Very hard game to review...
Medieval II: Total War is the fourth game (not including expansions) in the Total War series, The first three were one of a kind for its time period, it was unheard of controlling massive armies in one single map, and controlling vast empires to world domination. Now the Creative Assembly has raised the bar yet again with improved graphics, bigger battles and larger castles to destory (or defend).
The game takes place between 1000AD and the discovery of The New World, about 1500AD. Yes this means you are able to actually be the first nation to discover the new world and fight against the Mayan Empire for control. This is but a small feature to the new and vast game of Medieval II: Total War. All of the Crusades, Missions from the Pope himself and fights you will be having against your top rival nations will make you forget about this "New World".
The Crusades are not necessarily a new thing in the series, but it is improved slightly. You now receive special Crusader infantry as mercenaries, Varying from mighty Knights Templar to lowly religious fanatics. Due to this, You have a higher chance of units abandoning the Crusade. If a crusade drags on too long, solders will desert the army. this makes it even harder to have a successful Crusade as a lot of the factions you are Crusading against are on the other side of the map.
Another not-so-new feature is the Pope, He acts like the Senate did in Rome: Total war, He gives out missions to you for money, Units and sometimes just a blessing. If you do not like your Pope, You may train a Priest in one of your cities, He may rise through the ranks and become a cardinal, then maybe, if he is holy enough, He may become a Pope. This will give your faction a free ride for a short while so conquer as much as you can.
The "Grand Campaign" as they call is is a vast game, You choose one of 5 factions, England, France, Holy Roman Empire, Spain and Venice, As you progress, You are able to unlock other factions to play as depending on who you Conquer. In my first run through, I picked England due to their simplicity and archers, Every faction has their own strength and weaknesses so choose a faction based on your playing style. That being said, Every faction also has their own playing style, Due to their starting locations The enemies you will be facing will vary from faction to faction. As England, I had to fight France and Spain for control over land. An additional feature to the Campaign is the ability to change a city into a castle, Castles allow for stronger unit types and have greater defences, The only down side is it has a fixed tax rate and limited income, So they are best placed in places near your Enemy.
If you do not wish to start a whole new Campaign and all you want to do is fight a battle, the game also has other game types. Custom Battle, Historical Battle and Quick battle. Custom battle allows you to fully customize a battle to whatever conditions you want, This is a particularly fun feature. Historical battle allows you to choose from a variety of pre-set historically accurate battles along with a brief intro. Quick Battle randomly generates a faction and an army for you to battle. Although the unit A.I on the Battle map, may be a bit lacking, It still allows for a very fun game play and visual experience.
Overall this is the best Total war game to come out this year, I could not give it a 9.0 due to the lack of A.I in the game but the game is still a game i will be playing until the new Empire: Total War game comes out. Even though the A.I can be lacking at times, The hard difficulty setting can challenge even the most experienced RTS players. I would recommend this game to anyone looking for a solid RTS game and an overall fun experience. Like i said, this was a very hard game to review due to the sheer size of the game, it almost seems like a dozen games in one. It is worth the 30 bucks its at right now.