Guest Author - James Shea
The sequel to "Shogun: Total War" (released in 2000), Shogun 2 uses immersive graphics and solid gameplay to create a distinct advancement to the Total War series.
"Shogun 2: Total War" is a Turn-Based Strategy game that uses a real-time system for its battles, much like the other games in the Total War series. It's set in Japan's Era of Warring States, and players take the role of one of the many warlords across the nation in an attempt to seize power and conquer their rivals. It features land battles, naval battles, castle sieges, and an overarching conquest mode involving economic and military management.
Like other games in the Total War series, the main campaign mode revolves around running a clan. The interface is reasonably simple, combining economic management, diplomacy, research, and military matters into a fairly understandable model. It's comprehensive without being overwhelming - it's enough to know that trade and prosperity brings in more money, being nice to people makes them like you more, and so on. Hence, it's a game that's easy to pick up but can still remain complex.
Some parts have been noticeably improved from previous games, though. Diplomacy, for example, is now a viable tool (whereas in, say, Medieval 2, the AI was unpredictable and irrational). It's important to make allies and trading partners, and the "personality" of each clan is pretty well-established after a few dealings with them. The AI in general is pretty good, being a lot more intelligent and in some cases conniving than in past incarnations. Shogun 2 also sees the return of "character traits" for generals and agents, a feature that was absent from the last few Total War games.
The combat part of the game is similar to previous Total War incarnations. It's still about large formations of soldiers, flanking with cavalry, using spearmen against horsemen, and so on. In general, it seems simpler than Medieval 2 or Rome because there's less unit types and so on. The siege battles are a bit different due to the tiered layer of Japanese castles. However, Shogun 2 also introduces naval combat, which is a bit more tricky. Naval combat involves a combination of ranged attack and boarding, and maneuvering is made difficult by momentum and wind. It's not exactly "fun" in itself, but it's pretty interesting conceptually.
One of the most important changes is how overhauled the multiplayer system. In addition to the standard player-versus-player battles, Shogun 2 also includes a multiplayer campaign mode that can be saved and resumed like a normal campaign. There's also a customizable avatar that serves as the player's general in multiplayer and can be given different faces, armor pieces, colors, and so on. It's a pretty neat way to spice up the usual multiplayer battles, at least.
The graphics in the game are pretty impressive. I didn't like some of the effects, but the models are incredibly detailed and well-done. The art direction is really great, too. One touch I especially liked is that the "fog of war" on the campaign map is rendered as calligraphy, showing mountains, cities, and other relevant things without actually revealing them on the map. While the focus is a lot more limited than previous Total War games (Medieval, for example, stretched all the way from Scotland all the way down to Egypt), they definitely make up for it with how much attention to detail there is on the Japanese landscape and aesthetics.
Overall, Shogun 2 is a worthy successor to the Total War series. It doesn't have the kind of broad appeal that some earlier games did, but anyone who wants to explore the Sengoku period will be right at home.
Purchased through Steam with our own funds.