The country shaped like a boot goes to war.
Anyway, for those of you who played the first two, Medieval and Shogun, skip down to the next paragraph. For those poor bastards that haven't, continue reading. Total War is two games in one. You have a startegy map in which you mange your empire, like building troops, buildings, agents, and monitering foriegn relations. The second part was the battle map, in which those troops you built, you use to slug it out with the enemy. Until now, this was done using 2D spirtes.
But many changes have happened since Medieval. For one thing, the interface in both the campign and battle map have been streamlined and make it much easier to manage. No longer will you have to look at every province's sheet to see how much they are making, or population groweth, or loyalty. It right there. The battle camera is much more easier to control, and is like a standard RTS camera. Units are more easy to access, and orders are easier to give out. But don't fear hardcore startegy gamers, it still provides all the depth of the previous games, and then some to keep you chewing.
Now, that changes to the gameplay are the most signifigant ones. Remeber how sieges required you to take along siege equipment, and when you did it was rather, well, boring? Not anymore. Sieges rock. See, when you take up sieging a town, you have the option to BUILD SIEGE EQUIPMENT RIGHT AT THEIR DOORSTEP!!!! YOU have a limited amount of points, not money, to spend on various types of stuff. Once you get on the field, it all out carnage. Sieges are fun, but they are costly. YOu will need quite alot of troops in order to use fresh troops against the enemy. Face it, after you fight off a few divisions of spearmen on a wall, you get tired. Then the battle moves to the streets. Beware, you will most likely have a large chockepoint where most of your men are fighting at. SO move that calvary behind them and give them a swift kick in the ass, if you don't want to lose that siege.
Which brings me to my next point. After you take over a city, you can choose the following. Occupation, which you get some loot, but you occupy the city. Enslavment, which is good if you want to increase population is your cities(and this is important, as you can only build to a certain amount before you have to wait for your city to upgrade). And exterimation. Ah yes, this is fun. You use when you are taaking over a city that has a different culture then you. So it leaves more room for true Romans to come in.
Now, let's talk about generals. In theprevious game, every unit had a general. Now, individual units have captains. Your generals are part of your family, and you use them to govern, and command armies. Some are better at one, then another. Some suck. But you need the guys to manually control your cities. If there is no governer in a city, it's automanged. You can choose its focus, but nothing else. You will learn to keep your governers at important cites, and leave the AI to manage your filler.
The campign map also makes where you put your armies important. Watch out as you pass through woods in Gaul. Barbarians might ambush you. You can do the same! Place your reinforements from behind, and they will come in from behind.
One very important improvement is diplomacy. You can now do many things. Alliances, trade agreements, military passage, threats, and that sort. Wanna bully some weak neighbor into paying tribute? Go ahead. And the AI actually STICKS TO ITS AGREEMENTS. TW finally has some decent diplomacy.
One last important thing I want to discuss, is that training and building dont take forever. Units are created in one turn, and most building can be built from 2-4 turns.
And there is one addition that doesnt make an impact on gameplay, but it's awesome nonetheless. Before a battle your general will make a speech. It's not a repeative speech, but varies on your siuation. Out numbered? He'll give an inspirational speech that kinda reminds you of Theoden giving his speech in RotK. Not the exact, but you get the idea.
This game provides an experience that both the TW veteren and newbie will cherish forever, haters aside.
So if by now you haven't ran off to your nearest game store, then I encourage you to do so. Now. RIGHT NOW.