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Total War Shogun 2 PC Review - -

Gameplay 9.3
Graphics 8.9
Sound 8.8
Value 9.4
Developer: SEGA
Review Date:
March 2011
James Wright
Classification: PG


Total War
Shogun 2

Set during 16th century of Feudal Japan, Total War Shogun 2 is a military style turn based strategy game with real-time battles as the player takes on the role of Daimyo, a leader of a powerful Japanese clan. Your goal as Daimyo is far from simple, you need to reunite Japan which has been split into several warring factions. Even though we have visited this premise almost 11 years ago in the original game, the developers have added several innovative features to further this genre, creating a very sturdy game with revamped AI, new multiplayer modes and some Japanese inspired eye candy graphics.

Containing a bustling multiplayer mode, the heart of Shogun 2 however is the in-depth single-player campaign that supports a decent story as you attempt to conquer those who stand in your way as you travel the road of Shogun. But before making your way to Kyoto, the capital, you must first choose your clan and like all good strategy games, each clan is uniquely different than the other with pros and cons. In my attempt to conquer Kyoto, I chose the Chosokabe as my clan due to their mastery of the bow and considering that this is a war game, I believed that I would receive the upper hand with this clan. I was right in some aspects but also wrong. The game itself lasts around 50-years of "game time" which is quite a few turns in the world of turned based and once you have completed the game, you could easily play another round and try a few different things.

Like Civilization, Shogun 2 supports some micromanagement from economy to research. This allows you to customise your direction as you choose between Chi and Bushido. Chi is more for the national interest of your people, whereas Bushido is more military might so a careful balance must be struck. Add in the ability to create buildings and you will soon find that you have a bustling mini-world to manage as you ensure that your people are fed, your military is trained and allies/trade partners are made amongst other "friendly" clans. 

Trading with non-Japanese merchants does bring positives into your city such as European firearms but this sometimes rubs your people the wrong way. Appeasing your citizens can also be quite challenging at times, especially when religion comes into play that can cause tensions to flair, especially when traditional Japanese religious meets other influences such as Christianity. The last thing you need is a rebellion or a zealous General wanting your position.

The interface of Shogun 2 is a little daunting at first due to the scope of the game. The main hub of the game is a map of Japan which is where the turn based strategy takes place. With over 60 provinces on this map, this is where the daunting aspect comes into play as you micromanagement your clan(s). For those who want to keep in line with the turn-based system of Shogun 2, there is an option for the computer to automatically play out your battle, however for purists such as myself, you cannot beat the real-time battles. Unlike some other games, there is quite a bit of tactics involved when you face your opponents on the battle field.

Not only do you need to choose the right formations for battle but you need to take into consideration the terrain and the formation of your enemies to prevent flanking and the like. Generally combat is broken into offensive and defensive manoeuvres and that adds another element into the game that you must be aware of. To throw another spanner into the works, weather plays a key aspect to your invading armies so if you plan your invasions during the colder months, you will soon discover that this will have a detrimental impact on how your battle fares and sometimes your soldiers will die from illness. The realism of the weather is really maximised in this game because obviously if the weather is harsh, firing crossbows and guns can become quite difficult and the accuracy is hampered. Half my fleet got destroyed during bad weather at one time.

Your generals also play a key role in combat and the more field experience they have, the better their armies are equipped to handle any invaders or defenders. However generals must be wined and dined in your clan and by giving them additional responsibilities, this will make them more loyal towards your cause but given that, some generals are also in it for the power and can be quite treacherous. It's quite amusing that generals can be levelled in various attributes that is linked to Chi and Bushido, making them heroes, villains, poets, scholars or something in between. Generals can even have families and raise children which is ideal if they are slain on the battlefield as their male heirs can takeover their position. I also enjoyed marrying off my daughters in order to better my powerbase.

Apart from generals, you have other characters that make up your clan like Ninjas, Geishas and Missionaries who all have different skills and the ability to gain experience points to help you move to Kyoto! Nothing is more entertaining than sending out your Ninja for a diabolical assassination attempt. The final battle in Shogun 2 is in the city of Kyoto and depending on your difficulty level and which direction you have taken your clan(s), the battle can be quite challenging if you have failed to research correctly and butter your generals. Nonetheless, Shogun 2 contains a steep learning curve at the start but once you have figured out the intricacies of the title, you will soon take off your newbie hat and put on your Daimyo headgear. The AI in the game can be quite nefarious at times, depending on what difficulty level you have chosen and at times can be quite realistic. I rarely saw any stupid moves from the computer. There's definitely some great algorithms involved here.

After a rather exhaustive single-player mode, Shogun 2 contains a unique multiplayer mode called Avatar Conquest Mode. It's a similar system like Starcraft 2 where the player is awarded experience on how they play in terms of ranking.  Before embarking on this mode, you need to select your Avatar and then you can either join or a host a skirmish game. As you win your online matches, you are awarded experience that can then be used to improve your character and is an interesting online levelling system. Like the single-player game, your avatar receives quite a few bonuses like special characters and additional slots for them.

If this sounds all too much for you, the option of unranked matches are still available but they are no way as near as competitive as the Avatar Conquest Mode. Add multiplayer campaigns for both cooperative and versus and this really ups the ante for what you can do online and thankfully we rarely experienced any lag. With a variety of tweaks available to online such as map types (my favourite is siege) or the ability to change the time of day or weather, Shogun 2 definitely adds to the amazing replay value of this game.

Graphically, Shogun 2 is easily one of the best looking games of the turn based and real-time strategy genre. Depending on your PC setup, if you have the ability to play Shogun 2 on full detail with an insane resolution, everything comes alive and the attention to detail is quite impressive. From the well thought out menu systems to the authentic Japanese style of art from the 16th century employed, it just looks like Japan should. The real-time battles are highly detailed from the background environments to the characters and even the weapons themselves. The first time you see a rain of arrows will leave you gobsmacked. Lighting plays another important role in the game, especially when burning arrows adorn the skies or lanterns on the field. Then you have the credible weather effects from rain to snow and winds that go hand in hand with the gameplay. Add in some pre-rendered cutscenes and a majestic musical score with a plethora of sound effects and Shogun 2 is a true piece of art. The only downside to the game is that you really need quite a powerful PC to successfully play this title. Anything less or close to the minimum specifications will leave you in a whole world of hurt.

In conclusion, Total War Shogun 2 is definitely a must have game for those who enjoy turn-based games, RTS or the original Total War games. It's huge improvement over its predecessors and from the very first moments of the game to the last battle of Kyoto, you will be captivated and wanting more. There is a sense of satisfaction when you finish the game at just how good the journey was but best of all, there is an engaging multiplayer mode that opens up Shogun 2 for additional play. It may be a war game but everything in the middle has been included, from your citizens to their religion, geishas to monks and an insightful tech tree, it all comes together perfectly. It's a game to die for!



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