5 Games That Let You Get Medieval
This week marked the release of Stronghold 3, latest in a line of medieval strategy games from developers Firefly Studios. In the process of delving into the game (look for a review next week), we here at GameFront were reminded of our love of chain mail, feudal politics, and megalithic military architecture. Medieval things, in other words! Though historians don’t agree on the precise dates of the Medieval period, everyone can agree that it was awesome (as long as you didn’t have to actually live through it). With this backward-looking affinity in mind, we put together a list of our five favorite games that let you get medieval.
Developed by Quicksilver Studios (known to some as the developers who ruined the Master of Orion series by releasing wretched Master of Orion 3) Castles II was a forward-thinking, technologically advanced strategy game, well ahead of its time in a couple key areas. Selecting one of five French dukes, players fought to control France using a combination of economic management, warfare, and diplomacy. Castles II is particularly notable for giving players the ability to customize and save their own castle designs. Using an in-game editing tool that demonstrated surprising flexibility for 1994, would-be kings could devise complex edifices of deadly defensive cunning — not unlike Stronghold 3!
The CD-ROM version of the game also shipped with extensive full motion video, including short informational featurettes on a number of epic, real-life castles. Attention to historical detail was mirrored in the gameplay. There was an AI Pope, and if you pissed him off (by invading one of his client states, for example), you could get excommunicated! The game would show creepy, grainy footage of a man in papal robes turning his back on you. What’s more medieval than that?
Under-the-radar Turkish developer TaleWorlds created a cult hit in Mount & Blade. Beginning with clever, open-ended RPG gameplay that often resembles Sid Meier’s Pirates! on land, the game made its name on the quality of its combat, which blends first- and third-person perspectives to create a visceral, realistic experience.
Most notable is Mount & Blade’s handling of mounted melee combat, which it offers in huge quantities. There are barely any games in existence that give you the ability to lay someone open from stem to stern while galloping by them on a horse, and Mount & Blade delivers that distinct, medieval pleasure. Being able to do it in online multiplayer matches just makes things that much sweeter.
Despite being a flawed game, and despite being mostly overshadowed by the Renaissance Bro antics of Ezio Auditore (who returns in Assassin’s Creed: Revelations this fall), the original Assassin’s Creed had a killer medieval setting. The Crusades were definitely one of the most fascinating aspects of the medieval period, rife with skullduggery, fanaticism, barbarity, and human weakness.
Though cloaked in Ubisoft’s claptrap conspiracy theory, the Assassin’s Creed story offers plenty of opportunities for brutal 12th-century combat, and incorporates real locations and personages. Protagonist Altair might not be much of a character, but he’s handy with an edged weapon.