PC Game Review: Medieval 2: Total War
Is the sequel to Rome: Total War as pious as its predecessors or a blasphemous knock-off? Lloyd Sabin holds an inquisition of his own to find out.
A Proud But Bruised Lineage
I have been a fan of The Creative Assembly's Total War series since their very first production, Shogun: Total War, was released almost seven years ago. The combination of a turn-based strategic campaign mode, coupled with an engaging, visually delicious real-time tactical mode, has made for an attractive and engaging franchise. Subsequently, I have played every release and expansion since the original Shogun, including its expansion Mongol Invasion, Medieval: Total War, and its expansion Viking Invasion, and Rome: Total War, and its expansions Barbarian Invasion and Alexander. I have also modded the hell out of some of those original titles, my favorite mod of all being the XL mod for the original Medieval: Total War. (review)
I can confidently say that I have enjoyed every game and expansion in the Total War series, to one degree or another, over the course of the evolution of the franchise and through different publishers, including Activision and Sega of America.
By now, a full month after Medieval 2: Total War's initial release and patch up to version 1.1, I felt it was time to take stock of where the game stands. Regardless of what potential buyers have read on gaming forums, including the, er, 'spirited' discussions of Medieval 2: Total War's myriad strengths and weaknesses here at The Wargamer and The Creative Assembly's own forum, an interest in the game persists. I have been working for The Wargamer for almost five years, and have been a reader of the site for much longer, and I cannot recall a more hotly debated series, especially with the latest release of Medieval 2: Total War. This review will cover everything I have experienced with Medieval 2: Total War for the last month.
Problems with Ye Olde Post, Installationis Negativum and Documentorum Maximus
Just getting the game into my hot little hands proved a challenge. I pre-ordered the title about two weeks before its release so I could receive the American 'Limited Edition', replete with a map, building reference and unit descriptions, plus a separate CD of the Medieval 2: Total War soundtrack. The US release date came and went, and nothing arrived. I called and e-mailed the retailer to find out what was going on, and they were reportedly having troubles with their distributor, a widespread problem I had read about at the game's forums. It took a full ten days after the initial release date and a boost up to Priority Mail (at the cost of two extra dollars) to finally get the game, but at least it finally arrived intact.
Medieval 2: Total War came loaded on two DVDs, with the soundtrack on a third separate CD disk. Is it my bad memory, or weren't single DVDs originally designed to hold the entire contents of the Library of Congress? Perhaps the contents of the Library of Congress, when converted into electronic data, would not equal the 11 gigs of Medieval 2: Total War …that's right, 11 gigs. This game leaves a big footprint, to say the least, so gamers should make sure their rig has the required real estate.
After a 10-day delay and 10-minute blackout spell at the amount of hard drive space required, installation was imminent. I have been a gamer since I was a wee lad poking around on a TI 99/4A with a tape drive, then graduated to a Commodore 64 with a 1541 disk drive, and subsequently was on top of the gaming world with an Amiga 500 after that (circa 1990). With a few brief forays into console gaming, including a cheap knockoff of an Atari 2600, a ColecoVision, and the first Sony PlayStation, I finally ascended the summit of the gaming world and purchased a PC in 1998. In all those years, I have never experienced a longer, more problematic install than I did installing Medieval 2: Total War.