Some flaws haven't stopped me from playing this TW for two years - this will be bettered, though.

User Rating: 7.5 | Medieval II Total War: Gold Edition PC
Playing an aptly named Grand Campaign on Medieval Total War 2 for the past two years has given me a new found appreciation for the RTS genre. If you read my review of the original shogun experience, you would have thought I'd be more of a fan of that era. In fact, the darkness of the medieval atmosphere appeals to me much more.
In the Grand Campaign I am playing as the English. After striking north and conquering Scotland and, rather easily, Ireland, I turned my attention south. After several months of slowing rolling over the French, I found myself in a situation where I was defending myself on several fronts against the Germans, the French, the Milanese, and (rather uninspiringly) the Danes.

Like with all campaigns in the Total War series, there isn't much in the way of an overarching tutorial in which improvements to build in your empire. As such, I leave the AI to decide for me. They tend, like all true councils left in charge of things, to build everything and anything. Do I need to train diplomats in all my cities? Why not... Do I need to specialise in different elite units in my main cities? Why bother. Presumably this is to ensure that players like me don't simply benefit from leaving the AI to handle my economy.

In order to progress, like in all TW games, it is essential at some point to take on larger armies with fewer troops. For a game that purports to follow the principles of Sun Tzu, this perhaps isn't the case of how things should be. Or perhaps I am simply poor at diplomacy and fight on too many fronts at once. I must admit, I have never felt bad for fighting a battle where the odds are stacked heavily in my favour.

Where the game does excel, though, is in the ability for a small, highly-trained army to destroy much larger hordes through simple out maneuvering and superior morale.

Take, for example, my progress this last half-term. I had a true stalement in the middle of Europe. Most of lands were being taken, and retaken, by the combined forces of the angry Germanic-Franco-Milanese empires. I decided, as somewhat of a break from the incessant sieges, to expand into Spain.

Like all good Spainards, they rolled over. Having spent the past 50 years doing very little, my unmounted knights were able to smash their militia time and time again. In the space of 10 turns, I had conquering all of Spain, leaving me with, effectively, only one front to fight on. Memories of the original Shogun, where I rolled from left to right across the map, began to return.

It was in this time, though, that the Danes had made a surprisingly successful foray into my empire. Whereas they had small armies they were universally comprised of elite troops. One army of 500, in particular, managed to decimate three standing armies of 800 troops, including one in a siege. The usually excellent auto-battle option let me down here.

The sign of a great game, of great story-telling theatre, is that the Dane's march across my northern front was a more engaging experience than me conquering Spain. Watching, with increasing trepidation, one general growing up to eight stars (whilst controlling far better troops than I), I took great pleasure in converging on him with three times the size of an army. He went down fighting.

Graphically, I think the game is the smoothest of the series. The music is evocative and the mass control of an army is still extraordinarily easy. The charge function, though, is somewhat broken. Sometimes knights will charge; sometimes they won't. In addition, some soldiers simply won't path-find correctly to chase down enemies. This is a shame, as utterly annihilating an army was one of the most enjoyable aspects of the the original TW - here it's simply a pain.

A recommended edition to the series. However, if you are more of a fan of the other eras, I'd recommend those TWs to this.