Developer: Creative Assembly
Release Date: August 28, 2007
Expansion packs have become important assets to the game industry, especially for strategy games. It seems as if all the solid and well-developed strategy titles end up with an expansion pack or two in honor of its success, and Medieval II: Total War is no different. Some sub-par expansion packs try to ride on the coattails of the original title's success and are not even worth the reduced price of an expansion pack. The Medieval II: Total War Kingdoms expansion, however, takes a great strategy game and adds some impressive content to make it one of the best.
At first, I was a bit disgruntled with Medieval II Total War Kingdoms. Installing the game took quite a bit of time, since the total size is 4GB. It's rare to see a full game that size, let alone an expansion pack! A nice feature the developers added to help with the size of the game is the ability to install and uninstall the four campaigns of the game on an as-needed basis. This should be very useful for players with smaller hard drives who do not have much space to spare.
Yes, that's right: four campaigns. The original Medieval II: Total War had one grand campaign, where you chose your faction and played through the game as a different faction each time. In Medieval II: Total War Kingdoms, each of the four campaigns represents a different era in world history: The Americas, Britannia, The Crusades and The Teutonic War. Each of these campaigns introduces new factions, units, buildings and intense diplomatic relations.
I'm a huge fan of the Crusades, so it was undoubtedly the first campaign I jumped into. This campaign features five playable factions — Antioch, Byzantium, Egyptians, Jerusalem and Turks — and multiple non-playable enemy factions. The campaign focuses on the war for the holy lands in 1174, just before the start of the Third Crusade between the kingdoms of Antioch and Jerusalem against the Egyptian and Turkish factions, as well as the unplayable faction of Arabs.
Events throughout the campaign tie in with historical events for accuracy, and if you're wondering what the non-playable enemy factions are, you won't be let down. As time goes on, Mongols will pillage and ravage the lands, which can cause quite a disaster depending on the faction you chose, though some non-playable factions, like England and France, will also be adversely affected. Each faction has a unique hero with a special ability that will aid the side in battle. For example, Egypt has the hero unit of Salah al-Din, leader of the Muslim army. His ability will boost the morale of nearby allies to full, which provides better offense and defense on the battlefield.
The second campaign I tried was The Americas. Fans of the original Medieval II: Total War will remember the Americas pretty vividly, although not much in detail. At the end of a grand campaign in Medieval II: Total War, technological advancements allowed you to sail west to the Americas and fight the Indians for their land. However, it was somewhat short-lived because only a small fraction of the Americas was explorable. This campaign, however, focuses on the exploration and war over the Americas. Playable factions include the Apache Tribe, the Aztecs and Mayans, Spain and a few unlockable native tribes, and the campaign's non-playable factions are the English and French colonies.
The campaign is pretty interesting because as new European troops land in the Americas, you have the ability to annihilate them before they have a chance to colonize. Failure to do so, however, will result in a large fight as they continue to bring over troops and advance through the country. My personal favorite faction is the Apache because they're a fast-growing and swift-moving bunch. They also have an interesting ability to learn the technology of the opponents they're fighting, so while other native tribes are forced to rely on bows and arrows, as Apache, you could learn how to use gun powder after attacking New Spain.
The Teutonic campaign is also very interesting and centers on the fight between the Teutonic Order and Lithuania, or Christianity versus paganism. The Teutonic Order is a barbaric army that not only seeks to destroy Lithuania, but also any other countries opposing their will. With the ability to play as the Teutonic Order or any of the three countries under severe threat from it, this campaign proves to be either very easy or insanely difficult. The order's recruiting policies are unexpected; rather than being able to recruit anywhere based on technology level, the order can only recruit in heavy Catholic areas. A high percentage of Catholic influence can prove to be useful for recruiting strong units.
The fourth and final campaign was the Britannia campaign, which is all about England's attempt to regain control of the British Isles, while Ireland, Scotland and Wales defend against England to keep their kingdoms safe. This campaign, while it doesn't have any unique or exciting new features, is very intense and keeps you on your toes. England is large and spread out, making it difficult to focus an army in one position for offense or defense, and within England's borders, an alliance of barons is constantly rebelling against you, causing times to be even more tedious than they should be.
Graphically, Medieval II: Total War Kingdoms is the same as its required standalone game, Medieval II: Total War. The game looks beautiful but does not bog down your computer's resources. Perhaps one of the coolest graphical features in Total War, which carried over into the expansion, is that each soldier in your army — no matter how small or large — has a uniquely rendered face model. It adds a sense of personalization with each of your units.
Medieval II: Total War Kingdoms still treks along with epic music and intense sword-clashing and arrow-flying sound effects, and it also boasts one of the best medieval-style soundtracks. Along with great audio, the video cinematics and clips for specific in-game events are simply beautiful, streaming real-time on the screen while you're still playing the game.
Overall, Medieval II: Total War Kingdoms is a great expansion pack, and it's the standard to which all other expansions should hold themselves. It's always difficult to review an expansion because do you compare it to other expansion packs or every game in general? Anyone who owns Medieval II: Total War should certainly purchase Kingdoms, and if you don't own the original but are looking for an exciting, well-designed strategy game with hours and hours of replay value, look into purchasing Medieval II: Total War and its Kingdoms expansion.
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