Medieval: Total War

I’ve been kicking around the idea of picking up this game. I love turn-based strategy – among my favorites are the MOOs, AoWs, Alpha Centauri, and I even break out Civ 3 if I feel like being abused by blatent AI cheating. What’s the general opinion of M:TW among you folks?

I did a search on the board in case this was discussed, but didn’t find anything recent or specific. Anyway, I think I’ll get a better rounded opinion now that the game’s been out a little while…

Doesn’t Civ III’s AI cheat only on Emperor and Deity levels?

Medieval Total War is a very good strategy game in my opinion. The strategy layer is far deeper and better executed than in Shogun and the real-time battles are a hoot, and not clickfests at all. It also looks pretty snazzy.

My only gripes are really that the strategic map can get a little cluttered especially in central Europe, but other than that it’s a fine game well worth your time I thinik.

Thanks, DW.

Matthew, the thing that drives me nuts about Civ 3 is how absurdly “lucky” the AI gets in battles. For instance, I’ve had consistent instances when it will require 2 units with a 4 attack to overcome a unit like Spearmen with a 2 defense. It wouldn’t piss me off if it didn’t happen with such regularity – and it’s not terrain-based. Believe me, I really want to believe that the number generator isn’t biased, but the damn AI forces me to outnumber it even if the attack/defense numbers dictate I should easily win the battle. Have you noticed the last AI defending a city is typically a little tougher to bring down? I wouldn’t mind it if my last standing unit defended as well.

The culture thing is extremely cool, but I find it a little undermined by the wonky battle setup. It doesn’t feel random; I feel like I have to outnumber the AI 3:1, even with stronger units.

I agree with DW. In fact, M:TW has easily become one of my favorite games. Some folks, though, have commented that the strat AI is too easy, or sometimes incomprehensible, and there are some buggy areas that will be addressed in the forthcoming patch. Still other folks have had some technical issues (about 50% involving the player not checking the game’s specs against his machine).

That said, them what loves it loves it. Great tactical battles, great variety of units and maps (enough time may pass between viewings of a particular map that you might not recognise it the second or third times around), and as DW notes a strong strategic game. The implimentation of strategic agents is a bit clunky and can lead to clutter and busy work. In the future having one, generic, envoy character (with ratings in diplomacy, espionage and assassination) and one, generic, preistly character (with ratings in conversion, inquisition and diplomacy) while only allowing one of each to be deployed per province might streamline things a bit. Having Princesses as special and essentially one function units doesn’t really help matters. Diplomatic marraiges should be a menu option and come to think of it a stronger diplomatic element wouldn’t hurt at all.

In the future having one, generic, envoy character (with ratings in diplomacy, espionage and assassination) and one, generic, preistly character (with ratings in conversion, inquisition and diplomacy) while only allowing one of each to be deployed per province might streamline things a bit. Having Princesses as special and essentially one function units doesn’t really help matters. Diplomatic marraiges should be a menu option and come to think of it a stronger diplomatic element wouldn’t hurt at all.

I totally agree. I guess they wanted to maintain a boardgame feel to it, but I really felt that the interface was unnecessarily cluttered and difficult to use. But still a pretty cool game. And the strategic game plays fine on a low end system so I play it on my laptop when I travel.

MTW has both an excellent strategic and tactical game engine. It is definitely worthwhile picking up but be warned there are known problems getting the game to run if you have a Radeon 9700 video card.

Even on my GF4 Ti4600 system I had to change the AGP aperture from 128 to 64 in my BIOS to get MTW to run.

As for cheating there does not seem to be any that I could detect. The realtime battles adhere to correct military tactics, ie. elevation advantage, long range and short range fire, mounted charges, etc.

One point to note is do not commit your general or king and his personal troops early in the battle. If you lose your king to death or capture the morale of your other units will be severely affected.

Castle sieges can be especially difficult but at the same time interesting. On one battle my English troops sieged a French castle. My catapults managed to take out their main gate but they suffered from withering arrow barrages and were put out of action.

I had to fight through the gate as the enemy kept pouring more units into this massive melee. The carnage was horrific but I managed to just win through in the end.

It really is a fabulous battle/strategy simulation.

The AI in CIV3 cheats on all levels, only in the upper levels does it flat out just hand the computer players gifts. Watch if early on you risk some ships and find an island, suddenly the AI will take the same perilous trip.

Also in trading it bases the value of what it is trading to you, by how much it is worth to you, not how much it is worth to the computer civilization. The only way this can work in many instances, is if the computer is cheating and looks at your entire civ stats, something you cannot do to it.

The computer controlled civ also will know soft spots. Line up three cities, each should be a blank slate to the attacking army, the computer will always choose the weakest city.

The added bonus of knowing where the resources will later appear in the game is just stupid.

After each new patch i give the game a try. Still broken, besides the above (just some highlights, still major interface issues), still can’t play in a window easily (and never really in a window) and still can’t change video info without editing a text file. I also don’t think it has ever found a good balance for the world creation and makes generally makes boards too arid or too rainy. Except 9 out of 10 times where the computer starts.

Chet

Chet isn’t even mentioning the diplomatic cheats.
It trades freely amongst itself yet freezes you out completely at high difficulty. Giving even the most paltry AI an incredible tech advantage. In fact, no matter how generous I act, even giving away rich and fat cities, I can’t get better than ANNOYED as a stance at Emperor or Diety. This completely removes your ability to play the Civs against each other, something you could always do in SMAC. CivIII is heads and tails above most strategy games, but it doesn’t compare well to Civ2 and especially not well to SMAC. At all.

