Medieval: Total War is the second game in the Total War strategy franchise. As a sequel to the first part of the series, Shogun: Total War, it shares many aspects of graphics and gameplay with the latter game. Starting in the late 11th century, the player takes control of one of the many kingdoms ruling over Europe and the Mediterranean. Through a mixture of manoeuvring armies and provincial administration on the Risk-style campaign map and fighting real-time battles whenever a province is invaded, the player seeks to win the game either through dominance of the map or through fulfilling given victory conditions.
Medieval: Total War is the last game in the series to feature a purely "Risk"-Style Map for the campaign, as well as the last to depict soldiers on the battlefield as 2-dimensional sprites. From Rome: Total War onwards, armies can be manoeuvred to individual places on the campaign map rather than just between provinces, and soldiers on the battlefield are depicted in 3d. Despite the comparatively antiquated technology, Medieval: Total War is nevertheless worth playing for its dense atmosphere, good balance and stronger AI than most of the following games in the series until Total War: Shogun 2.
One expansion pack was released for the game, Viking Invasion. Set in Britain, Ireland and Scandinavia during The Early Middle Ages, the player seeks to gain control of the British Isles as one of the Anglo-Saxon or Celtic kingdoms and fend off Norse threat, or to play as the Vikings and conquer the place for himself.
This game provides examples of:
- Anti-Cavalry: Spears, trees and hills. Also, camels are capable of taking down horse units of far greater quality than the camels, an effect that all later Total War games that had camel-riding cavalry incorporated; all camel units naturally give all nearby horse units significant penalties, because the horses can't stand the smell of the camels. Bedouin Warriors can become the bane of western crusader armies.
- Armor-Piercing Attack: Longbows, crossbows, axes... it may be a good idea to keep a few unarmoured units around specifically because of the vast range of units who actually get a bonus fighting heavily armoured troopers. This is particularly problematic for nations who invested heavily in upgrading their soldiers armour via the various armoury buildings, as even their militia may be armoured in heavy mail.
- Artificial Stupidity: Sadly, a recurring theme in the series. Re-emerged factions are perfectly willing to attack the faction that has eliminated them multiple times within the last 100 years when said faction controls more than 60% of the map. On a related note, it is not unusual for factions with just one or two provinces to suddenly attack factions that control most of the map.
- Barbarian Tribe: A lot of minor nations such as Scotland, Sweden, Aragon, etc. are represented by "rebel" factions which are at war with everyone else and can't be engaged in diplomacy. The cheat code to play as the rebel factions as a collective is "conan".
- The Berserker: A unit for the Danes.
- Cadre of Foreign Bodyguards: The Varangian Guard for the Byzantines, and the Swiss Guard for the Pope.
- Chronic Backstabbing Disorder: Raising multiple armies in Campaign mode can be egregiously difficult since most of the commanders attached to your units tend to be, more often than not, untrustworthy enough (Loyalty: Less than 3) to be allowed to move independently from your King's Army.
- Church Militant: The Roman Catholic Church won't hesitate to commission Crusades, nor will it hesitate to send its armies out to smash the uppity heathens. The Pope will attack the player and excommunicate them if they try to fight back. On occasion, the Pope will ask for a Crusade, receive payment and then give the player 1000 florins, the cost of the Crusade's blessing.
- Critical Failure: Gunpowder Siege Weapons can detonate catastrophically, depriving the attacking force of their means to demolish a Castle's walls and defenses. Though this is a rare issue that happens completely at random. (See Random Number God)
- Decapitated Army:
- As in all games in the series, killing an enemy general will cause his army's morale to drop significantly.
- If you try to engage the Mongol hordes when they arrive, you just might get lucky enough to kill the Khan. You will probably still lose the battle unless you had a huge force sitting on the eastern border of the map, but the entire Mongolian army turns into disorganized rebel scum after the battle... albeit with very good units.
- Digitized Sprites: How soldiers are depicted on the otherwise 3-dimensional battlefield.
- The Dreaded: A character in either of the Medievals can keep order with a high Dread rating. It even says that the room goes silent when your character enters the room in Medieval with maxed out Dread, and Dreaded characters lower the morale of entire enemy armies by their mere presence. This is very annoying when fighting the Mongols, who all have high Dread generals. Use Chivalrous generals to balance it up... or use a general of your own with even higher Dread to make the Mongols break first. With a general whose Dread is maxed out, it's possible to break an entire enemy army by simply charging them. You don't even have to hit them; simply charge the entire army straight at them, and there's a pretty good chance that the lower-morale units break immediately, starting a chain reaction of routing that sends the entire army fleeing.
