[Review] Total War: Shogun 2 – Return of the Samurai
Available on: PC (Retail, Steam); Publisher: SEGA; Developer: Creative Assembly; Players: 1 – 8; Released: March 15, 2011; ESRB: Teen; Official Website
In Total War: Shogun 2,Creative Assembly takes us back to its roots by setting the game in Feudal Japan. With a redesigned game engine that supports up to 56,000 soldiers in a single battle, it definitely pushes the Total War franchise into uncharted RTS territory. Total War: Shogun 2 is also the first game in the Total War series that has its franchise name used as the primary title and to have the Total War brand prefixed. Creative Assembly, with all due respect to Rome: Total War, has catapulted itself to the top with this game due to its breathtaking graphical engine, presentation, and simplified gameplay.
The premise of Total War: Shogun 2 is simple: Take over Japan. No brainer, right? But on a 60-province map, that task is easier said than done. Players who are familiar with previous entries of the Total War series will be accustomed to the over the top Risk style overview, turn-based strategy mode, and real time combat. But what makes Total War: Shogun 2 really shine is the presentation of the epic drama of the Sengoku era that merges stunning graphics, strategic gameplay, and massive battles that will keep you on the edge of your seat. You begin the game by taking the reins of one of the ten most powerful daimyo during the Sengoku period. But be wary of which daimyo you choose because each clan has specific traits; Takeda Shingen’s unique trait is improved cavalry, Hojo has improved building constructions, and the Mori are good at building ships.
Once done picking the daimyo, you are immediately thrusted into Japan’s “Age of Civil War” and must begin making decisions that will have profound effects that resonate throughout the campaign. One of the most important decisions that you will have to make is how to allocate your skill tree. The Mastery of Arts skill tree is split up into two parts: First is the “Way of Bushido” skill set, which controls the militaristic portion of skills, while the second part of the Mastery of Arts skill tree is the “Way of Chi,” which controls economic, civilian, religion, ninja, and geisha skill sets (training in specific trees also unlocks new buildings and units). It is also of the utmost importance to balance out how you allocate your time training in these arts. Without proper management of your economy, you’ll find yourself economically downtrodden. Remember, a basic rule of strategy is to first count the cost, which will make battles swift and inexpensive as possible.
The generals in Shogun 2 are also very interesting in their own right. As a unit in the game, they were typical in any of the previous Total War games, but what makes them different this time around is their penchant for drama. An ambitious general could at any moment betray you if the proper measures are not taken to ensure that he stays loyal, and all of this is due to the unique personality traits that generals in the game begin to develop as they continue to aide your conquest of Japan. Ninjas also play a pivotal part in your conquest. Ninjas are capable of sabotaging armies, assassinating generals, and sneaking into a rival’s castle to open up the gates for an easy access invasion. Like generals, Ninjas are able to develop unique personality traits after each successful action and will need to be properly rewarded to ensure their loyalty.
With all of the new improvements in Total War: Shogun 2, it would only be so pleasing if the AI and overall experience wasn’t up to par, but thankfully, it did not disappoint. In combat, the AI is more refined, intelligent, and likely to use advantages in terrain. During my experience in combat, I have seen enemy units hold formation on a hill with archers ready to fire arrows upon approaching melee units, melee units smoothly and on the fly adjusting to my flank attempts by maneuvering themselves to block my cavalry charge aimed at their squishier units. Although it is still possible to bait enemy units, all in all the days of the AI making idiotic cavalry charges are now largely extinct.
Creative Assembly has done a marvelous job in bringing back the Total War franchise back to the forefront of RTS games. With stellar graphics, masterful integration of drama and personality, and improved AI, Total War: Shogun 2 is easily the best and most polished Total War game to date.
Posted on April 1, 2011, in Multiplayer, PC, Reviews, Single-Player, Strategy and tagged Creative Assembly, PC, Reviews, RTS, Sega, Shogun 2, Steam, Strategy, Total War. Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.