Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Shogun 2: Total War gets it right.

Shogun 2: Total War, is the newest in a series of games released by The Creative Assembly, returns the series to its roots: Japan. Combining the best traits the series has, and omitting some critical flaws, and most importantly, making it stable, makes this possibly the best in the series.
Beautiful morning. Shame its going to full of screaming and death. Oda Clan Ashigaru (Commoners) form the main line of most armies, but the Oda Clan can field them with better morale, which comes into play later.
Like all Total War games, Shogun divides your time in two ways. On a map of Japan, you manage your "Clan" (Japan was not united at this point in history, 1500-1600 was inter-clan warfare) and manage your relations, like any good sim game. The difference happens when two armies meet. Instead of an autoresolve like most games of this type, you get the option to lead your army into battle, with the numbers of your men accurately portrayed. If you have an army of 1000+ troops, expect to see them all. Tactics, and an understanding of military strategy, is essential to success.
Unlike Empire or Napoleon Total War, muskets play less of a role. However, correct use of imported European matchlock firearms and cannons can turn you from humble clan leader to Shogun. At close to medium range, a volley can decimate even the vaunted Samurai. They are vulnerable to cavalry, as well as any melee troops able to survive long enough to get in close.
Troops are split into roughly 4 categories: Spear, Gun, Bow, Cavalry. Spears can keep away cavalry, and are often cheaper to produce, but suffer against melee opponents. Bows and Guns are both weak to melee, but can inflict horrid casualties. Cavalry is best used in surprise attacks, away from spears. Special units, such as Fire Bombs and Cannons, can throw a monkey wrench into this mix. Morale plays a keen role, as in all Total War games. Samurai, relishing combat, fight hard, but know when it is prudent to fallback. Ashigaru, being made of much less stern stuff, retreat much faster, and keeping the battle in your favor is the best way to ensure your force doesn't quit the field, or rout, in the face of a minor reversal. Your General can rally fleeing troops, but his death can lead to your army routing even faster. The General has varying stats, based both on your input at level up screens, and his own personality. A dour, boring soul often can run a town well, but lacks the charisma to lead the troops. A hard-drinking boisterous general can often fight like a devil, and convince his troops to do so as well, but is worse at running towns.
An Oda General, behind his troops. A timely charge from a general can lead to victory, but his death can lead to defeat!
On the technical side, this game runs smooth. My computer, not the greatest but better then most, could barely run Empire and Napoleon on full settings, lagging and had many crashes. Shogun 2 on the other hand, runs smooth as silk on all ultra settings, but for better performance I run grass, trees, and shadows on only high. Nevertheless, the game looks amazing. The soundtrack, with ethnic Japanese style music, and overall presentation is impressive.
The animations and individual fighting between men is great, and really makes you immersed in the game. Here, a Mori Clan Yari(Spearman) engages an Oda Clan Matchlock Gunner, but is kicked in the chest by the wily Oda soldier.
Overall, the game is impressive. I haven't had a chance to try multiplayer, with single-player being the focus of this review, but even based on just that, not giving this game a chance is criminal. The sheer amount of content, and polish, makes this game far superior to its predecessors, Napoleon and Empire. Skeptics would be wise to try the demo. The game balances firearms and old-style combat in an interesting way, and for the history buff or Japanophile, this game is a must.
Charge! An Oda Cavalry unit bears down on the unsuspecting Mori Clan Army.
As always, comments are appreciated. Hate or Love it, I would like to know what you all think.

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