- Early Installment Weirdness: As explained above, the first Shogun and Medieval games differ from the later parts of the series both in graphics and in gameplay.
- Enemy Civil War: A faction whose royal family was destroyed or are in possession of a particularly weak monarch could suffer rebellion as rival claimants attempted to seize the throne for themselves. Catholic factions who have been excommunicated may suffer from widespread hostility from Papal loyalists, which can be seen as an Enemy Civil War from the perspective of any Muslim factions holding the Holy Land at that point. When the French are sending crusaders to Frankfurt, they're not sending them to Jerusalem...
- Evil Pays Better: Practically speaking, it's better to just outright execute enemy prisoners than release them. Ransoming them might get you some money, but doesn't earn your general Dread, which is an incredibly useful trait to have when pushing the enemy to the Despair Event Horizon.
- Game Mod: The XL Mod, one of the first mods for Medieval, expanded the scope of the game by introducing new factions and units.
- Government in Exile: Factions can occasionally reappear to try and reclaim their independence. Taking control of Rome and defeating the Pope will result in the immediate election of a new Pope, who generally appears right next to Rome with a sizeable army.
- The Hashshashin: Islamic factions can recruit them.
- Incest Is Relative: You can order your princesses to marry within the royal family. It's also a surprisingly common trait for your characters to acquire, always with their daughter. Nothing is stopping a prince from having a relationship with his daughter. Even if he isn't married, and is in his teens...
- Mercy Rewarded: In one sense, as letting prisoners go will earn your generals points for Chivalry in Medieval. But there's nothing preventing those prisoners from fighting you in the next turn. If you do it too often, you start to lose Dread. The best way can be the rather schizophrenic tactic of letting all of them go, then killing them all the next time.
- Multiple Endings: The game allows you to declare victory after conquering 60% of the map or to go for 100% instead. If you choose the latter course, the ending is suitably more epic... "more epic" meaning that the little cutscene was the same, but the text below is slightly different.
- One-Man Army: Medieval, like the first Shogun, features the infamous "Jedi Generals". Simply put, the more command stars a general accrues (mostly by winning battles), the harder and tougher to kill he becomes (this to counterbalance the fact that killing him makes the entire army's morale drop like a stone, and the AI isn't programmed to protect its generals). A single dude on horseback can rack up hundreds of kills until he is finally put down... or he could win the battle by himself.
- Random Number God: When using Cannons, there is a chance for a catastrophic explosion that kills some of the crew and removes the weapon for the rest of the battle. If you're lucky, you can fire 50+ shots (if the option of Limited Ammo is turned off) out a Cannon before it explodes. If not, you'll lose the Cannon before all of the ammo is expended. A crew with high Valour can reduce the chance of an accident but not prevent it completely.
- Sequel Difficulty Drop: After Shogun I where the rebels could wipe you out and there were super assassins that could kill your entire family: Medieval I is a far easier game at least for the majority of factions.
- Shown Their Work: The Byzantine faction starts off very strong in the Early Middle Ages but gets weaker on the later ones which historically reflects their gradual decline and eventual downfall at the hands of the Turks who themselves start off as weak but become stronger with better units and solid control over the anatolian territories.
- Sprite/Polygon Mix: Especially noticeable on the battlefield, but also present on the campaign map.
- Video Game Cruelty Potential:
- In the first Medieval, you can actually use Inquisitors. Leaving your inquisitor alone in an enemy province for a few years has interesting results. Your inquisitor starts a rebellion and usually hundreds or thousands are killed. One writer once had 90,000 people killed in one round. Another discovered that enough inquisitors (of both plain and grand varieties) in a single province will result in an uprising no matter how many units are in it. At last count 4000 is not enough.
- During a battle, a player can have all captured enemy prisoners executed, in order to prevent them from being freed in case of an enemy victory.
- A Winner Is You: Likely the most egregious case in the series. All you get after conquering much of the known world, having been campaigning for days or even weeks in real time, is an image with a short congratulatory text.