Medieval 2: Total War Reader Review
Major dissappointment after the fabulous Rome: Total War. I played every other Total War game for far more hours than I would puplicly admit to. Shogun, Medieval, Rome - I loved them all and have been a huge fan of turnbased strategy games all my life. One of the great things about this franchise has been that each game built upon the success of the ones before it and expanded and enhanced the genre. Medieval 2 takes an enormous step backwards. It is so obvious the game was rushed out for the holiday season with no regard for playability, production quality, or completeness.
Right off the bat the campaign map graphics, unit cards, and the pictures on the event splash screens are almost universally horrid. For reference I play with the game at 1680x1050 widescreen with all features maxed on a GeForce7 card. The tree models on the campaign map are hideous with there being a greenish pyramid for a conifer forest, a swaying greenish mushroom for a decidous forest, and a narrow green thing for some other tree (a cedar I guess). The castles and citys are univerally awful with them looking like they were drawn by kindergarteners. They have no flavor of the cultures they are derived from. The campaign army units all look like dwarfs with stunty little legs and mediocre textures.
The battle graphics and animations are the one and only high point of the game. The individual unit actually appearing to fight one another stabbing swords, spears and axes into each other not just animating randomly; this is very impressive. The textures of the battle units are also well done and very detailed. Unfortunately, the battle AI is so bugged that many battles are won or lost based on which army gets the most bugged units. Troops regularly get stuck going through breached walls and gates and just - stop - blocking the way of all other troops. About half the time the AI will completely shutdown and the entire enemy force will just sit there and get decimated.
Diplomacy is utterly non-sensical with allies regularly attacking you for no reason what-so-ever choosing to "attack your largest army and fortified city with one unit of Archer Militia" or "blockade some random seaport." They will then refuse to agree to peace even when they have been reduced to one city left with no troops and under siege from your army. Apparently, that empty seaport drove them to the point of suicidal hatred towards your empire.
The new Papacy feature is utterly laughable and amounts to nothing more than 1. Virtually invulnerable Inquisitor units that wander around assassinating ("executing for heresy") your leaders and Priests(?!) irregardless of how good your relations to the church are. 2. Ordering you to stop wars with other Catholic factions that repeatedly attacked you for no apparent reason. Trying to convert those heathens to Catholicism? Too bad the Inquisitor came along and killed your priests. Please LOL with me.
Your leaders no longer gain thier attributes by placing them in centers of learning with schools, universities, etc. They just randomly show up and most of them seem to be bad. If there is any rhyme or reason too it - it isnt detailed in the rulebook anywhere. They say in the rulebook that they gain them based on building in the city and/or things they do as was the case in R:TW. I failed to see it. For example: No matter how many Cathedrals I had them build or how long they sat in cities with Cathedrals I never got any appreciable increases in Piety for example. No matter how many vanquished captives I released I saw no effective increase in Chivalry.
The biggest shame of all is that the campaign AI is completely and utterly pitiful. Im not sure how they got it to take such a step-back after Rome:TW. The AI seems to do little beside send waves of single unit armies to seige your cities that 'turn after turn after turn' are chased off by the city garrisons.
The merchant system whereby you place merchants on resource points to gain extra money each turn, while a great idea, is utterly mared by the fact that all that seems to happen is one uber merchant seems to emerge that runs around assassinating ('hostile take-over' its called) all other merchants in game. Once these uber merchants reach high level they assassinate new merchants with easy and are virtually immune to assassination.
They replaced the interesting and historical system whereby specialty units and/or improved units were available from certain provinces with a system of guildhouses that are randomly offered to you to build in cities. ie Beginning of turn: Do you want to build [Insert Random Guild] in [Insert Random Location] for 1000g. Very weak.
Finally, the assassins have been utterly nerfed from R:TW. New assassins have almost no chance to assassinate anyone even low level characters. There is no way to raise thier skill other than assassination. To make matters worse a "new feature" is that assassins missing their target have a decent chance of dropping in skill. New assassins frequently drop to level 0 skill where they have a 5% chance of assassinating anyone. To kick you when you're down there is no way to get rid of these useless assassins. You cant just disband them. So you sit there turn after turn spending money on them while praying that they die in an botched attempt to kill a level 1 princess.
In conclusion, we have another holiday title that was rushed out way prematurely to be on the shelves for Black Friday. Maybe in six months or so with enough patches the game will be worth playing. As it currently stands there is almost nothing to recommend this title. If you dont already have it go pick up Rome: Total War instead.
I am giving it a score of 5 based on the Scoring Policy of this site:
"Five is where you really start to fear for a game's quality. It's the score that says "don't buy it unless you're the sort of person who has to have all the games in a particular genre". It's a game that had the potential to be good, but simply ended up saddled with a catalogue of issues that the majority of gamers will not put up with. It's still playable, but the chances are it's so generic and uninspired that you begin to question how it was released in the first place."
I think that about sums it up...
5 / 10