Total War: Shogun 2
Posted 2 years ago By - David Slauenwhite
So wise and noble Daimyo, do you have the ambition and determination to become Shogun of Japan? That’s the name of the game in Creative Assembly’s Total War: Shogun 2, the next entry in the Total War franchise. Make your alliances, conquer your enemies and work your way across Japan with the end goal of uniting the country under your rule. Combining all the elements of resource/territorial management, building your armies and navies, and working out trade and military alliances; all working in concert towards your singular goal. Like previous Total War titles, this is all about managing and building your strength to take and hold territory, thinking your way through how you achieve that and with which units and controlling them in battle.
The single player campaign in itself is fairly straightforward in terms of your ultimate goals. You chose the length of the game based on 3 settings. A Short campaign requires you to hold 40 provinces and Kyoto for four full seasons while Long campaigns require you hold 60 provinces and Kyoto. Domination is all about holding every province. You also select your level of difficulty, which is pretty standard, and as you elevate the difficulty you will find that things change from the very beginning. In Short and Long campaigns there are also certain key provinces you must hold to secure victory, but ultimately it’s about securing and holding Kyoto, which is the main prize in regards to becoming Shogun of Japan.
The key to success is three fold; the obvious is of course building and structuring your forces to win battles as well as how you use those forces in battle. You can stack your forces in a combined arms of foot, cavalry, ranged, and if you choose siege weapons. You can build entirely of foot soldiers or you could go all cavalry types - which give greater mobility - but you loose out on some defensive capabilities. Different units work very well against other types and how you mix and match could be the deciding factor in battles as you go against the AI or against other players in multiplay. You need to be able to counter the enemy’s units while attempting to keep your loses to a minimum and win the battles. Within Shogun, you can always just rely on the computer to make the calculations and auto battle the outcomes if you feel confident enough. However, to really make things interesting, you can control your forces directly in battle. I’ll talk about that more here in a moment, but as they third key to victory, this facet can be tricky when you’re first starting out.
How you manage your provinces and what you research will have a dramatic effect on your success. In my first few attempts at the single camps, I always seemed to have an issue of running out of food in my provinces, which lead to the people uprising and all manner of headaches. The basic component of any province are the castle, which is the seat of power in the province. You upgrade your castle to open up additional building slots and allow for further upgrades of other buildings. This is important as those slots you open allow you to build specific buildings that relate to the construction of better or different units to add to your armies and navies. Likewise there are other specific buildings that allow for the construction of special units such as ninjas or melukes. Upgrading buildings,be they unit related, resource related (food, stone, etc), roads, ports, and so on, all go towards the strength of your overall area of control and the armies you build to conquer more and more territory.
Not building, or even not upgrading certain buildings, can lead too all manner of troubles, such as the food shortages I mentioned, civil unrest, reduced tax income, and so on. These will lead to unnecessary distractions like civil uprisings, lowered ability to draft troops, etc... So there is more than just war and battles to contend with as infrastructure management is just as vital to ensure you have a stable foundation to attack from. Forming trade agreements with other Daimyo’s or with the select outside-Japan merchant spots can increase your income and economic prosperity. Add into this how you decide to grow your research - be it Through the Way of Chi or the Ways of the Warrior - and you will also want to keep an eye on how you grow and manage your provinces to build an effective fighting force.
Combat - be it ground or naval - is controlled much like any other strategy game. You place your units, either for attacking or defending, in positions that make the most effective use of your unit’s various skills, strengths, and weaknesses. Orienting them around your general(s) can be essential to making use of the bonuses your generals acquire as they level up and hire retainers. Levelling your generals is straight forward, as they engage in battles and level up, you can place points on a skill tree that will add bonuses to that particular general’s card for the forces within their army and while in battle. Retainers are an extra bonus taking the form of npc staff that accompanies your generals wherever they go. Formations allow you to center your armies around your general(s) so their abilities, such as “Rally”, can affect troops in a more consistent fashion.
