Kingdoms: The Morning After – A review by Count Mummolus

Let me just start off by saying that this is a review. That said, it’s a review based on actual gameplay and time given to process my thoughts, rather than an “OMG the game is OUT!” review. As such it will be looking at what I consider the good points of the game, as well as what I consider the bad (and unlike most of the reviews it’s received so far, there will be bad).

Four new campaigns is a wonderful amount of content for a game of this sort, especially when all four feature a wide variety of scripted events, new units, and new factions. That said, many of the campaigns seem to have missed the mark somewhat.

1) Teutonic

My favorite campaign of the four, the Teutonic campaign adds a wonderfully flavorful series of new factions and events. Whether playing as the Teutonic Order, Lithuania, or Denmark, the campaign is interestingly scripted and well done overall. Playing as the other factions (Poland, Novgorod, Holy Roman Empire) is unfortunately not especially interesting, and the Mongols remain totally unplayable, despite adding a potentially interesting dimension to the game play. The lack of playable Mongols is a shame, since in Medieval II vanilla they were unplayable as well, and this comes across as a missed opportunity to give an (admittedly small) group of disappointed fans exactly what they’ve always wanted.

2) The Crusades

The Crusades campaign is perhaps the one which adds the most to the game, featuring to entirely new factions (Antioch, Jerusalem) and substantial modifications to others which make appearances (Byzantium, Egypt, and the Turks). Effectively adding the equivalent of three or four completely new unit rosters makes this an interesting and enjoyable campaign, and the map itself is quite a decent expansion of an area which seemed sadly depopulated (especially in the case of Asia Minor) in vanilla M2TW.

3) Britannia

Britannia is a campaign which focuses on culture rather than religion, but this ends up being frustrating rather than interesting. While the Irish and Welsh factions are interesting, their unit rosters are significantly shorter than those of vanilla factions, and Norway is merely Denmark with three additional units of varying quality and usefulness. The setting can make this a unique campaign, but it seemed that after conquering a given area all armies would end up being made up of ‘local’ units (such as highland pikemen or rabble) surrounding a core of faction-specific elites (like Gotlanders or Saethwyr). Historically more accurate perhaps, but not quite so much fun and certainly no substitute for fully developed factions.

4) Americas

This is the campaign in which I had the least interest initially, and even now I’ve only briefly played it on a couple of occasions. That said, playing as the Spanish provided a set of unique challenges, but the native factions were disappointingly similar.

General Issues:

On the whole the expansion was still thoroughly enjoyable, providing me with many more hours of play on top of those grantd by vanilla Medieval 2. That said, the biggest disappointment of all was the lack of changes to the Grand Campaign. Units granted to existing factions in Kingdoms (such as the Greek Flamethrowers, Hasham, or even Gotlanders) would have made wonderful additions to the Grand Campaign, and the Retrofit Mod should not be necessary for those wanting to play with boiling oil. The expansion to the three major crusading orders in the Crusade and Teutonic campaigns could additionally have been applied to the Grand Campaign, thereby allowing some difference between the three aside from the shield of the knights in question. Instead of an expansion this feels like four smaller games, and when viewed in this light their flaws come more readily to mind.

My final disappointment, though more of a personal one than any flaw in the game, is the choice to provide an Americas campaign rather than one dealing with the Spanish Reconquista. The Reconquista would have provided an opportunity to flesh out the final crusading order featured in M2TW, as well as an interesting setting. The Americas barely fits within the time frame of the original game, whereas the Reconquista fits perfectly.

All of that said, I reiterate that I enjoy the expansion, but it could have been so much more.