Make war, not love

If you relish real-time strategy and turn-based historical war games, this expansion disk is the best deal in years.

medieval disk 88 (photo credit: )
medieval disk 88
(photo credit: )
Medieval II Total War: Kingdoms expansion DVD-ROM, by Sega, distributed by Hed Artzi Multimedia, requires the original Medieval II Total War DVD-ROM plus 16 gigabytes of hard disk space, for Windows XP and above and a Pentium 4 PC or better, for ages 16 through adults, NIS 129. Rating: ***** If you relish real-time strategy and turn-based historical war games, this expansion disk is the best deal in years. It includes four separate campaigns during the medieval times from around 930 years to 500 years ago in the Holy Land, the Americas, Britannia and Northern and Western Europe. With outstanding graphics, great sound and gripping action, the disk's only shortcoming is that it gobbles up a huge 16 gigas of your hard disk drive when you install the original two (NIS 219) and the one expansion disk (NIS 129) and takes a long time to do so. But it will keep you busy for many months on end. We reviewed the original program Medieval II: Total War game in March and found it a brilliantly executed, historically based epic strategy game. But it focused mostly on wars in Western Europe with small battles in other regions. The expansion disk has 13 new factions, 50 new building types and more than a hundred additional units. It also offers separate desktop shortcuts, with "total war" in each region played as a separate game and installable separately if you don't have enough disk space to install all of them simultaneously. Each can be played at four levels of difficulty, with options of how detailed you want the grass and other vegetation and buildings (depending on how powerful your PC). If you are softhearted like me, it is best to turn off the blood option. I started with the Crusades in our own Middle East, with the Kingdom of Jerusalem - then ruled by Christendom - under attack by Muslims. There on the 3-D map was the land of Israel and vicinity, with Jerusalem, Ashkelon, Acre, Banyas, Tyre, Kerak, Tripoli and other medieval cities. The only geographical errors I noted were the waves pounding the beaches of the Dead Sea and the fact that the salty water flows up, through the Jordan River, to the Sea of Galilee. Although there were some Jews in these parts in 1099, they are not seen, as they had no army. We are told by the British-accented narrators that the leaders of Turkey, joined by Egypt, have launched a jihad against the Christian crusaders, and each army uses fire-bearing catapults, arrows and other weapons to wipe the other out. The Americas campaign pits the native Aztec, Mayan and Apache Indians of North and South America against the better-armed Spanish conquistadores in 1521. The Apaches, for example, not only attack their European enemies but also ferociously tear out the hearts of those they slay. Britannia, placid today, was in 1258 the arena of cutthroat rivalry among the Scots, Irish, Welsh, English and Norwegians on the battlefields in Shrewsbury, Lancaster, London, Montgomery, Carlisle, Shaftesbury and Newcastle. The Teutonic campaign in 1250 unfolds in France, Denmark, Novgorod, Poland and others spurred by "ambition, greed and faith" bashing it out in cities like Konigsburg, Dunaberg, Riga and Bialystock. Despite Darfur, Iraq and the Middle East, today's world looks much more peaceful. Of all four campaigns, the Britannia one is the most difficult, as large tracts of land and the coasts have to be defended from four large enemy armies. The topography in each campaign varies by geographical region, with unpopulated wastelands covering much of the Crusaders' battlefield, plains and hills in the Americas and lush forests carpeting the European ones. You can't just go ahead and fight; first you must recruit armies, repair installations, retrain and then go into combat. A single characteristically dressed giant figure from each faction walks over the map to prepare you for the battle. The universal currency that you earn and spend in each of the four campaigns are florins to eliminate conversion from one society to another. It's amazing how the uniforms and armor on men and horses were so meticulously handmade in bright colors so combatants could easily recognize their own and their enemies. There are dozens or even hundreds of soldiers and horses on the screen at any one time, but they are each individuals with different expressions and clothing - not cookie-cutter hordes. The superb graphics engine makes the introductory videos and the battle action look like movies. If this sounds good to you, make sure not only that your computer is supercharged but also that your English vocabulary is rich or you won't be able to make head or tail of the strategic and tactical demands on players.