16th-century Japan – an era full of backstabbing, political maneuvering, and of course war. The game takes place during this feudal era of Japan, where samurai and other warriors vied for control of everything. This beautiful entry in the Total War series from Creative Assembly has you in the role of a clan leader vying for control of the shogunate and mainland Japan. As a leader you will use political allies, trade, and of course your armies to work your way across the land and conquer all who oppose you.
For those not familiar with the Total War series, it’s both a turn-based civ game similar to Civilization while simultaneously being a real-time strategy when the real fighting begins. Turns themselves are handled from a large overview of the map. From here players can manage their towns for maximum benefit (either producing troops or producing money all while keeping the populace happy), moving their armies around, and dealing with the politics of the land. Once a fight is initiated – either out in the open or laying siege to a town – the game cuts to a battle map where you directly control your army’s movements and attacks. These battles can be extremely massive with THOUSANDS of people under your control, or if you’re unlucky, under your enemy’s control.
Shogun 2 starts the player (or players if you’re trying cooperative online) picking out a clan. Each clan has their own strengths and weaknesses as well as starting points. There are nine starting clans to choose from (11 with DLC), so every player will have a favorite. Personally I favor the Date clan in the upper peninsula for the security and unit bonuses. As you move across the map, more opportunities open up with new buildings that you take control of as well with research that you’ll undertake. These opportunities include new units, unit bonuses, and better ways to wage war. Be careful waging all-out war though – units cost money and players must effectively manage both their civil responsibilities of their citizen’s happiness as well as their monetary concerns too. I can say that having multiple, large armies is a massive drain on your economy – it’s hard to upkeep thousands of troops without the proper taxes and money flowing in.
The game also offers a number of gameplay modes other than just singeplayer. Players can take their armies online with friends in an all out brawl with up to 8 players (think of how big that battle could be!), participate in a cooperative or competitive mode for 2 players, and try out the neat addition called the Avatar Campaign. The Avatar Campaign pits you against random opponents online, but as you win you will progress and gain new buildings, units, and possible upgrades for your customizable general. It’s fun to try this mode out, but sometimes the game glitches on your rewards, players quit out, or they straight up use cheap tactics. But then again – that’s what war is about.
Graphically the game is a step up from the previous Empire games – it just looks so much cleaner and nicer. There are also some fun videos to watch, including the game’s opening cinematic which is amazing. There are some great details on the units as well – zoom in for a closer look and you can practically see the grit and dirt on the troops faces or the gleam in their armor. The other fantastic piece of this game is the music and voice acting. Creative Assembly went all out and provided proper Japanese voice acting (or in the case of advisors, English speaking Japanese actors) and Japanese musical accompaniments. While hearing the same commands over and over can be annoying, the music was always fun, especially so before a battle.
There are some glitches in the game however that carried over from the Empire games. While they are not necessarily the worst, there was one glitch that effectively destroyed the online cooperative/competitive mode. As you played, the games could possibly de-sync, causing different actions to happen to each player. Beyond that though, the rest of the game is a fantastic play and a great return to the Total War series. And for only $29.99 now, it’s a perfect game for those looking to try a longer, more drawn-out title rather than a 4-hour long first-person shooter.Note: Total War: Shogun 2 was reviewed on PC. A digital copy of the game was purchased by SelectButton.