Medieval II: Total War Kingdoms Q&A - New Campaigns, New Heroes, New Wars

Aztecs, Mayans, the Crusades, Teutonic Knights, Richard the Lionhearted, and more are some of the new content in the huge, upcoming expansion to Medieval II.

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Medieval II: Total War is already a big game, covering hundreds of years of European history and letting you play from the perspective of more than a dozen major powers of the time, such as England, France, the Holy Roman Empire, and beyond. And if that weren't big enough, the game's real-time battles, which easily feature thousands of units rendered in incredible detail, are amazing enough to steal the show. Well, Sega and Creative Assembly recently announced plans to make Medieval II a lot bigger with the addition of Medieval II: Total War Kingdoms, a supersized expansion that will add four new campaigns, a host of new factions, over 150 new units, and more. We turned to Creative Assembly game designer Penny Sweetser for more on the expansion, which is scheduled to ship later this year.

Kingdoms introduces a slew of new factions, including the mighty Teutonic Knights.
Kingdoms introduces a slew of new factions, including the mighty Teutonic Knights.

GameSpot: Kingdoms is big for an expansion pack. Earlier Total War expansions featured around a quarter of the amount of content that's in Kingdoms. What's the thinking behind such a huge expansion?

Penny Sweetser: Well, Medieval II is a huge game, so it needs a huge expansion! Medieval II covers such a long period of time and breadth of geography and cultures, it left few areas uncovered; so with Kingdoms we've focused, enriched, and deepened that experience.

Kingdoms gave us a fantastic chance to delve deeply into the rich cultures and exciting warfare of small sections of the world in key times in history. Each of the campaigns has its own character and atmosphere, and is rich in detail and steeped in the history of the period, from the Spanish conquest of the New World, to the Teutonic Knights' crusade against the Northern pagans, to the ongoing struggle for supremacy and survival in the British Isles, to the centuries of bloodshed in the name of God in the Holy Lands. We wanted to bring the great kingdoms of the medieval period to life in four strikingly different corners of the world.

Yes, Kingdoms is huge, but it's not just a lot more content--it has a huge amount of variety. Playing each campaign provides vastly different experiences, from defending your jungle homelands from fierce and godlike invaders to taking up the cross in the Holy Lands to fight for your beliefs and a place in the kingdom of heaven. Even playing the different factions in each campaign provides new challenges and experiences, like struggling to prove your leadership to the rulers in Spain to fund your conquests and exploration, or capturing technology from invaders and using it against them. Players will want to experience every bit of Kingdoms, and they can, because the campaigns are a more manageable size. They can even play through it with their friends via the hotseat mode.

GS: Could you get into some of the general improvements and enhancements made to the core game? For instance, what's the deal with the new hero characters? Are these basically improved general units?

PS: There were many great men who became known as heroes during the Crusades: Richard the Lionhearted, Saladin, Nur ed-Din, and the like. We have represented the power and influence these men had by giving them unique special abilities. Each faction in the Crusades has a hero with a special ability that they can use during battle. Hero abilities include Richard's "Heart of the Lion," Saladin's "Righteousness of Faith," and Manuel of the Byzantine Empire's "Byzantine Politics." Each power has a different effect and can be used strategically to turn the tide of battle. For example, Byzantine Politics causes some of the enemy's units to succumb to infighting, resulting in a refusal to move for a period of time. Each hero also has a unique battle model that actually looks like his real-life counterpart, right down to Saladin's beard!

Another new feature is permanent stone forts, which are used differently in each campaign. In Britannia, stone forts are strategically placed at the start of the game and provide key defensive and offensive positions between settlements. In the Crusades campaign, players can place their own permanent stone forts at strategic locations.

One of the most exciting new features is controlling multiple reinforcements. This feature allows the player to have bigger battles than ever before and be the commander of the whole battle! The player can issue commands to reinforcement armies and still control the units in his own army, letting him thus stage massive strategic operations. For example, the player can attack a huge castle from four sides at once with a full army on each side!

GS: What are the new mission types and how do they fit into the game? Was there a feeling that you needed to have more variety than "attack" or "defend"?

PS: With the focus, depth, and atmosphere of each campaign we were able to put a lot more character into missions and make them specific to each campaign. As examples, playing as New Spain you'll receive directives from the Spanish consulate, whom you will have to please to receive support to continue your conquest. The consulate can also reward the viceroy of New Spain with gifts of buildings and units. In the Teutonic campaign, foreign kings and knights arrive to join in the "sport" of the Northern Crusades and kill their share of the pagans. They request the help of the Teutonic Order, who receive rewards in proportion to their efforts. However, if you're playing as pagan Lithuanian, your mission is to destroy these bloodthirsty hunters!

The turn-based strategy layer will boast new maps designed for each of the four campaigns.
The turn-based strategy layer will boast new maps designed for each of the four campaigns.

GS: Let's get a bit into each of the four campaigns. First up is Britannia, which seems like an advanced version of the Viking Invasion expansion for the first Medieval. What can you tell us about the campaign? Will it feature a larger map of the British Isles, much like Viking Invasion did?

PS: Britannia includes an expanded map of the British Isles. With the game set in 1258, England's reach is expansive and oppressive, but it is surrounded by enemies. The time is ripe for Scotland, Wales, and Ireland to rise up against the English, as unrest in their respective kingdoms grows and rebellion rears its ugly head. Opportunistic Norway has also seen its chance to strike into the heart of England and seize territory on the British Isles. Champions emerge, rebel factions lie in wait, stone forts are scattered across the map, and enemies lurk at every border. From the first turn, the struggle for power and domination is roaring, and everyone is trying to rule Britannia by conquest and cunning!

