Creative Assembly's Total War series has made a name for itself in recent years because of its unusual combination of turn-based strategic planning and real-time warfare, and also because of its impressively huge battles, which consist of literally thousands of individual soldiers marching, charging, and fighting onscreen at once. Last year's Medieval: Total War let players attempt to seize control of all of Europe and Asia Minor by means of brute force, political intrigue, or both. The developer's next project, the Viking Invasion expansion pack, will expand on Medieval's gameplay with a brand-new campaign, new playable factions, new units, and new ways to plan for war.
As the expansion's name suggests, Viking Invasion will let you play as the bloodthirsty Vikings. In fact, the expansion will have a completely new "era" in which you can play the game, in addition to Medieval's original early, high, and late medieval periods. In the Viking era, you'll fight for control of the English landmass and parts of the Norse territories as one of eight all-new factions: the Welsh, the Vikings, the Irish, the Scots, the Picts, the Northumbrians, the Saxons, or the Mercians. The Viking campaign begins in the late eighth century, during the so-called "Dark Ages" of Europe, and to reflect this fact, religion will play a much smaller role in the new campaign than in later years--the Papacy plays no role in the campaign, nor do Catholic inquisitors. In addition, unlike the other eras, the Viking campaign will not let you achieve victory through glorious achievements in commerce, technology, religion, and diplomacy. Instead, you can win only through military domination.
Many of the Viking campaign's new nations existed in the original Medieval: Total War, but only as provinces of England, not as actual playable factions. All the new factions have their own units and their own technology tree to use in building and developing their countries. The Irish, for example, will be able to recruit bonnachts and dartmen in their home areas, while the Welsh will be able to call up reserves of bandits from their countryside. However, since the Viking era takes place in a much smaller landmass, many of these unique units can be produced only within their home countries. For instance, the Vikings' ferocious berserkers may be recruited only from the Vikings' Nordic homeland, and the proud highlanders of Scotland are available only in Scottish territory. In other words, although Viking-era campaigns will take place within a much more intimate area, if you expand aggressively, you won't be able to immediately recruit your nation's special units in the outlying provinces you conquer.
Then again, if you play as the Vikings, you'll have other special abilities to offset these limitations--and the Vikings' own distant starting position across the sea from England. For instance, since the Vikings were experts at pillaging enemy villages in raids, they will receive a destruction bonus that lets them earn bonus funds whenever they destroy an enemy town. Likewise, thanks to their skilled shipwrights, the Vikings' ships are not only the swiftest on the seas, but they also don't need to be launched from a port structure, so Viking players will be able to get an early start on attacking and plundering enemy territories. What's more, since Vikings don't have to launch their ships from a port, they can quickly jump from enemy settlement to settlement on short-term raids, without having to completely conquer each one to build a port.
A Battle for History
Regardless of which faction you choose to play as, and even regardless of which era you decide to play, the Viking Invasion expansion pack will also add an improved "prebattle" menu to all conflicts you decide to settle on the battlefield. (If you wish, you can still choose to resolve battles automatically, though as in the original Medieval: Total War, you may take heavier losses in these automatically resolved battles than you would have in a battle you commanded yourself.) The improved prebattle menu not only lets you assign specific amounts of money to supply your armies, but it also lets you queue up your starting armies and your reinforcements, and the order in which you place them into the menu determines when they'll arrive on the field. The new system will even assign your reinforcements to the best general available automatically, so your relief forces will be able to gain that general's leadership bonuses the moment they arrive.
While field battles will call for the same sort of intelligent tactics that Total War fans used for Medieval, castle sieges will be more challenging, and more chaotic, thanks to two major additions. Attackers laying siege to a castle will be able to commission flaming catapult missiles, which will wreak havoc on wooden structures. However, defenders will be able to hold off invading infantry with vats of boiling oil, which will be automatically dumped upon attacking soldiers' heads the moment any foolhardy infantry attempt to storm a gatehouse. In the original Medieval, players could sometimes sneak footmen within range of an enemy garrison and begin chiseling away at it--in Viking Invasion, soldiers who try this tactic will encounter a rather nasty surprise.
These new siege features will be available in all four eras, but the expansion will also add a new artillery unit to the early, high, and late eras of the original game: the organ gun. The organ gun will be a fearsome antipersonnel artillery unit that won't be all that effective against castle walls but will be absolutely devastating against enemy infantry and cavalry. The organ gun essentially consists of several large arquebuses (early precursors to the rifle) mounted on the same artillery structure This powerful new weapon will fire extremely damaging salvos that will cut into your enemies' numbers and morale. However, the organ gun will be just one of the many new units that will be added to Medieval's various nations--more than a dozen new types of soldiers will be available to various countries for use in the original game. To name just a few, players who take up the banner of Spain recruit the all-new javelinmen units, players who play as Russia will be able to recruit steppe heavy cavalry, and players who side with Byzantium will be able to add lancers to their armies.
Finally, the Viking Invasion will include a new historical battle--specifically, the Battle of Stamford Bridge, in which the English king, Harold Godwinson, routed the Vikings in 1066. Historically, this battle took place just days before the Battle of Hastings, in which King Harold was himself defeated by William of Normandy.
Viking Invasion's new features and additions should keep the original game fresh and interesting, and even devoted Medieval fans who have played the original game to death should find some interesting new territory in the all-new Viking campaign setting. Novice generals and experienced warlords alike will be able to try the Viking Invasion expansion for themselves when it's released this May.