PC Game Preview: Medieval 2: Total War First Impressions
Sean Drummy gets a hands-on look at the highly anticipated sequel to Rome: Total War. Is the next incarnation of the real time/turn based strategy blend all graphics and no gameplay? Read on to get some first impressions of Medieval 2: Total War.
- turn-based, real-time, middle ages, empire building, 4x (explore, expand, exploit, exterminate), europe, the crusades
I hate demos. I just can’t stand a tease, and nobody teases better than Sega. When the Medieval 2: Total War demo began proliferating the earth both in CDROM form and through dubious digital sources I was tempted to spare myself the agony of staring at a release date that was oh-so far off. But, curiosity got the best of me.
Relatively speaking, I’m newcomer to the Total War series, only getting hooked on the brilliant blend of real time action and turn based strategy since Rome: Total War made gargantuan waves throughout the gaming industry. The first blockbuster is hard to make, it requires vision, dedication, and generally a lot of risk. But the pressure of a sequel can be much, much worse. After a string of three blockbuster titles to the Total War series, The Creative Assembly makes it look easy. But will Medieval 2: Total War do justice to its famed predecessors or will Sega ride the success of their previous three titles for as much money as they can? With only a demo that includes two historical battles, it is certainly too soon to definitely answer that question, but based on my limited experience with the demo I think things are definitely headed in the right track.
Well, They Got the Graphics Covered
I won’t belabor the fact that Medieval 2: Total War is gorgeous since the troves of screenshots available everywhere illustrate this better than any drooling I could offer here. But I will note, however, that there are certain aspects of a game’s aesthetic beauty that simply can’t be captured by a still-frame shot. For example, the shoulder view of an English knight who is yards away from several hundred charging French infantry at the Battle of Agincourt is greatly enhanced by the din of blood-thirsty Frenchmen screaming bloody murder and the sight of each unit moving at a full charge. The character animations in Medieval 2: Total War have been improved tremendously. Other than a few dozen “death sequences” that play when a soldier is finally killed, the overall feel of a unit’s morale, movement, and armor type is reflected with each step.
Furthermore, gunpowder is propelled (no pun intended) to the forefront of military technology in the first of the two historical battles, the Battle of Pavia. The boom of a cannon can be heard throughout the battlefield, often over the chaos of cavalry and infantry slicing and dicing one another. When the munitions from these rudimentary firearms detonate, the result strikes fiercely, and without warning. Soldiers can easily be thrown into the sky (much like the attack Carthaginian elephants in Rome: Total War), and screams of agony emanate from the affected area for an added anarchic feeling.
Finally, there is one quite notable addition to Medieval 2: Total War that separates it from Rome: Total War’s beauty: blood. When arrows or bullets tear through flesh a quick puff of blood is thrown into the air. In addition, fallen soldiers will often display redish-brown wounds somewhere on their bodies. When several hundred units are felled in the same place, the over all “tint” of the battlefield smacks of a bloody, violent mess. Not to worry, however, as Sega definitely doesn’t overdo the gore aspect, although the nature of war during the period most certainly lends itself to it.
I also feel it necessary to insert a caveat for any gamers who want to get in on the Medieval carnage but have aging machines: Medieval 2: Total War has rather stringent hardware requirements. My system is by no means bleeding edge, but it is still quite the powerhouse and I was unable to smoothly run the game will all settings maxed out. Sega has included a wide variety of graphical settings for everything from units to buildings, but even so, some gamers may have to shelve Medieval 2 or cough up the money for an upgrade or two.