Shogun Total War was an ambitious project that Creative a*embly managed to pull off with stunning results. It was inevitable that a sequel would appear but it may not be quite what you expected. Instead of heading back to feudal Japan you are thrust into Medieval Europe and the Middle East, a time when ruthless kings ruled their lands with an iron fist.If you’ve been testing your strategy mettle on Shogun since it was released Medieval will throw up no major surprises to the basic game play but you should be more than pleased with the results from the Creative a*embly team. The game is split into two game modes, the more RISK turn-based strategy segment where your decisions will shape history (hopefully) and the 3D real time battles. The beauty of Medieval is the game’s versatility allowing fans of the two different strategy genres to dabble in each, or to totally immerse themselves into one or the other.Players play out Medieval during the period of 1087-1453 so there’s plenty of time to pillage conquer and ransack your enemies. The game is essentially divided into 3 time frames, early, middle and late periods of history, each providing a representation of the technologies of the time.PlanningPlaying the single player game will be a rewarding experience as you have the chance to play right through the time period as your selected faction. With such a long time frame covered, the game offers more than its predecessor allowing you to form strong bonds and alliances with your allies. The map mode of the game contains the game’s management functions allowing you to drag units around your regions, build your forces, create trade routes and form alliances. This part of the game looks fantastic and the easy point, click and drag interface makes controlling your lands and armies an absolute doddle.For those who fancy the tyrannical approach, marching your way across the continent you have plenty of opportunities indulge yourself. Send in your troops to wipe out your enemy or employ more cunning tactics, a bit of back stabbing here and there. It’s entirely up to you how you go about achieving your goal of domination.As the game’s timeframe is now longer Kings will come and go and new heirs will take their rightful place on your throne. A new addition is the princesses, which you can of course marry off for personal gain. Pack them off to marry another ruler and you could just secure yourself a new alliance without putting your armies at risk. Oh, and while your new friends are off-guard, glowing with self satisfaction at securing your good self as an ally, send in an invasion force (if you think you can taken him). Ultimate Medieval b*****:)The game features a variety of factions and nations. The sides are split into regions each featuring their own unique weaponry. You’ll be familiar with the more standard northern European armies such as the English but the developers have added some more unusual sides, especially the Islamic-based nations such as Egypt with their weird and wonderful weapons ideally suited for desert warfare.Players also need to tech-up by building certain buildings, which will give access to more advanced weaponry. Siege weaponry, stronger cavalry, and better infantry all become available as you advance historically and up through the tech tree.The 3D BattlesSo we’re onto the part that most gamers will identify with, the 3D battles. In the single player you can choose whether to actually play out these battles or let the computer decide the outcome. This is so those who prefer the more RISK turn-based style of game play don’t have to get involved with moving armies around a battlefield or laying siege to fortresses. To be honest you’d have to be mad not to at least give it a go.Shogun was impressive, no doubt about that, and Medieval lives up to its predecessor’s quality even if it doesn’t take great leaps ahead. One of the main goals of Creative a*embly was to make the game as easily accessible to as many people as possible and they’ve done this my keeping the interface similar to Shogun and also by incorporating many popular Windows key shortcuts, everything would be second nature.What’s so great about Medieval is the attention to detail. Each area of Europe and the Middle East have their own unique landscapes and weather conditions that your armies have to adapt to. At the start of battles you get a short weather report and it’s up to you whether you decide to brave the elements and attack or hold off until there are more agreeable weather conditions.The battlefields look great with the rolling terrain, buildings and even rivers. With the ability to move around the battle areas, using a combination of mouse and keyboard, you get a really good feel for the scale of the battles. The 3D RTS segment of Medieval is all about the battle strategy and it’s simple enough to move your formations of troops by clicking where you want them to go and even what formation you want them to stand in. Once you have them positioned you decide how to approach the battle. This is where unit balancing comes into play. Creative a*embly has obviously worked hard at getting this just right based on the historical unit types. For example it’s pointless sending in your cavalry against Pike Men, they just get mashed and likewise against a group of archers. Think hard before making contact is the key.Once you actually engage the enemy the level of detail in the battles is comparable to Shogun but there’s no huge advancement in this area and that was a little disappointing.With so many troops on the battlefield it can be hard to see exactly how well you’re doing. In the top left of the screen is a bar that indicates which side is dominating the battle at that time. There’s also a top down ‘radar view’, which can be expanded by dragging the corners over the play area, handy for tracking down fleeing troops, enemy or yours (with low moral).Battles can be won or lost depending on troops moral, you don’t want them running way like a bunch of pansies so you need to make sure your generals are doing their job and keep the lads happy in their work. A useless commander can be a liability so why not bump him off if he’s just not working out, at least that way you don’t have to pay redundancy money;)SiegeSiege warfare returns but on a much grander scale. Castles and fortresses are now larger and more complex than Shogun’s. Your siege weaponry, which includes such classics as the ballista and trebuchet, can attack walls, towers and defenses with ease. a*uming the enemy’s moral is still in tact they’ll try and stop your siege weaponry but if you’ve managed dishearten the enemy troops resistance should not be too much of a problem. Break the gates, smash the walls, topple towers and you’re in. The only thing left to do is remove the remaining forces within the castle walls. The siege battles are superb to watch and a real plus point to the 3D RTS gameplay.SoundAs far as the game’s sound goes it’s spot on. The music is just superb, with ambient medieval music and monastic choirs belting out tunes if you‘re playing the European nations or Eastern tracks if you decide to play the Middle Eastern nations.The sound effects are also in keeping with the game’s style and period. As your forces meet the enemy you can hear the clash of steel and screams.MultiplayerThe Campaign mode is only available in single player so the multiplayer is made up of the actual 3D battles. We tried to get on Gamespy which is the official service but ended up giving up after about 20 minutes, it was a painstaking process of registering this and that and then we finally were told our CD was invalid so that was 20 minutes down the pan. It would have been nice if a simpler system had been employed instead of the clunky Gamespy system. LAN was the next option and we managed to get a game up no problem.Back to Battle.Before I head back into battle, I better wrap this one up. Medieval Total War is just one superb game that no strategy fan should be without. It will suit any type of strategy gamer whether you love turn-based or real time. The game is just so simple to get to grips with and Creative a*embly has proved that an in-depth strategy experience can be versatile and rewarding. Medieval Total War is an essential purchase.