Similarly to what happened in other sagas, the sequel made so many changes that they may as well have changed the title. But at the same time, it keeps enough of the original to please the fans, as long they also like board games.
You may recall the original game revolved around a campaign on England, where you had to build one castle after the other, fighting off random attacks and finding a solution to the problems of your kingdom.
Well, that has been mostly dropped, at least the campaign part. This time the aim is much more broad, as you have several territories under your control, and complete freedom to expand, as long as your opponents allow you to do so.
Your aim is taking France's throne, may it be by force or diplomacy. But most of the time this ends in the computer opponents beating you into pulp, because the game is merciless, and takes advantage of any beginner mistake you make.
What are you supposed to do to play well? Good question, But I will tell you just the basics. First, you have four resources at your disposal: food, wood, iron and gold, these are spent mostly creating and maintaining units and buying support from your opponents.
But to expend those resources you need free skills points. Each time you do anything you allocate points from three reserves: economical, military and political. As you keep using them you will gain more points, and once you reach five points you can have two jobs being done for a single reserve.
That need a bit of clarification. You choose a labour, may it be attacking, spying, creating a castle, gathering resources, building units or wathever, and then wait until it is completed (you can skip time pressing the mouse's right button, but that is beyond the point), and that job takes a slot until it is finished, if you lack slots, you can't do anything.
What is the reason of this? As there are very few slots. Well, I suppose the main reason is that your army is a single body. No matter where you attack, you attack with the same one army (and defend with half of it). This reduces the strategic scope in a way, but also makes it all faster, and gives much more weight to your decisions.
I'm digressing. Let's see, there are resources, there are skills points and labours, there is a single army and all that is left talking about are castles and diplomacy.
Diplomacy is the usual. You send a diplomat to improve relations, it is kicked back and then that guy comes demanding a lot of gold. Give it to him and relations improve, repeat until relations are so high that this guy decides it is a good time to backstab you and steal your lands. Oh, and you can also deal with the Pope, who is not only asking constantly for money, but also can excommunicate you, which makes diplomacy impossible, and may stop labors altogether. At least he doesn't attack you...
About the castles, they protect your territory not just by forcing enemies to assault them, or to build siege machines, but also stopping lands from revolting, if the castle is big enough.
You can design them how you please, just as the original, but the let-down is that it contains a few pre-designed ones which, once built, give unique bonuses. Thanks to that, building your own makes feels like a waste.
As you see, it's a bit complex game for what amounts to a tabletop look-alike, it is meant to last at much a few hours. To improve this the choose-an-answer events take a come back, adding political intrigue and decisions into the game. These are somewhat long, and have a bit of randomness, and serve to spice a bit the game.
Now, before we end I want to make a small comment. It's not strange for games to have their variants and distinct versions, which in this case are the floppy and the CD releases. And I must say that the CD version is the one meant to be played, not because the documentary about castles it includes, or the music, or the videos that pop-up for each event, but because the adventure bit, the one where you take decisions, is much better.
You get to hear the protagonists on your throne room, and the adventures are much more fleshed out than in the text box with options the floppy version offers. It changes so much that it feels like the CD-Rom got the real deal, while the floppies just have a cheap replacement.
I've said much already for what is not a long game. Maybe I convinced you to try it, maybe not, but really, this is a fun game, fun and fast enough to play again and again without caring. So, why not give it an evening and try it a bit?