Medieval II: Total War is the second medieval-era based strategy game in the Total War franchise from The Creative Assembly, and is the indirect sequel to the original Medieval: Total War. Like its predecessor, the game combines turn-based strategy and real-time tactical elements, including a mixture of European medieval economic, military and religious gameplay aspects, with an overall goal of ending the game with the largest, wealthiest and most successful empire. The timeline of the game stretches from the middle of William I’s reign (1080 AD) until the middle of the 16 Century (1530 AD), encompassing the discovery and subsequent conquest of the New World. Initially, there are only five playable factions: England, France, Spain, The Holy Roman Empire, and Venice. You can unlock a faction by destroying it on the Campaign map or you can unlock all the playable factions by beating the Grand Campaign. The game consists of two main modes of play; The campaign mode, an overarching single-player campaign (viewed through an overhead map of the known world), it consists of a long campaign which requires you to control a designated city and 50 other cities. A short campaign that requires the player to defeat certain factions and holding 15 cities. The other mode is the battle mode. The battles are played as a real-time tactical battles that can be fought in either the campaign mode, user-created scenarios, various historical conflicts and also through multiplayer.
There are five religions in Medieval II: Catholicism, Islam, Orthodox Christianity, Heretic, and Pagan. Your religion is dictated by the faction you choose to play as, you cannot change your religion. Your religion helps determine your relations with other factions as well as the public order in your territories. Only Catholicism, Islam, and Orthodox Christianity are playable in Medieval II. Religion is spread by agent units called Priests for Christian factions or Imams for Muslim factions. You can use your religious agents to increase your religion in your territories or send them into opponents' territories to cause civil unrest there.
Depending on your religion, you may be asked to go on a holy war against a city, or may have one declared against you. Catholics are asked to join a Crusade by the Pope against a specific city of an enemy of the Pope. You can request a crusade against a specific city if the Pope favors you. Muslim factions can declare a Jihad, which works in the same way except that you can only declare them when one of your Imams who has reached a high enough level of piety. Orthodox factions have no holy war function.
In addition of being called on to join crusades/ being the target of crusades, Catholic nations may also answer to inquisitions. This occurs if the player fails to maintain a healthy percentage of Catholicism within his borders. Inquisitors are NPCs on the world map that will put generals and priests on trial. If they aren't pious (or lucky) enough, then they are executed for heresy. It is advised to build churches as the first public order building so that religious unrest does not cripple further development.
Unlike the older Total War games in the series, Medieval 2 differentiates itself by having two types of settlements instead of one generic settlement or the jack of all trades settlement. These two are the Town (later City) and the Castle (later upgraded to Citadel). Cities are the main economic centers of your kingdom in M2TW. While Cities can only produce weak militia units for their own defense, they generate money MUCH faster then Castles. On the flip side, Castles are the rarer military centers of your kingdom. While they produce much less gold then Cities, Castles have all the crossbows,knights, etc. that any Medieval Lord worth his salt wants in his armies. Castles also have much better and more numerous defenses than the rather vulnerable Cities. While these additions may seem rather bare, it adds a surprisingly tactical feel to your actions.
Generally, a good King/Queen would place Cities near the middle of their kingdoms, safe from harm and annoyance. On the flipside, Castles should be placed near the frontlines so that they can protect your borders and provide fresh troops quickly and efficiently. An interesting point is that both settlements can be converted to the other at a substantial cost of coins. This means that Castles no longer on the front can be transformed into money making cities and vise-versa. While these tactics may be overlooked by some arrogant players, having a well placed infrastructure could mean the difference between world domination and total destruction of your kingdom.
There are additional strategies for establishing your empire. Building Castles takes time and money, so ti is often advised to keep the more advance ones by the coastline where troops can be ferried long distances. As your empire expands traditional roads and militia won't be enough to defend your cities, so a strong military carried by a strong navy will be vital to ensuring your dominance.
An additional strategy would be to keep castles only at 'choke holds' where natural barriers make it impossible for enemies to flank your fortifications. As the cost of buildings increase with expansion, it will be almost mandatory for the player to be frugal. Sporting fortresses where they are both defendable and able to come to the aid of nearby cities is advised. The danger of this is that an unfortified Castle will easily be conquered and the tide will turn against the player if he is not lucky.
The World Map expands most of Europe, and is divided into many conquerable regions. These regions can be improved via roads, better barracks, farmlands, etc. The Map excludes the majority of Scandinavia,
includes North Africa, and the Middle East. The map includes some regions of the Americas, such as bits of North America, Mexico, and Brazil (these must be discovered late game). The map cycles between summer and winter.
