Guest Author - James Shea
A downloadable pack for "Total War: Shogun 2", "Rise of the Samurai" moves Shogun 2's gameplay from the Muromachi period (1500s) to the Heian period (1100s), with appropriate changes in art, units, and strategies.
Rise of the Samurai's campaign takes place during the Gempei War, a war of succession between three powerful families: the Minamoto, the Taira, and the Fujiwara. These three families make up the game's six factions, as each family has two "sub-families" that start out allied but may come to blows later. the provinces between the major families are held by minor lords and vassals who each hold some allegiance or loyalty to one of the three families. Uniting your family's supporters, and destroying those who support your enemies, is crucial to dominating the world map.
The shift from the 1500s (the Sengoku period of the original Shogun 2) to this earlier era means different units, buildings, agents, and arts. While many of the basic concepts are the same, the technology and culture are both more "primitive". For example, rather than the stone castles of the Sengoku period, castles in Rise of the Samurai are little more than wooden forts, even at higher levels. Basic foot-soldiers are peasant levies rather than the more professional ashigaru, and samurai are, as befits the period, mounted archers first and foremost.
Developing buildings is handled differently in RotS, necessitating a change in tactics for experienced Shogun 2 players. Most building types now have two upgrade paths, providing different benefits for each. Which buildings lead to which units are different as well, with more general "barracks" replacing the weapon-specific schools of Shogun 2's normal campaign. Agents are another changed aspect of the new content; while the new agents have many roles similar to their standard S2 counterparts, they also have some new options. The "secret police" agent converts provinces to your side, either passively (by spreading rhetoric) or actively (by bribing a properly sympathetic settlement). The "traditional dancer" agent can raise friendly morale and loyalty, or seduce enemy generals or agents.
One interesting change made in the new content is the shift in the game's art. Shogun 2's heads-up display was patterned after the "ukiyo-e" woodcut art of the Sengoku era. Units, buildings and character portraits, for example, were represented in that style. Rise of the Samurai patterns its art after the "e-maki" illustrations of the Heian period it takes place in. This is a fairly simple shift, but it's an interesting way to help reinforce the change between the two periods and definitely a good use of artistic resources to deepen the game. The quality with which units and structures are modeled also helps to give a sense of historical accuracy.
Overall, Rise of the Samurai is a good set of content for anyone looking to expand their game of Shogun 2. The new campaign offers more dynamic situations than the "free for all" of the Sengoku period, and the historical shift between the two campaigns is undoubtedly well-represented. A must-buy for any fan of the original game.
We purchased this game with our own funds in order to do this review.
Buy Total War: Shogun 2 Rise of the Samurai DLC from Amazon.com