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4 Reviews

Medieval II: Total War - Kingdoms

Martin Korda takes out his frustrations, medieval-style

Apparently, I'm sexually frustrated. That's if you believe the theory of some of the PC ZONE full-time staffers who, so rumour has it, analyse a Korda Total War review like Freud would have scrutinised a patient who inadvertently blurted out, "I want to have sex with my daddy's sister!" in the middle of a lengthy psychotherapy session.

Words such as 'thrusting' and 'pounding' - used by this reviewer to describe scenes of brutality within the series - are apparently signals that I'm not getting any of the good stuff. Well, as much as I refute these groundless allegations, this analysis may - for once - be rooted in some truth.

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Why? Because Kingdoms, Medieval II: Total War's first expansion is immense and has taken up pretty much every waking moment of the past week. It's an RTS add-on pack unlike any I've ever seen before, one that shames, nay, utterly humiliates (bondage reference?) many standalone games with its sheer depth (a bit too obscure?) and wealth of options.

IT'S SO BIG!
Nestling inside (oo-er, missus) this package is not one, not two, not three, but four
full campaigns bursting (surely that one counts?) with content. That's around 50 hours of gameplay if you want to get numerical about it. And that's if you decide to only play through each campaign once.

As you can see, we've got plenty to cover, so let's wade straight in and find out whether Kingdoms' content can stack up to its unarguable girth (how about that one?)...

One of the criticisms levelled at the original game was that the Aztec sections were a positive letdown. If you were one of the people disappointed by this somewhat threadbare tail-end bonus, then you'll be champing at the proverbial bit in order to free your teeth so that you can sink them into Kingdoms' beefy Americas campaign.

Taking charge of either the Spanish conquistadors or one of three local tribes (Aztecs, Mayans or Apacheans), you must attempt to seize control of the resource-rich realm of South America.

The obvious choice is to opt for the Spanish, but while this may give you a sizeable technological advantage over the lightly armoured locals, you'll quickly find that expanding on your meagre starting foothold is more than a moderate challenge.

The campaign's early stages bear more than a passing resemblance to Rome's Alexander expansion, forcing you to rely heavily on local mercenaries while you wait for Spanish armies to be ferried across the sea.

However, it's on the battlefield that you'll come up against your greatest challenge. While the New Worlders (as they like to call themselves) may be armed with sharpened matchsticks, their sheer weight of numbers means they can easily envelope your smaller armies and totally outmanoeuvre a complacent general.

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However, you'll find that the campaign's latter stages (if you play as Spain) become a little too easy once you've got adequate heavy-duty units at your disposal and you've realised that your best bet is to sit back, wait for the neighbour-hating natives to soften each other up, then move in for the kill.

Controlling one of the three native tribes brings a whole new set of challenges. Not only do you have to contend with the Spanish invasion - later added to by the French and the British - you also have to fend off rival tribes, while appeasing your gods with sacrifices.

UNCAPED CRUSADER
Onto the Crusades campaign then, in which you command one of the five dominant factions scattered throughout the Holy Land in a bid to unify it. Of course, you'll also have to contend with those pesky European Crusades that crash against your walls like waves of steel on an irritatingly regular basis.

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