It's been some six months since news that the Total War family was soon to have a fourth arrival broke, but with The Creative Assembly's Ian Roxburgh and Mark Sutherns in the mood to extol the virtues of their game, it's immediately apparent that they're keen to spill enough Medieval II beans to cover almost three pieces of toast.
"Everything is bigger and better than Rome," says Roxburgh as he begins his presentation. "The battles have double the polygons, each troop is unique and there are numerous combat variations with thrusts, parries and fatality moves. We've also doubled the textures on the campaign map, and there are twice as many voiceovers and sound effects. We've even ensured that each nation has the correct accent."
SHOUT IT OUT
Roxburgh zooms into the campaign map, which radiates a refined clarity and depth of detail when compared to Rome's world-view. But the strategic map's enhancements run far deeper than cosmetics. "We're adding loads of new features," he states. "Click on any faction on the map and it'll give you a voiceover that reflects how it feels towards you. If a nation is amenable to you, they'll greet you, while a hostile nation will be far more aggressive. You'll no longer have to use the Diplomacy screen to find out how a nation feels."
While Total War has been at the forefront of strategic innovation for the best part of six years now, one area that's lacked depth has been diplomacy, a failing that the team are keen to rectify. "We've spent a lot of time improving diplomacy," explains Roxburgh.
"In Medieval II, the AI will not only remember previous dealings you've had with it but your dealings with other factions, too. It'll then base its stance towards you on all of those factors." Another new addition to the strategic map are princesses - pawns that can be used in a variety of underhand ways. Little more than whores in expensive garbs, these harlot diplomats can be prostituted to make alliances with rival factions (through arranged marriages), or sent to seduce enemy generals to your cause.
While we're on the subject of generals... "Each general's personality will have different effects on the battlefield or within cities," adds Roxburgh. "A general's attributes can also change, depending on how they conduct themselves on the battlefield."
Mercilessly slaughter the prisoners you capture during a battle (a feature reprised from the original Medieval) and your general's 'dread' rating will rocket, making enemies fearful on the battlefield and civilians more obedient within cities. And while showing mercy in war may make your generals a target for 'big girly girl' remarks from opposing armies, at least the people will love them should you order them to babysit a settlement. Unless of course they raid the fridge, invite over their girlfriend and leave sticky stains on the sofa, in which case, they could be faced with a revolution.
Also adding to the campaign map's strategic depth are merchants, a group of money-grabbing capitalists whose sole purpose in life is to amass money and resources through any means necessary.
"If you want to delve a little deeper into the economy, you'll be able to move merchants to pockets of resources dotted around the map," reveals Roxburgh. "If allied factions have merchants guarding a resource, you can attempt a hostile takeover and force them off. It's like an economic rivalry that's totally separate to being at war with a faction."
Next up are heretics and witches, heathen wanderers who spread religious doubt throughout your provinces (causing social unrest) and convert impressionable priests to their way of thinking.