It is here that they player will do all the managerial aspects of being a leader. He will train units and agents, build buildings, order armies around, agree to marriages, diplomatic agreements and agree to guild constructions. He will decide taxes, maintain public order, and watch his cities grow from this map.
Most of the map not revealed by spies or military is covered in a fog of war. At the start of a new campaign, the player must use diplomacy and exploration to discover new settlements to conquer. There are many factionless rebel settlements at the beginning, but it is advised to start with neighboring factions in order to eliminate immediate competition (Spain should attack France, Moors or Portugal for example). The player can use generals to build towers on the map to permanently reveal the fog of war in his region, as well as construct forts for temporary protection.
The map has many logical rules for unit traversal. Agents and armies can't cross rivers without bridges, travel by sea without ships and are limited by their movement per turn. Settlements dot the map, and can be as close to each other as a turn away (the Middle East) or require the player to o thorough searching to find (Eastern Europe and the Americas)
Through out the game numerous time-appropriate occurrences happen. Several are critical to the gameplay and will be noted here.
After anywhere from 40 to 80 turns, the mongol invasion will occur. Vast Armies of Mongols (Islam) that capitalize on Calvary will appear on one of three parts of the Eastern portion of the map. Before settling for good, they will attack and exterminate nearby cities with wanton disregard. If the player encounters them, spears and archers should be stacked into every eastern settlement. It will by no means stop the invasion, but will slow it enough for the player to endure.
Plagues are a natural part of a society with little emphasis on health or sanitation, but eventually the most notorious plague in history will strike. It will kill citizens, soldiers and agents on the map by the thousands. While it will never threaten the player's faction to the point of unfairly losing the game, it will become a major hindrance for a long while and hamper growth. Unlike other plagues in game it cannot be quarantined and must merely be endured till its end. It is normally a mid-game occurrence.
Gunpowder becomes available mid-game and will unlock many mid game units to the player (including canons). Periodic units are the closest thing to research and technology the player has access to outside of buildings. In the late game several factions will have access to gunpowder units (a factor that will benefit several factions and hamper many others). Canons, however, are the most consistent and useful effect of gunpowder, as they offer a much more effective siege weapon. Gunpowder units require special buildings to make.
Similar to the Mongols, but much later in game, the Timurid invasion will add another wave of Eastern attackers to Western civilization. Timurids carry war elephants and canons, making them more dangerous than the Mongols (a difficult feat). They will also begin settling and acting as a faction after a brief period of pillaging.
Late in the game, and with significant naval development, the player can discover the Americas. By this time the player should have a sizable nation, but the America's offer a great deal of riches in trade and the conquest of the Aztecs. Only the most eastern part of the Americas is available for exploration and conquest, but this segment is so rich in expensive commodities and gold that it can quickly fund an invasion force. Note that this is one of the few (only) occurrences that happen due to the player's actions and not the game's.
Diplomacy is handled with diplomats or princesses. Through diplomacy you allow trade between two empires, make demands for(or offer tribute of) money, acquire map information (the easiest way to reveal fog of war, and form military alliances. After forming an alliance, you can ask for military access, allowing your troops to march through an empires lands without consequence. The effectiveness of a diplomat is based on his diplomacy ranking. It is important to note that diplomats are available for training in a settlement once an administrative building has been constructed.
Princesses are capable of diplomacy (measured by their charm ranking), but are not trained like other agents. Once spawned, a princess is typically married to a general to secure peace between the player and a neutral faction, or married to a general within the player's faction to continue the bloodline of the royalty. Since all nations in the game are monarchies, it is important to keep a strong bloodline for the royal family. If all members of a royal family are killed/die of natural causes, then that faction is eliminated.
Cloak and Dagger tactics are necessary when planning for an invasion, and are also useful in foiling one. When the player builds brothels, taverns and pleasure palaces, he gain access to two espionage units: the assassin and the spy.
Spies are the eyes and ears of the empire. They are arguably the most important part any war, and yet they never engage in combat. The primary use of a spy is to infiltrate enemy settlements to gain useful information on opponents. They can also spy on enemy agents and armies. Infiltrating a settlement can be dangerous and if caught the spy will be executed; if the player only needs unit counts or is exploring then it is advised not to put a spy in harms way and should just leave him outside cities. Finally, when a spy has infiltrated an enemy settlement, there is a chance that he can unlock the gates for the player's forces.
Once inside and enemy settlement, the spy also produces propaganda that stirs up unrest. If a player's settlement is beginning to riot for no apparent reason, a spy is involved. Spys provide foreknowledge for armies that without would have led to devastating defeats for the player. Defensively, spies in the player's territory and armies can detect enemy agents, providing counter intelligence that can let the player know an invasion is imminent.
