Now, options have been fleshed out in every way imaginable. Here, you not only move armies, but manipulate agents for tasks as varied as assassinating popes and diplomats, converting heathens to Christianity or Islam, and bringing potentially rebellious generals into the fold through marriage to princesses.
Real-time tactical battles are more similar to those in the preceding Total War games. Orders work the same as they did before, and core tactics like flanking cavalry attacks and getting archers to high ground of course remain intact.
Still, battles have been beefed up with far more units than ever before and great attention to detail. Zoom in and you can watch soldiers drive home swords in hand-to-hand combat, cover their ears for cannon barrages, and furiously pump their crossbows for another round of fire. Majestic music and voice acting on par with a BBC historical epic (complete with appropriate accents) round out the battlefield drama.
Although there are only five nations available at the beginning of play, about 15 are unlocked after finishing a campaign, so you can try your hand running just about everybody in the region, from the Scots to the Turks. Essentially, you can do everything here that a real monarch could do back in the day. Invade neighbors, call crusades and jihads, rig papal elections - it's all good.