For me the Total War series is the greatest series of strategy games ever released and it ranks very highly in my favourite series of all time list. It's perfect blend of strategy, diplomacy and all out carnage has kept me playing numerous games for hours on end. The series thus far is littered with great games without any entry in the series being anything less than great, despite this though I still have a clear cut favourite and that's Medieval 2: Total War.
Medieval 2 took all of the improvements made in Rome Total War and the great setting from Medieval Total War and, whilst refining almost every aspect of the series, became the high watermark by which I judge any and all other strategy games. I have been enjoying Medieval 2 since it was first released and I still play it regularly to this day, in fact, other than the original Metal Gear Solid I wouldn't be surprised if it was my most played game of all time.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with the series you control a world map, picking a nation to turn into an empire. You manage individual cities and, through diplomacy and war, conquer the world. There is an endgame objective, usually holding a certain number of regions and Jerusalem, but for me it's the open ended nature of the campaign that makes the game so great. In one playthrough I controlled the British Isles as England whilst the Timurids held the rest of Europe and Asia and the Aztecs held all of the Americas and in another playthrough the Egyptian empire had conquered the entire known world and was merely waiting for the discovery of America to be able to expand its territory.
The world map management is addictive and the fully realised 3D battles allow for you to watch the carnage unfold and sit back with glee as your carefully planned strategies come to fruition. Add to this a fantastic skirmish mode, a number of historical battles and a great multiplayer mode where you can play with or against up to 8 people and you have a truly great package the only thing that is missing is a multiplayer campaign but this really is a surprisingly small gripe.
This is a game that I have enjoyed for years and will continue to enjoy for many more, if you don't own it you should buy it, you won't regret it but your social life might.