(So,) I’ve been playing Medieval 2: Total War pretty much since it came out in late 2006, and it’s never been uninstalled from my machine. Infact, when I lost the disks I just bought it again. Now why does this game with it’s decent battles and mediocre strategic mode excite me so much?
Mods. Modsmodsmodsmodsmods. Mods by the armful, mods coming out of your ears!
Medieval 2 has one of the best modding communities of any game I’ve encountered, and it has made the game that much better and increased it’s longevity a hundredfold. So let’s run down a few of my favourite mods.
Stainless Steel. This is the go-to mod if you want a more detailed campaign in the same setting as the vanilla game. It’s not really a realism-focussed mod, more polish and longevity. I actually use a sub-mod – the Historical Units Region Building Mod which is still in beta and still a little unstable: but I like for it’s increased turn limit and it’s extremely complicated building (most buildings in mods – and indeed the vanilla game – are single lines which sequentially upgrade, but HURB’s are complicated lattices with pre-requisites for almost every building).
THERA, Legacy of the Torment. A fantasy mod with an original setting. Most factions are in some way built upon European/Magrebi/Middle-eastern medieval factions, although there are a couple of Renaissance-inspired ones, a couple of Native American ones, a Roman one (including legionaries with guns!), a pirate-themed one, and one that consists of uruk-hai, reptile creatures, and greek-style men. There is one pretty large imbalance in this mod, which is the way it appears to be easier than anything to amass vast wealth (possibly due to massive numbers of free-upkeep slots in almost all castles and cities), but I find the setting and unit diversity more than interesting enough to keep me playing.
The Third Age: Total War. A fantasy mod an unoriginal setting, although some of you may have heard of it: Lord of the Rings? This is an extremely polished mod, and one I find pleasingly difficult. I always play on medium (not being all that great at games), and money is always incredibly tight if you retain an army capable of fending off meaningful attacks (or heaven forfend actually attacking). The factions are all extremely well put together, and the people who skinned the mod did an amazing job. The only slightly flaw is the lack of unit diversity (each faction has about 10-16 units), but since they were essentially starting from scratch I find it fairly understandable.
UPCOMING: Dominion of the Sword. Now then. This looks like a real ambitious undertaking – and going from length of development alone it’s an epic. Apparently in development since ’06, it has not yet entered beta yet, although it is supposedly near (although we all know fickle fate can stick her oar in and ruin it all too easily for modding teams). Essentially it looks like the most detailed, the most grand-scale, the most researched mod for the game that there will have ever been. This may actually end up being a bad thing (I recall playing a mod so detailed it left me simply bewildered), but I remain extremely excited.
UPCOMING: Europa Barbarorum II. The sequel to the best mod for Rome Total War (EU1 still being something I play even now, due to it’s excellence), basically re-hashing the first mod with the engine of Medieval 2 allowing it to be further improved. Can’t wait, frankly.