Total War: Shogun 2
The expectations for Shogun II: Total War are high. Not only is the series known for its top quality, it also has been going on for quite a while and it’s getting increasingly difficult to keep innovating. The first glimpse we got to see of the game looked good, but of course we always have to wait for the final version to arrive in order to give a verdict.
The most important innovations in Shogun II are created to introduce more strategic options. The tech tree we know from Napoleon and in which you can focus on military or economical aspects, is back. Another important addition is the experience points characters (generals and agents) get as they become more experienced and with which certain skills can be bought. These are special skills like the wedge formation for cavalry, or more generic advantages like extra moral for the troops or an improved bodyguard. Next to that you can also choose which retainers characters get and are influenced by. In other words: there are more possibilities to lead the strenghts of your clan, generals and agents towards the strategy you’ve plotted out.
In the world of strategy games more possibilities of course also means more things to take into consideration. In the first place generals for instance will still have a will of their own and their actions on the battlefield will remain determing, no matter how many skills you choose. Another factor that has increased in important in Shogun II is the honor of a clan leader and the loyalty of other generals. In previous games you only had to take that into account in a limited fashion but now you’ll definitely get into trouble if you ignore this aspect. Also the food supply is important for order in your empire; if there isn’t enough food, you’ll quickly get an uprising to deal with.
Other innovations and improvements can be found in the details, like more additional diplomatic options. You can for instance take one of your relatives hostage and send him to the other party to reach an agreement. You also have more to say about the family of your clan leader; choosing the heir, adopt generals and put daughters up for marriage, it are all options to help your family progress. Diplomacy has become a bit more important: all clans are equal and if you become too powerful the others will lean towards working together against you.
The AI has also improved in battle and especially in siege battles you notice this. The AI will for instance attack from different directions at the same time (instead of only from one of two) and you’ll definitely not have it easy against you AI opponents, especially in the higher difficulty degrees. Sometimes you can still ambush them relatively easy, but overall you can expect a challenge. Talking about battles: the night battles are back, both on land and over sea. It’s visually very impressive although the strategic value of these is a bit limited.
As if all of the above isn’t enough yet, you regularly are faced with dilemmas; events where you can choose between two options, each with its pros and cons. To name a few examples: you can choose to trade with the West and get access to firearms, but that will open the door to Christianity and accompanying trouble with your traditionally Buddhist followers. All your choices have short and long term effects so this isn’t just a filler.
Starting the game requires some getting used to as you get submerged into 16th Century Japan. The atmosphere and style is more present than ever before in the series. Names of units, the tech tree, the general’s speech before combat, formations, the graphics, … literally everything has a Japanese touch. However, eventhough it may be a bit overwhelming, you quickly notice this is still a Total War game. Veterans of the series will have little difficulty finding their way in Shogun II.
This may suggest that beginners won’t have it easy to step in but nothing is further away from the truth as the devs also looked at more possibilities to get the hang of the skills necessary for the game. First of all there are more tutorials present and not only the basic skillset are taught but also more advanced techniques pass by. On top of that there’s an extensive encyclopedia available for all those that want to get deeper into the details of the game, know more about certain units or buildings, or want to indulge in historic backgrounds.
In previous Total War games we already got a taste of multiplayer and in Shogun II also this gets improved. Next to the well-know drop-in battles and the multiplayer campaign you can now also play against multiple human opponents through the Avatar system. You choose the flag, properties and starting province of your general and off you go. The fun part here is that you can be part of a clan and even play in teams.
Shogun II: Total War completely manages to live up to the high expectations. We get an excellent mix of old and new features, more strategic depth and immersion in 16th Century Japan as cherry on the pie. And most important: Shogun II is a very fun game to play.