Mark Marrow
12 Nov, 2006

Making History - Medieval II: Total War

PC Feature | We take a look at the historical aspects of the upcoming strategy title.
One thing that The Creative Assembly are relying on with the release of Medieval II: Total War is satisfying the historic needs and expectations of fans and history wiz kids. The game will feature 450years worth of war and history (spanning from 1080 to 1530), and will feature such historic battles as the Battle of Pavia and the Battle of Agincourt.

Rather than being a case of tacking on a regenerated story that is well known, Medieval II: Total War extends beyond the ordinary by catering all aspects of detail including soldiers, armour, weapons and even tactics; the only thing that’s lacking is the smell of blood as it gushes from a Roman soldier after a gruesome impaling to the gut from an old, rusty sword.

Retelling: The Battle of Hastings

Probably the most well known battle is the decisive battle against the Normans and the Saxons on October 14, 1066, which is now known as the Battle of Hastings. After King Harold II had claimed the throne of England earlier in that year, Duke William had grown disgust for the leader, believing the England throne was rightfully his instead of Harold’s. And as any sane person would do, the two would fight for what they believed was theirs.

Harold’s army consisted entirely of infantry, armed to the bone with swords, spears and axes; and protected by chainmail and long shields to deflect enemy arrows. Meanwhile, Duke William had formed a large army consisting of archers, cavalry and swordsmen; where he had deployed his army below the Saxon's position.

The Saxon army had the early deployment advantage, by being positioned on a hilltop that would make firing arrows onto them more difficult and tire incoming forces. The Saxons also position themselves using the ‘shield wall’ tactic, which protected all of the soldiers (where they would overlap each other's shield) and also provided a decisive advantage against opponents who came in contact with the shield wall – the weaknesses of the Normans were exposed early on, meaning their archers were virtually useless.

However, William had used a cunning tactic where he’d ‘fake’ a retreat with his cavalry that would confuse the Saxon soldiers to pursue them, but only to be reengaged again on flatter ground. This worked well since the cavalry would hit the flanks of the Saxons, which would slowly break away their shield wall, and ultimately exposing their entire army. Once pulling the Saxon soldiers onto a flat surface, the Norman cavalry charged and slaughtered them.

This tactic was repeatedly used throughout the battle, slowly depleting the Saxon defences, and destroying their shield wall. The Norman forces then continued to fire upon the Saxon army, where their arrows were more successful due to the shield wall being broken. The remaining forces then charged and slaughtered Harold and his army to claim victory.

This fantastic battle relays back into the game, protraying the amazing battle of superior tactics. The Creative Assembly has done its utmost in providing a similar battle in Medieval II: Total War, allowing gamers to replay this battle as they command the Norman army to victory, or to defeat if you stray too far from the original plan.

The historic battle begins with gamers issuing out orders identical to those of the battle itself. You begin the battle by sending your archers forward; firing upward to the hill, which proves ineffective. After realising that your infantry is also ineffective in penetrating the Saxon shield wall, you will be prompted to order your cavalry to hit the Saxons from the flanks, much like the actual battle. As you draw your cavalry closer to their flanks, you can wheel your units around (pretending to flee) and reengage them on flatter ground. By following this tactic, your army succeeds in claiming the English ground with relative ease, allowing you to feel the intensity that William himself had felt during the historical battle; and the strategy required in claiming such a victory. Sure, you can face the enemy head on, but you’ll quickly notice that Harold’s originally intended plan will succeed, with the shield wall depleting your units fairly easily and quickly.

This is one of the greater historical aspects of Medieval II: Total War. The historical battles that are available in the game’s single battle mode allows you to incorporate similar tactics and command identical troops from the real-life battle into the virtual battlefield of Medieval II.

The incredible depth of history is a unique feature of Medieval II: Total War, and is likely to go down as one of the more accurate experiences available - where the game will cover the battles throughout the game’s eras. This sheer brilliance and care also reflects onto other key areas of the game, including the campaign.

The Pope and the New World

As you venture through the deep campaign mode that is readily available for you, you’ll open up another aspect of the game’s historic depth, understanding the importance of the Pope in European countries and the discovery of the Americans.

The Pope plays a demanding factor in the overall campaign, requiring you to show your allegiance by building churches and waging war in the name of Christ to forbid the sinners. You can also make things work in your favour, as you can elect a priest from your nation into being the Pope, giving you a larger realisation of the power that the Pope had during these times.

While there is some obvious flexibility to allow gamers to explore the world as they please – rather than been restricted to pre-existing knowledge – players will find that they’ll live the lives of their nation as they witness the birth of historic leaders, withstand enemy invasions and venture off into the New World. Throughout the eras, your army will change just as technology changes: from leather to metal, and the evolution of units.

To add to this, Medieval II: Total War has taken absolute care with providing detail all the way down to the game’s animation. By working closely with re-enactment companies such as ‘Knight Fight’, The Creative Assembly were able to provide historical accuracy with weapons, armour, movement and techniques of all of the soldiers featured in the game. For instance, if a soldier is speared in the leg they’ll fall realistically, rather than simply rolling over. Also, units will swing, dodge and parry attacks realistically, making the battles feel much more believable. Units will also have awareness of surrounding units, frantically switching between targets constantly.

Blood will spill, and soldiers will cry – it’s all in the name of making the most authentic experience available. History is but a small aspect of Medieval II: Total War, but if it’s something that you have been dying to know about, hopefully this feature has eased your mind. Medieval II: Total War will be hitting Australian stores on November 16, and will mark the return of the brilliant Total War series - expect to see our full review within the next week.

Related Medieval II: Total War Content

Medieval II: Total War Review
13 Dec, 2006 Totally awesome.
Toose tells all: Makings of Medieval
09 Dec, 2006 We spoke to Dan Toose from Brissy based developer Creative Assembly about his first game, the stunning Medieval II: Total War.
Medieval II coming to Steam
12 Nov, 2006 Waging war on Steam.
7 years ago
This is currently my most anticipated game of the year. But the second image on the article, with the knights, are those cars in the background icon_dumb.gif
But this is looking awesome!!!
7 years ago
The picture is from Knights Fight, the re-enactment agency that was hired for the game. So, no, that pictures isn't taken from the game.

I'll be writing a little bit more about the company - as well as my experiences with the game - in my blog, if anyone's interested.
7 years ago
Man, this is going to be huge.
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