I got my hands on this game before Elemental, and i played just one grand campaign then moved on to Elememtal.
When i played that first grand campaign, i got a bit fed up with the overwhelming number of city build options, and the hideous AI diplomacy then when i first played Elemental coming from that game, i was so relieved by how vastly limited the city build options in Elemental are in comparison!
But after playing Elemental for a while, i came to feel that there is just not enough to justify why am i bothering to build up an empire and an awesome army. So for a while i do not know what to do? I tried downloading some cheap older games on Impulse that had high user rating but there was nothing to hold my interest for very long.
So eventually i begrudgingly put the Total war disk in the drive and fired up a new game. That was like 3 months ago now and i am still having sleepless nights because i have become so obsessed with this game! I think it is because the simplicity of Elemental has taught me to really appreciate the complexity of total war??
For anyone who doesn't know, Medieval ll total war is a combat RTS with turn based strategic planning and economy. It has fixed location provinces and cities clumsily based on historical fact and you start off as one of any number of various medieval kingdoms which then determines your geographical location and how many cities you start with and also influences what units and city improvements you can build.
The best part of it is the combat, it is the most realistic interpretation of medieval warfare i have ever seen! and the AI has limited weaknesses so that if your armies are equally matched, you really have to work hard to limit casualties. Also if you have an equally matched army but the AI is Mongol or Tumirids, they are so effective in battle even veteran players will be better off hitting the auto calc rather than facing them in the field! (but Depending greatly on many things such as how favorable the map is, or isn't and who is the attacker and the percentage of AI cavalry that is present/still present after other battles.)
The worst part about it is the diplomacy, there is not much point to it at all, but only because all the AI kingdoms are raving lunatics. If they were slightly more sensible then there is no reason the diplomacy system could not be called 'brilliant'. You would use diplomacy briefly at the start of the game to get trade agreements, but after that it is just an annoyance that occasionally pops up due to AI initiation to insult your intelligence before you click reject and move on with the game.