My love for Medieval II: Total War has recently been rekindled… for no particular reason. I just woke up one day and so dearly wanted to return to that game. It’s been a blast! I’ve been conquering and crusading and jihading for hours, spending way more time on any session than I do with the modern Total War games. That raises the questions… do we need a new take on Medieval by now?
Medieval II first launched in 2006 and received some expansions the following year, but since then the franchise has been dormant. 2004’s Rome: Total War saw a sequel in 2013, so what gives?
The Total War series of video games has advanced tremendously since the mid-2000s. Modern renditions like Warhammer: Total War and the recent Three Kingdoms: Total War are virtually unrecognizable compared to Rome, Medieval II, and even Shogun II. Their systems have been enhanced for a streamlined experience, dozens of factions exist all with unique mechanics and units, and the scope of the new games is enormous.
A hypothetical Medieval III would be a major upgrade, but would it also be a better game for it? The newer games in the series are undeniably great and expansive, but they got to where they are now by standardizing mechanics and stripping out lots of quirks that didn’t quite work out. Medieval II was a great strategy game, but a lot of its systems were janky and strange. I can’t blame CA for overhauling these mechanics, but I really wouldn’t want to play a Medieval: Total War without them.
The merchants, rogue armies, the extensive personality trait system, there were so many cool ideas in this game that are now sanitized beyond recognition. The mechanics are more functional now, no doubt about it. Leveling up a general and getting to pick his exact traits from an upgrade tree? That’s very standard and good game-design. It gives players control over their characters and lets them make interesting decision.
But how cool was it that you could just have an army without a general, win an amazing battle, and have some ordinary soldier promoted to a man of rank. A soldier you could then foster through future battles while a crappy general elsewhere is stuck governing some Scandinavian town, growing increasingly more discontent and disloyal to your cause with each passing year.
The game’s experimental mechanics combined with the hilarity of its bastardized take on medieval history made it endlessly memorable and endearing. I could ramble for hours about the interesting things that happened to me throughout the game over the years and, even now, each new run through it brings new stories to the table. I play Warhammer: Total War when I want to play a great strategy game. I play Medieval II when I want to be captivated by a strategy game.