About This Place

First started in late 2007, Kasey's Mobile Game Review (then just a regular feature of Kasey's Korner) started as a simul-post between here and IGN. Later I realized there's no reason to post it twice, when I can use the traffic on my own site. so, here we are, in 2010, and the mobile game industry has grown a bit. What do you think?

KMGR of "Medieval Total War Mobile"

Mixed pike and shot formations in a seventeent...Image via Wikipedia

Medieval Total War is a part of Total War series that is both a strategy game as well as a battle simulation. Now that it's been ported to mobile, how did it fare? Quite well, but I am not sure about the game as a mobile game, and a huge bug almost sinks the game. The result is a game that only appeals to grognards (i.e. wargame fans) instead of most phone owners.

The port, as expected, is a bit of a reduction. You play one of the six factions, and the objective is to conquer the other five. The idea is to be diplomatic with some to delay the war with them, declare war on others on map mode, then conquer other's land with your units in battle mode by killing their units (in a turn-based battle). Each faction has advantages and disadvantages (Holy Roman Empire, for example, gets better/extra knights). And you need both diplomatic skills (know who to befriend, and who to go to war against) as well as tactical acumen in order to succeed. Oh, and there's a little bit of economy... Each territory you fully control gets you 100 florins. You can plunder that territory for an extra 100 florins, but it drops your popularity by 15%. And to invade a territory costs $$$ for your units, and to ship your units over. Each territory has several sections you must conquer via paying for the invasion, and win the battle.

A full campaign starts on the strategic map, where you decide what you want to do with each faction (including your own). Everybody else starts off at 50% relations with your faction. Send an emissary to a faction and they'll ask you to do something... It could be "reduce your relations with X by Y% (for Z florins)". If you approve, you get a gain of relations, like 2-4% with that faction (and maybe a little money). Refusal may result in a reduction of relations. As for your own territory, you can plunder your own territory for some emergency cash, but this will result in a 15% drop in popularity. Drop too far, and a rebellion may just ruin your day (or some other faction could do it to you!).

Strangely, there is no "end turn" control any where, after I had sent emissaries everywhere, and made my decision NOT to plunder my own empire. So I basically have to declare war on someone just for the heck of it. This wasn't explained anywhere.

If you choose to declare war, and you can only be at war with one faction at a time, then you must choose which of the 5 or 6 regions you choose to attack. Each has an attack cost and you can only invade if you have the money! Keep in mind that each faction have their own unique units. If you conquer the enemy faction's capital, you'll learn their secrets and get some of those units in the future. When England was conquered, secrets of Axeman and Horse Archer was discovered. When the French capital was conquered, secrets of Trebuchet and Axeman were discovered.

That leads us to the battle mode. It's 2D hex-based map, turn-based, and surprisingly detailed. You do NOT get to choose the composition of your army. You simply make do with whatever you have. Though you can get pikeman, swordsman, archer, horse archers, axeman, catapults, trebuchets, and knights, oh, and a "general" (probably more I haven't found yet). Different terrain have different modifiers. Even facing is taken into account, as flanking will cause a LOT of casualties vs. regular head-on fights. So, when in doubt, englobe! And if englobed, retreat back to back and circle the wagons! Different units are rated for different movement (# of moves on the hex map), offense, and defense, and terrain can aid or hinder one or the other.

The problem is the interface. There is only one action key, which means you click on a unit to bring up a menu, which then determines what you want to do, then you move the cursor around some more, such as choosing attack target, movement path, and so on. While it's usable, it doesn't really use the softkeys much, if at all, and certainly didn't even TRY to use a phone with QWERTY keyboard. However, the interface does have more function then you'd suspect. For example, it is possible to make a unit turn 180 degrees, or go around, encircle enemy and attack their back/flank, using the "landmark" command.

To win a battle, you can either go after enemy units, or go straight for the enemy HQ, which is a small fort or castle. Stay there 3 turns, and you win! You have an HQ too, so don't leave it naked. Or you can surrender, but what fun is that? At the end of battle, your units are converted back to florins, which is another way of saying "don't waste your units, else it'll cripple your economy!" Remember, it takes anywhere from 70 to 300 to invade merely ONE enemy region (out of 5) and your income starts at a mere 100 florins. You can plunder to add another $100, but you can only do so every once in a while. You *could* demand tribute from other factions, but they will get mad as well, and you get less than plundering your own territory.

Unfortunately, there is no tutorial mode, and the help screen just go over the basics. There's a "battle mode" where you can practice the tactical battles on over a dozen different maps without worrying about the diplomatic front. And there doesn't seem to be any mention of sieges. And there is actually a separate help screen accessible from the battle mode that goes into more detail about the various things. However, you have to read the help in detail to even hear about this other help file.

HINT: knights and swordsmen and axeman kill archers. Pikeman is great against anything mounted, i.e. knights and horse archers, and halberdiers and elite pikemen are even better. Axeman and swordsman kill pikeman. Catapult and trebuchet are best used against targets in the open, or to beat down a castle wall so you don't have to go through the main entrance. Knights are best used in the open to flank enemy units.

If your territories are doing well (i.e. high approval) and/or you have allies, they may send reinforcements (free units) at sometime during the battle. Or if you really have a lot of $$$, you can "hire units" from the HQ, which brings in a mercenary unit. Those are costly, so don't do it unless you really need it.

Initial impression was that they cut out a bit too much, but I understand the decisions made. I just wish their help screen is a bit more useful, as the mechanics of the diplomatic screen isn't as clear as it could be, and the tactical/battle screen is slightly clunky when there are more than half-dozen units per side (and when you invade a country, you WILL get to command over a dozen units). Fortunately, battles and campaigns are auto-saved. So you can resume at almost any time.

You can play "Battle mode" alone and select any of the 6 factions against any of the other factions, on any of the a dozen or so maps, and each have their own challenges. However, the AI is lacking. I've played about two dozen battles now, and I have yet to lose a single battle, even though in many cases I was severely outnumbered. The AI was overly aggressive in some cases, and strangely passive in others (often allowing me to simply shoot their units with archers and siege weapons while leaving them there). If I have a trebuchet or catapult, I can almost guarantee winning any engagement, as the AI just try to rush me to their doom.

There is also a MAJOR bug in the game I'm surprised they didn't catch. If you quit the campaign from the "diplomatic map", and then continue the campaign later, you'll find that a lot of your gold is gone. For example, after conquering 4 of the 5 other powers, I know I had 457 (or so) Florins. I quit the game. When I came back into the game, I'm down to 242 Florins. That means I no longer have enough to pay for the invasion, which now cost over 300 Florins. However, I cannot plunder any of my territories either. None of my own territories will pop up the sub-menu when selected. So now, I am STUCK, as there are no actions that can be taken. I've said before, there is no "end turn" button so I can replenish my treasury. And this is repeatable in earlier stages of the game as well.

So far, this game gets a 6.5 out of 10. It has potential as a LONG-term game, but it doesn't work as a temporary diversion. It would have got a 7.5 except for -1.0 for the HUGE gameplay bug.

Overall rating: 6.5 out of 10 (includes -1.0 for a huge bug)
One-liner: impressive mobile port, but probably too slow/complicated except for mobile game grognards
Pros: detailed diplomatic model and tactical battles (for a mobile game)
Cons: clunky interface, slow game pace, lack of detail help and/or tutorial, HUGE bug in diplomatic map mode that gets the game STUCK

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