Blaster Fodder Review of Kingdoms

I just got the game a few hours ago, and have had a chance to play the campaigns for a while. I have to say, this game is great.

In the American campaigns, (the most interesting one I think), I played as the Spanish, and I found it interesting how they tried to balance the factions out. The Spanish being the weakest in the start of the game was given a large number of florins as a Trade off. The Aztecs were given the largest army, though their troops are weak, etc. The first thing I noticed about the Spanish Campaign was... the Senates back! O.K. O.K, not the Senate we loved to hate back in the Rome: Total War Days, but the King of Spain himself, giving you direct orders much like the Senate did in RTW. You are rewarded with Prestige, which in turn, rewards you with the ability to recruit new and better units. The downfall with the Spanish however is that the best units they can recruit, musket-men for example, can only be recruited by towns with ports built. So for your inland provinces, your out of luck. You have to rely on the Coastal Provinces. Another downfall is that the Spanish cannot create castles. That's right. I'm sure many of you were dreaming of thousands of Aztecs attempting to siege your walls, whilst your musket-men picked them off one by one. Well it isn't happening. Also, later in the game, much like the hordes in the original game, the English and French arrive, but instead of 20 stacks, its just 3-4. But I've only Talked about Europeans, what about the Indians? Well, you'll find that the troop recruitment in many of them, is pretty much the same as it was for the Aztecs in Medieval 2 but here, I'm focusing my attention on the Apaches. In my opinion, out of all the Indians, they had the most thought put in them. They are one of the few Factions/Tribes that can use the Europeans' technology against them, whether it be guns or horses. Another VERY interesting thing about them, is their warpaths. Acting much like a Jihad in Medieval 2, you need a priest with a high Deity, then you may call a war path against another settlement, such as Vera cruz. After that you may chose which army you wish to use. Then, the Warpath army acts much like one from a Jihad, or a Crusade. It has double the movement points, and mercenaries are dirt cheap.

As for the Britannia campaign, some things remind me of the Barbarian Invasion days. The English reminded me a lot of the Western Roman Empire in that game. You know, the one that was strong and powerful, but you had to work HARD to get it to stabilize. As for the "lesser" factions in this game, The Irish, Scottish, Welsh, etc. were like the Barbarian tribes in BI, small, yet strong. They take on the English though they are obviously out numbered. I found this campaign interesting & hard at some points. The permanent forts really added to the game play, and made me change a lot of ways I play on the Campaign map. Another thing I also found interesting was the lack of rebel provinces. So right away I found myself at war with the mighty English. I was pulverized, and could barely hang on. This campaign game from what I saw at least, will keep you interested until we see the Irish Conquer Britain at least.

The Teutonic campaign was also interesting. The fact the Teutonics could only convert settlements once, and couldn't change them back really affected the gameplay. I found myself having to chose what province I took over next on the map, so I would have an even Town/ Castle ratio on the map so my economy wouldn't crash. Another interesting part of the game play was the "reinforcements" Units, from another Catholic faction, that you were given the chance to use in your campaigns against the pagans.
Your goal, when you get such an army, is to see (now I'm quoting from the game), how much pagan blood can they spill. So essentially, you have to see how many pagans you can kill with that army before the say, 10 turn period in which you were given control of them is up. I also like how religion affected your recruitment. You couldn't capture a settlement and go in expecting to recruit an army of Ritterbruder. As the Teutonic Order, being allies with someone is a must. Your a surrounded by potential enemies and allies. Overall this Campaign was fairly good and I plan on playing a LOT more later.

As for the Crusades, I haven't played enough to tell you if this is a good campaign or not but from what I've seen it was O.K. Most of the factions are equal in power, except of course the mighty Byzantines. Early in the game, your best bet is to seal alliances with the nearby factions of your religion, so later you are not overwhelmed by Christians/Muslims. Another interesting thing about this campaign is Hero abilities. They range from having units stop in their tracks for a few moments to causing your routing soldiers to stop and come back to the fight. I found the Byzantine campaign very enjoyable, mostly due to the Greek Fire. Unlike musketeers, that rout the moment an enemy either A) attacks them in melee or B) 1 or 2 guys get killed by a horse, I found the Greek Flamethrowers could take serious punishment and dish it back out. This was a very good campaign from what I've played, and I recommend it.

The only downside I can see with the games is the unit selection in some of the factions. The Spanish for example have practically the same unit selection from medieval 2 and same with the English/French. Now there is a 1 or 2 unit difference but all the units they can recruit now are pretty much the same as the old game. I would like to see the English being able to recruit more high-quality gunpowder units and for the Spanish to recruit more Gunpowder units too.

Overall, from what I've seen from the game play, I'd give this game a 9/10.