War in Early America

GS: The Teutonic campaign is next. This covers early Holy Roman Empire history and it deals with the face-off between Christian and pagan factions, but what else? Will it take place on a custom map of Northern Europe?

PS: The Teutonic Wars are focused around the Northern Crusades against the pagans of Lithuania, again based on a new custom map. For the first time, a knightly order is a playable faction. The Teutonic Order plays differently from traditional factions. Its recruitment depends on religion, so the player must convert the pagans in order to recruit the best units; there is no family tree, and the Teutonic Knights can only construct castles.

Native American tribes make a major appearance in the Americas campaign.
Native American tribes make a major appearance in the Americas campaign.

Lithuania also has new gameplay dynamics. Lithuania players can choose from three temple chains to construct, each of which gives different bonuses and special pagan units. They can also choose whether they want to convert to Catholicism during the game. Leaving their pagan ways behind gives them access to the more advanced technology of the Christians and better relations with Christian factions, but they must abandon their temples and powerful pagan units.

Other key players in the Teutonic campaign are Poland (which initially requested the aid of the Teutonic Order to deal with the pagans), the Holy Roman Empire (the parents of the Teutonic Order), Denmark (a key trader and naval power on the Baltic Sea), and Novgorod. The trading powers of the Kalmar Union and the Hanseatic League also make appearances, via missions and guilds.

GS: The Crusades are the third campaign, though it sounds like it's a lot more focused than the generalized Crusades found in Medieval II's campaign. What are the details on this one? Again, will there be a custom map made of the Holy Lands to support the campaign?

PS: The Crusades are set in the Holy Lands, on a custom map that spans from Constantinople in the West to Baghdad in the East. It starts in 1174, just prior to the Third Crusade. The Crusader states of Jerusalem and Antioch are well established and powerful, but Nur ed-Din has worked hard to unite the Turks to the north, and Saladin has taken control of Egypt in the south. The Byzantine Empire stands strong, with the most advanced city in the world, Constantinople, as the jewel in its crown.

The Turks and Egypt will have to work together to drive out the infidels once and for all. Likewise, the crusader states must stand united to keep their foothold in the Holy Lands. Meanwhile, the Byzantine Empire looks hungrily into the Holy Lands to rebuild its once-great civilization. With waves of crusaders, holy jihads, Mongols, Mamluks, heroes, and Hashashin (assassins), the Crusades is a fast-paced tug of war between two sides, both fighting in the name of God.

GS: The Americas is the last campaign, and the one that represents the biggest departure from Medieval II since it takes place around the world from Europe. What was the thinking behind making this campaign? Was it because the Aztecs were so popular in Medieval II?

PS: At the end of Medieval II, the Aztecs make an enticing appearance but are not playable themselves. One major reason for making the Americas is to answer the calls of our US fans, but also because it makes such a large divergence from the original game. It provides a whole new perspective on medieval warfare and a fresh gameplay experience.

GS: Tell us a bit about the Americas campaign. What factions are there? What are they fighting for? Will there be a map of both North and South America? How long does the campaign last?

PS: We wanted to make this more than simply the Spanish conquest of the Americas. It delves deeply into the rich culture and atmosphere of the Americas, including the Mesoamerican cultures of the Aztecs and Mayans, we well as the Native Americans of the North. Prior to the arrival of the Spanish, the powerful Aztecs of the Aztec Triple Alliance had been locked in "flowery wars" with their weaker neighbors, the Tarascans and the Tlaxcalans. The Mayans to the east on the Yucatan Peninsula had suffered a 600-year decline in power from its once-magnificent civilization. In the North, the nomadic Chichimec and Apachean Tribes roam the plains, hunting and raiding for survival.

The Spanish arrive to an advanced, rich, and complex "New World," where their warmongering and greed have a devastating effect on the civilizations of the Americas. To fuel their exploration and conquest, they must follow directives from motherland Spain, make adequate progress, and prove themselves worthy of starting a new empire. The Aztecs and Mayans have advanced cities, built around their impressive pyramid temples and religious structures. Their high priests can even sacrifice warriors to the Sun God. The Apacheans to the north can capture the strange, new technology of the invaders and use it against them. They can hold ceremonial dances and go on the warpath against their enemies!

GS: Kingdoms will support the new hotseat multiplayer that's being introduced in the latest patch to the core game. On previous occasions, Creative Assembly has stated that the main challenge to making a multiplayer Total War campaign is that it would take years to actually play a game. How have you gotten around that obstacle?

PS: The smaller, focused maps of the new Kingdoms campaigns lend themselves more to multiplayer games than the massive grand campaign because they are played out on more focused custom maps and deal with fewer factions. However, finishing a whole campaign will certainly provide hours of play. Hotseat mode in Kingdoms is offline and played on a shared PC. We still feel that there is a major challenge when it comes to playing out the grand campaign in multiplayer online, but it will be interesting to see how the community embraces Hotseat in Kingdoms.

Have fun in the desert sun reliving the Crusades.
Have fun in the desert sun reliving the Crusades.

GS: Finally, what can you tell us of the new multiplayer scenarios that will ship in Kingdoms? And there are 20 new custom battle maps, as well. Are these designed mainly for multiplayer skirmish, or are they based on historical battles?

PS: There are actually eight multiplayer scenarios now for Kingdoms. We have created two scenarios for each campaign that utilize the new factions in a loosely based historical situation. These maps range from one-versus-one to two-versus-two scenario setups. These are quite different from the custom maps in that they have balanced armies and irregular deployment zones. The maps are handcrafted to complement the scenario, and there are different types of map setups, such as capturing or defending a village or laying an ambush for an approaching player army. The deployment zones can be different for each army and often allow the player to choose multiple paths for their attack or defense.

GS: Thank you, Penny.

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