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Medieval 2: Early Observations

August 22nd, 2006 by Troy Goodfellow · No Comments · Uncategorized

No, I haven’t gotten a good look at Medieval 2: Total War, but I’ve been following the previews and interviews quite closely. The first Medieval was a great game once you overlooked the psychic AI on the campaign map and Rome stands out as, to my mind, one of the finest real time/turn based hybrids ever made. Fusing the pageantry of the Middle Ages with the shiny new Rome engine is a no brainer.

Computer Games Online has published a two part interview with Creative Assembly’s Bob Smith. A good response to a simple question can give a lot of insight into how a sequel will stand out, and there seems to be a strong effort on the part of CA Australia to make Medieval 2 stand out.

1) Measures and counter-measures – Smith’s description of the the Middle Ages as an arms race is a little silly, but he is right to highlight how units and tactics changed to meet new challenges. Medieval 2 will try to include that sense of discovery by allowing bigger and better fortresses as well as forcing the player to adapt first to heavier armor, then to better range weapons. I do hope that they don’t follow the usual path of always making the counter-measures more expensive than the threat being faced. It’s hard enough facing a new superweapon without having to go broke doing it.

2) Variety is the spice of death – No more identical robot soldiers marching lockstep into battle. There will be greater distinction in how individual soldiers look. I hope that this carries on beyond the faces of the soldiers, since many Medieval armies lacked uniform equipment. The breathless description of:

“Sequenced attack combos also allow the soldier to string together attacks to cut a swathe through his opponents so the player will see some truly spectacular action. For example, a swordsman might do a swing to the left, a swing to the right, followed by a stab to the stomach knocking his opponent down. He might then spin around, and deliver a merciless finishing strike to the enemy while he’s lying helpless on the ground.”

makes me think of Ridley Scott run amok, but it could look cool. It certainly reminds me of my dire need to upgrade.

3) Return of the trait system – One of the best parts of Rome was the trait system. The generals were more or less interchangeable idiots until you got down to the personalities attached. A lot of these traits carried on to the battlefield speeches. I’ll never forget where I was when “hooting” Marcus Julius invoked the aid of the owls in the coming skirmish. Adding a “mercy/massacre” system means that the battles could have even greater consequences for the general concerned.

4) No true pathMedieval 2 will give two ways to develop a settlement. The castle path means better troops and better defense, the city path means better wealth to support your army and bribe your enemies. In Rome, each city eventually looked the same. You might start with specialization in one type of unit or another, but before long you would be cranking your elite units out of every settlement you owned. Even with only two main paths, the Medieval 2 player will be given a wider range of important decisions to make about commerce and warfare.

5) Return of the Princesses? – My biggest gripe with the first Medieval was the management of all the little units. Princesses, emissaries, bishops, inquisitors…by midgame you would have dozens of these annoying little guys running around. Well, they are back. Smith says that “The campaign map itself will be busier with several new types of agent, including merchants, princesses and priests.” Thanks, but I could probably do without a lot of those. Hopefully the management has gotten better. The idea of me physically moving a merchant from Paris to Constantinople doesn’t quite sound epic.

6) A whole new world – More provinces, more factions and now the Americas. I’m wary of the addition of the Age of Discovery to the series, especially since Smith makes clear that possession of the New World will give a faction a huge advantage over its rivals. This being the case, the only rational strategy is to hold on while you rush for the tech that lets you sail across the ocean to eliminate the Aztecs. Then use that untouchable wealth (I doubt the AI will be programmed to tech rush in that manner) to crush all enemies beneath your heel.

Medieval 2: Total War will start to conquer store shelves in mid-November.


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