Creative Assembly returns with another glorious entry to the Total War franchise and it’s a decisive victory! Though it wasn’t a revolutionary step, the changes made were necessary. The game has been trimmed down to the point where all the vital things are there and the unnecessary ones gone. In whole, the game feels much more streamlined and more fun to play than ever before!
Turned-based strategy has never been more fun with the game’s sweeping real-time combat more fun than ever, while being backed by some amazing visuals and sounds. When you zoom into the battlefield, you might think you’re going into the fight itself! Each and every soldier will be engaged in their own unique fight. If they’re struck by a sword, spear, or arrow, they fall over dead just as they should do. No more are the days in Total War when a soldier can withstand blow after blow.
As usual, the game is comprised of two parts. There is the traditional turn-based campaign map, now presented in full 3D, where you will manage your nation’s armies, cities, finances, etc. This time around, the goal of your campaign is to capture Kyoto and establish yourself as Shogun in 16th century Japan. As before, you will have four turns per year to spend your time navigating Japan’s dangerous landscape jam-packed with warring clans all striving for the same goal as you. The weak will be killed off almost in the blink of an eye. Competition will be fierce over territories and trade routes, so it’s It’s kill or be killed; playing nice isn’t an option.
From the get-go, you will have nine different clans to play as, each associated with their own set of bonuses and level of difficulty. You will also have the option to choose a short campaign, ranging all the way up to a domination type campaign. The difference is how much type you have to seize Kyoto. The clans will vary in starting points as well. Some may be placed on the coast or an Island with very few enemies. Others my be in the heart of Japan, surrounded on all sides! Expansion is the obvious goal here, but if you expand too fast, you’ll draw the attention of the sitting Shogun. Move too slowly and a rival clan will storm Kyoto before you’ve even seen it!
Not all clans are enemies though, diplomacy will play a vital role in your network of power. They may come in handy in a war, your combined might ideal for victory. In other cases, simply trading with them may be crucial to your nation’s infrastructure. There are numerous reasons why!
Everything in the game has been trimmed down to make a much more fluid and fun experience. For instance, every clan has the same selection of units to recruit outside of the unit unique unto themselves. This is a most welcome change after the extreme amount of units available to us in Empire and Napoleon, where as the amount of units became far to confusing and overwhelming to keep track of. Researching technology for your nation has also been refined downed into two simple trees. One tree is for the military whereas the other tree is for finance. Depending on where you zero in on could change the outcome of a major battle; the other major aspect of Total War.
When two armies clash, there’s the traditional option to either auto-resolve the conflict or to jump in yourself to decide the fate. I’d advise leading your army yourself if you know how to. You may avoid some heavy casualties to your army! If you do jump in yourself, you’ll be at the helm of thousands of soldiers; spear-men, archers, samurai, you name it, all at your disposal! If you zoom in, your camera will shake to resemble the chaotic fight raging around you. Incredible visuals and sounds will dial you in to the fight thanks to the years of hard work Creative Assembly has put into the Total War franchise. No one does big battles like they do.
Beware though, the artificial intelligence (AI) is no longer stupid. The AI is much improved! In battle, the AI will do everything it can do defeat you. It will use trees to hide ambushes, spear-men to smash into and disrupt your battle lines. Cavalry will veer off out of site, only to pop back in later and surprise you with an attack from behind or possibly a flank attack. The first thing the AI does in every fight is to grab the high ground first. You have to act and move quick, else your in for a tough fight! The player pop-in system for battles might no longer be necessary for some players looking for a good fight. The AI is that good. On the campaign map, allies will actually work together and fight off enemies as one. No longer do they suddenly stab you in the back and raid your empire with no warning.
Those of you that are here for the mulitplayer component of Total War will be very pleased. For starters, there is an entire new mode called Avatar Conquest where you manage an online persona and fight your way across Japan in an interactive style. Along the way you’ll be able to upgrade and unlock different gear that can be customized to your liking. You will also develop a mammoth of a skill tree that is entirely unique to conquest mode. The goal is to conquer provinces in Japan. It’s played out through the use of board game-style icons across both land and sea. There is no turned based play in the mode, only player-versus-player real-time battles; in one-on-one or team battles. You can also join with Steam group clans and work together in taking control of Japan.There is now and entire multiplayer campaign that you can player either solo or cooperatively with another, taking turns moving across the campaign map. Progress can be saved to be continued later on if you can’t accomplish the campaign in one sitting.
All your progress is put into a leveling system that will gradually make more features become available to you. You’ll be able to do things such as slot retainers which provide bonuses in battle, you can customize and save army load-outs, check leaderboards, or even assign individual names to units!
All of the great action that mingles into play in Shogun 2 is presented with some incredible, eye popping visuals. In battle, riderless horses will flee the scene, archers shooting burning arrows will leave trails of smoke in the sky, and melee units will as individual units. The obscene amount of detail put forth into the game is not just found on the battlefield, on the campaign map, undiscovered regions are displayed like strokes of paint on paper. All the attention to detail however will not take too kindly to lower end systems. While still a demanding game, it has been better optimized than past Total War entries.
As I’ve come to expect from a Total War game, the soundtrack is once again a brilliant hit! The attention to the tracks is great, that sometimes if yo listen closely, you can even hear the intake of a flutist’s breath on one of the many mood soothing songs played on the campaign map. Other tracks will feature the pounding of drums that will spark the adrenaline either before or during the chaotic moments of a fight. The soundtrack is nothing short of amazing!