The Total War series has created a whole new genre of its own, mixing board game-style turn based strategy on a grand scale with real-time battles using massive armies drawn from the annals of history. The latest incarnation, Medieval 2: Total War is still camping the tail end of many PC sales c 20cc harts, almost an year after release, proving a wide appeal far beyond the usual hardcore gamer. As with the previous Total War games, an expansion was inevitable - enter Medieval 2: Total War Kingdoms.
The gameplay of the Total War series hasn't really changed that much over the years - if you take a look at Shogun: Total War today, and compare it to this expansion pack, all the changes have been evolutionary. Along the way, the graphics moved from sprite-based units to full 3D models, the board game part expanded greatly and the battles grew from simple open ground engagements to all kinds of settings, including full scale sieges with massive fortresses and numerous different siege engines.
A number of different units has also gone through the roof along the years, and today there are so many different unit types, among the dozens of factions available in Medieval 2: Total War, that I'm sure the developers themselves have already lost count. However, under all that evolutionary expansion of the scope of the game, the underlying game concept has stayed true to the original.Real-time battles are all still about matching different units to create favorable engagements, and ensure that all the pieces fit and infantry, missile units and cavalry support each other while breaking up enemy formations.
Kingdoms promotional trailer
The Kingdoms expansion adds four new campaigns - Americas, Britannia, Teutonic and Crusades. Each campaign is actually a separate game; you can choose to install each separately and they launch from separate shortcuts. The expansion adds thirteen new playable factions, well over a hundred new unit types and numerous small twists to tailor the gameplay for each campaign. Several old factions also make a comeback.
On the packaging, the game box also claims "Controllable Reinforcement Armies" as a feature. The AI-controlled reinforcement generals in Medieval 2: Total War tended to mindlessly charge at the front of their armies, causing unfortunate deaths in battle and there was no way to direct them. Technically, now you can control them, but the controllability added is very limited - AI still controls the manoeuvres and all you can do is to set the reinforcement army to aggressive, defensive or stand-off posture. This is an improvement, but far from what people might expect.
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