Medieval II: Total War hands-on

We join the ranks of the world-dominator sequel

In addition, every unit has its own unique ability. In the version we've seen, a group of English longbowmen had set up a protective line of wooden spikes to shield them from charging cavalry. This forces theenemy to use its newly upgraded tactical brain to out-noodle you on the battlefield, and we watched as the opposing French horsemen used the cover of a forest to out-flank the line of longbowmen while avoiding the wooden stakes.

Once they charged we could see first-hand how the individual troops react in battle, with hurtling horses scattering infantry and victorious fighters scanning the area for new opponents. But these developments aren't simply aesthetic. A unit's stance, behavior and general look broadcasts its overall morale, for quick and simple reference.

We also got to see a desert battlefield, as our English army answered the Pope's call for a crusade. Religion plays a huge part in MedievalII and, if you're in favor with the pontiff - like we were - you can even influence his decisions, which led us into battle with the Egyptians. Of course, you can also just have his Holiness knocked-off by one of your assassins, and fans will be pleased to note that the mini-movies of an assassin's mission - showing the events of his success or failure - are back and enhanced.

Medieval II: Total War has a whole host of extra features, with destructible castles, settlement choices and special bonuses for taking part in Crusades just scraping the tip of the warmongering iceberg. The game is out at the end of the year, but we'll be back with more info long before then.

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