This is a definite buy for all you RTS/3D battle fanatics out there.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.0 - Great

Originally Posted: 02/11/03, Updated 02/11/03

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