I’m looking forward to the expansion, not to fix things, but to give me a few humans to play against because I think it’s still a strong game, just not against the AI.

I just don’t understand what happened to all the SMAC code? You’d think they would’ve ported the AI code and changed values to mimic the historical setting. Instead it’s like a complete rewrite and a really bad one at that.

I pull out SMAC all the time, not only for the two Qt3 PBEM games I’m in, but also just to play single player games. The game is always entertaining and I’m still seeing the AI do things I didn’t expect AND are logical.

–Dave

Yeah Dave, the highest compliment I can give SMAC is that, out of the many games I’ve played, I still can’t fully predict what the AI will do next. Somehow the illusion is preserved just enough to keep me buying that I’m talking to Chick’s girlfriend Miriam.

I can’t say that about Civ2, but I can say that I never felt that about III.

Thanks for the input, everyone. I decided to pick up MTW last night and it is cool, not only because of the boardgame layout, but the historical angle as well. An acquaintance (the same joker who recommended The Thing – something I won’t soon forgive) had problems with the real-time combat, but I didn’t find it too difficult to handle. The battle animation isn’t the prettiest thing in the world, but it gets the job done.

As for the board clutter, I agree. More than once, I lost a princess or emassary behind a cluster of enemy pieces. I wish there were a way to “turn off” the enemy pieces or rotate the map… maybe a patch will address this? I’m not holding my breath.

Correct me if I’m wrong - Civ II and SMAC didn’t cheat like this (Civ III), did they?

SMAC was rather “clean” but Civ2 definitely cheated more than Civ3. We’ve had this discussion a hundred times before on csipgs… many Civ2 veterans just can’t adapt to the rule changes in Civ3 combat. They are used to being able to conquer the world with one tank, and that doesn’t work anymore. And they remember every single time when the AI gets lucky in combat but forget all the times they got lucky.

It’s true that you’d better have a 3:1 advantage to ensure victory but that happens to be a real-life military rule as well – it’s just that in Civ2 or SMAC you could get away with much more “gamey” tactics. Whether you think the change was a good decision or not is a matter of taste but it’s not cheating.

Civ3 does seem to get the usual “informational” cheats, the AI does have trading advantages (which you can correct in the editor btw), and the AI seems to get a free spearman when you declare war in the early game. I’ve also identified one (1) unit movement cheat that might be a bug, but I haven’t seen it with the latest patch. As computer games go, there’s really not too much cheating going on in Civ3.

As computer games go, there’s really not too much cheating going on in Civ3.

I think you are leaving out the big one: on any difficulty level higher than the middle one (reagent? I forget) the ai players get production bonuses. On diety level the bonuses are enormous. And even on the lower levels they hopelessly distort the game, particularly the early game where a human player can pretty much forget about building wonders of the ancient world. Unfortunately, once you learn to use all the tools at your disposal (diplomacy!) civ3 really isn’t very difficult unless you play on diety, and then the cheating makes it feel really broken.

Civ 3 is ass. Easily my biggest disappointment of the past year. I was ready to ream Terence out for giving it a good review, but given his proper treatment of B&W I forgave him.

Strategic resources… funny how all the good ones are never on your continents. Or how there are two horses in the world. Two horses. An animal that every peasant and peon had, but the mightiest of kingdoms is forced to use Spartan tactics because in their entire empire, not a horse exists.

Even if you argue that the Americas didn’t have horses, that changed rapidly. One of the lasting images of the West is the native on a horse. They got more use out of the animals than we did.

How many times I have cried at the computer “A horse, a horse! My kingdom for a horse!” If only I was joking.

This is documented and no different than any other computer strategy game in existence so I’m not sure where you’re going with this…

Unfortunately, once you learn to use all the tools at your disposal (diplomacy!) civ3 really isn’t very difficult unless you play on diety, and then the cheating makes it feel really broken.

No computer strategy game is “very difficult” once you’ve learned to play it well, except by allowing it to cheat outrageously and/or by making it hypercomplex. Again you’re singling out Civ3 for something that it doesn’t do any worse (and in fact better IMO) than most other games.

Civ3 is faulted because the cheating isn’t hidden well at all. Most people didn’t notice Civ2 or SMAC cheating, but everybody can tell there’s something fishy about the AI in Civ3. Letting an AI cheat may be a fact of life in strategy gaming, but I expect them to at least give me the illusion things are on the up and up. And I expect that doubly in a Sid Meier game.

I disagree, the actual cheating (usually involving AI trading or “clever” land-grabs) is barely visible as such until you’ve played a lot of the game. I definitely found the cheating in Civ2 more visible than in Civ3. What most people think of as “obvious” cheating are just annoyingly random combat results.

I’ve never seen weird combat results so I see “cheating” when I see the AI doing an illogical landgrab, maintaining a skewed diplomatic relationship with me against any logic, beginning the game with more than one city… Civ3 does these things at all difficulty levels.

What I’m really talking about is poorly coded AI though. That’s my major malfunction, because otherwise there is so much to like about Civ3. I love the war weariness, save when it’s illogical. I’m sorry, but if my democracy is losing a few cities every turn to an invading army, and that army will not speak to me at all, my people would probably, y’know, support the war!