Assassins are used to remove agents and generals causing problems for a player. If a general, religious figure, inquisitor, heretic, merchant, spy, diplomat or any other foe cannot be removed by conventional means then an assassin can quietly eliminate him. Assassins are also useful for eliminating generals and agents before an invasion by the player, as well as keeping order in a quiet manner. Caution is advised, however, when employing assassins. Using assassins raises a leader's dread rating, and if the assassin is killed while in mission the opposing faction will know it was the player.
The last service an assassin provides is sabotage. An assassin is capable of destroying or damaging nearly and building in a settlement. This can give the player a needed advantage by hampering production, increasing unrest or otherwise denying opponents the benefits the structure offered.
Trade is one of the two primary means of income for any nation. As a nation's army expands, so does the cost to support it. Investing in the economy of a nation can be beneficial to the war efforts.
Expanding trade is done by two ways: building infrastructures and training merchants. Roads, markets, ports and faction specific buildings help increase the trade of a city. As a city grows, the revenue it generates increase. While internal trading is beneficial, trading with neighbors can be vital in both a diplomatic and economical sense. Roads are the easiest construction and also allow units to move more quickly on the map (and cannot be destroyed). Ports allow for naval trade as well as a navy, which will help as the players nation expands. Markets aid the local economy, and as they expand they greatly increase the revenue provided.
Farming, while not directly related to trade, is worth mentioning nonetheless. Farms are a permanent building that can be expanded several times. In addition to offering increased revenue, they allow for a greater capacity of citizens to live in a settlement and increase its growth. Farms can be expensive and time-consuming, but for player to expand farms must be invested heavily in.
In addition to buildings and farms, merchants offer a small but beneficial source of revenue. Once trained, the merchant can be sent to one of the various resources located on the world map. There, he begins generating revenue by trading that resource. Resources are based on the region, and can vary in goods from slaves to wine. The money gained from the resources can be anywhere from 6 to 400 florins per turn (with a cost of 500 and a usually long lifetime, merchants offer great long-term revenue).
Merchants, however, must be protected. Other merchants can engage in ruining their business (eliminating them) and if they player is unable to keep opponents from ruining his mercantile system then the cost of merchants will quickly exceed the revenue. On the flip side, if an inexperienced enemy merchant is detected trading a valuable resource, it is advised that the player use his merchants to drive him under, gaining a modest amount of money and the resource itself in the process.
War is by far the most used and necessary part of expansion. Units range in skill and weapons from peasants with pitch-forks to elite knights on horseback. Despite all other mechanics, a player is only successful if he is capable utilizing his military.
Since settlements are the most crucial part of any region, most battles can be expected to be fought in or near them. As cities and castles grow larger and more intimidating walls can be erected, encouraging great armies to test their might against them. Invading armies must overcome all walls, towers and defenders with siege engines and powerful units. All the while, defenders must use every resource available to withstand invasions, fight of sieges, and eventually establish a counter offensive.
All battles the player chooses to engage in (if he does not auto-resolve or retreat from the engagement) are fought on a battle map. Maps are incredibly diverse, and can feature buildings, rivers, mountains, hills, weather and other factors than can effect the ultimate outcome of the battle.
No matter the variables or what side the player is on, his ultimate goal will always be the same. He must route every unit the opponent has in the battle. Routing is when the enemy retreats due to broken morale (from excessive casualties or fear), fatigue, the death/retreat of his general, or because of strategic reasons. Factors can greatly affect units (the less disciplined the greater the detriment). Making units run too much or fight too long will tire them out and break their will. The death of a general can swing the tide of a battle against an opponent. Stronger units will fight on even with excessive casualties, but if multiple units begin to rout then it can snowball into half the army.
When a battle is over, the units that survive gain experience and continue on. If the player has lost the battle and a great deal of his units then the army may be completely destroyed. Heavily damaged units will have to be retrained at a settlement that can readily re-quip them (it is recommended to do so quickly, as veteran units are valuable commodities).
If the player has won he will almost certainly have prisoners and must decided both their fate and the fate of the settlement if one has been captured. A morality system comes into play during these times. The general in command can gain chivalry by releasing prisoners of war and occupying settlements (increased resistance for greater morality), greedily ransom enemies for money and sack cities for gold (more deaths than chivalry, but the most lucrative approach), or brutally execute prisoners and exterminate citizens to pacify them. Depending on how a general behaves through his life, he will increase in either chivalry or dread, which will effect certain characteristics he obtains. Because of this, his gaining traits though his experience and the necessity to preserve the royal bloodline, it is advised that the player take care of all of his generals.
In addition to fighting factions, the player can also engage in the occasional rebel. Rebels roam the world map, and if left unchecked cities can rebel. Killing these armies with a generalless army provides an opportunity to gain a new general by promoting the captain of the army (never trained, just is apart of lone armies).