The units themselves have specific abilities and skills that make them more or less effective against other types of units. While archers can pile the arrows on approaching enemy units, cavalry can be used for flanking movements to get behind the enemy’s front lines and quickly strike at the enemy general(s) or their longer range units. Balancing and using your forces effective can be a bit tricky to get used to, at least initially, and covering large amounts of territory can be time consuming. Fortunately, you have the ability to control the speed of the battle so you can make the long marches towards your engaged enemy a bit less drawn out. Terrain and weather must also be taken into account as your troops will under-perform if they’re tired or impeded by fog, trees, and other obstacles. Moving through different terrain types - like forests for example - can also keep some of your units hidden for surprise attacks and ambushes. Needless to say, there is a wealth of tactical thinking to be utilized as you move about the battle field. Siege battles are no different, should you send your infantry in to scale the enemy’s castle walls or bring a ninja up sabotage the enemy gates, you have to develop a plan to ensure victory.
All of this put together can make large battles against the AI or other players fairly exciting to engage in...or disappointing if you get things wrong and you watch all your brave warriors get slaughtered. Naval forces operate under the same principals, and there is terrain and shallow areas to negotiate and weather conditions to account for just as in land battles. As most ships are man-powered rather than wind powered, you have to keep in mind the fatigue level of your rowers, which affect speed and even the ability to maneuver at all. Moving or not moving can also affect the accuracy and rate of fire of your missile troops such as bow ships. When used correctly, you can devastate the enemy’s navy.
Battles - both large and small - against the armies of your enemy Daimyos, rebellions in your provinces, and even pirates on the ocean will be where a lot of the really active gameplay is situated. However, if you get tired of battling the AI in the single player campaigns, you have the option to toggle the drop in system that will open the door for you to battle other real life opponents instead. Also if you just want some quick and interesting action you can jump into some of the big historical battles from the period. These are key moments in Japan’s history and you can pick one side or the other, allowing for a re-enactment or to change things up and alter a little piece of history.
Beyond the drop in campaign option, multiplay in Shogun 2 comes in a couple of different flavors all its own. Starting with the Avatar Campaign, which is a bit different and offers up some customization that will make this a more personal experience compared to the usual flow of multiplay found within the genre. You can change your main general’s (or avatar’s) armor, colors, flag, and so on so you can stand out from the other players. The avatar map allows you to move around Japan dropping into battles on land, sea, and sieges in 1vs1, auto team, or single camp drop ins. As you win and engage in battles on the avatar map, it adds experience points which provides further customization options. You can unlock different armor pieces, improve your skills, traits, and even some extra game items; both by exploring and battling in certain provinces or by way of earning achievements. Clans are battle for domination and upon joining one, you battle to increase your clan’s influence in provinces and raise their position on the Leaderboards.
Shogun 2 is a wonderful example of deep rich strategic gameplay with both battles and resource/province management requiring more than just research upgrade clicks. You do have to put some thought into what you want to build and where, how you want to build and structure your army and navies. Gearing up your generals with the right skills, positions, and retainers to be effective and negotiating diplomacy or committing to battles with the right balance of forces is tremendously. The graphics authentically suit the time period and, even at the lower settings, aren’t hard on the eyes, though it might take a bit to load fully on older machines. The music and sound also fit the setting of the game very well and add to the atmosphere of both play and battle. I definitely recommend Shogun 2 for strategy fans looking for a new title to test their general skills. There’s a lot of replay value here as no two campaigns will run the same way twice with challenges presenting themselves as you fight your way across Japan.
+ Tactical elements create tremendous depth
+ Varied AI decisions change each campaign experience.
+ Avatar map, multiplay campaigns, and clans are well developed
- Single Player Campaign can easily go south early with poor decisions
- Some connectivity issues in multiplay
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Release Date : 2011/03/15
System : PC
Publisher : SEGA
Developer : Creative Assembly
Category : Strategy
ESRB : T
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