Recreating the visceral, chaotic, frenzy that was medieval combat is the stated aim of Creative Assembly’s new offering Medieval 2 Total War, and it is an aim well met.
While the game occurs on the much the same map and has much the same premise - total domination – as Rome Total War, this update to the franchise is far more immersive and is a genuine improvement from both a graphics and game-play stand-point.
Graphically the game is stunning. The additional detail the developer has put in adds volumes to the sense of realism. Besieging cities and castles are a lot more fun now as the extra detail allows you to see an enemy city’s walls literally crumble beneath your canon or trebuchet shots.
In fact, one of the main areas of development has been done in the area of the troops themselves. No longer just a mass of clones, each unit is comprises of individuals in differing dress and action. Each can block and parry on their own and many have their own unique finishing moves as they jump, cut, thrust and hack the enemy and then kick them to the ground in a might finishing move.
Watch the bodies literally fly as a well placed canon shot mows a clean line through your troops or when a unit of armoured knights makes a suicidal charge onto your spearmen.
Really, it’s almost a little too good – you’ll spend all the battle watching your favourite unit’s individual melee’s that you’ll neglect the leadership of rest of your units. Either than or you’ll be distracted by the red and yellow poppies or knee-high grass at your soldiers’ feet swaying in the gentle breeze as they wait to battle to the death.
The battle environments also of a higher caliber to Rome and vary widely from gently undulating French countryside to Egyptian deserts to frozen savannahs to the peaks of the Swiss Alps. They can have a dramatic effect on the strategies you can employ in each battle, but their biggest effect is to vary what can be the sometimes repetitious effort of endless combat.
The game now includes additional weather scenarios which affect how the battle is fought. In particular, fog adds a great new tactical element. If it’s foggy, the enemy can’t see you as you bring around you cavalry to their rear while marching your foot soldiers up to their front. This means that a nicely timed rear charge at key units will allow you defeat an enemy that twice outnumbers you.