For those of you who haven't played a Total War
game before, here's a quick rundown on how they work. Like the graphics, gameplay is basically separated into two parts. The first part is turn-based city building and resource management. This part has much in common with games like Risk
or Axis and Allies
, except here it goes into a little more detail. The second part comprises of real-time battlefield strategy.
The turn-based part of the game allows you to build armies, structures, and other special units, and to engage in activities that will hopefully further your mission for total domination. These activities are not limited to mindless violence. Sure, a well placed assassination could bring an entire empire crumbling to the ground, but these methods are risky and usually don't work, leaving you in a worse position than when you started. Instead, diplomacy plays a huge role in Medieval, allowing you to form alliances that could last for centuries.
There are a couple of different ways to form an alliance here. Sending a diplomat to speak to another faction could result in a fruitful relationship, but many of these are short lived. A more secure alliance will come in the form of marriage. Marrying one of your royal princesses to a foreign prince (or vice versa) can put a watertight seal on almost any alliance.
Medieval: Total War takes place from around 1000 AD to about 1300 AD. As with any political struggles, religion has to get into the mix and in the medieval ages, it played an even bigger role than it does now. Depending on the religious orientation of your faction, you will have a number of options. Crusades and Jihads can be sprung on almost anybody at any time, providing you have enough money to fund the expedition. Sending your religious dignitaries into other provinces can incite religious uprisings, weakening it from the inside, allowing for an easier invasion. Their new leader, you, will also happen to be on the side of their dominant religion, which will make them like you right off the bat.
If none of this catches your fancy, and you have a hankering for blood, then you could just build mass armies and send them out to rape and pillage the land. Far from the easiest path, this method is probably the most rewarding. Maybe not politically, economically, or spiritually rewarding, but it is a whole lot of fun. This brings us to the second part of the game: battles. These take place real time on a fully 3D field, which will vary in topography from each locale. Whether you're attacking or defending, your goal is to crush or rout your enemy from the battlefield.
Along with a stand alone Single player mode, there are also quick battles, historical battles and campaigns, and the ever-popular Multiplayer mode. Here, 8 players can battle it out over a LAN or 4 players can fight over the Internet. All the same options are available here as there are in the single player battle modes, but the prospect of fighting against human opponents is always far more enticing.