Let’s head further back in time with Shogun 2 and see where the samurai all began withTotal War: Shogun 2: Rise of the Samurai (it’s quite the title). This expansion for the previousShogun 2 game is fraught with peril as players assume the role of one of three major clans and vie for control over Japan. Again. Set 400 years before the main game, the Gempei War is in full swing as opposed to the main game being set during the Sengoku Period. Japan is beginning its meteoric rise to the era of Samurai – they are still relatively new to the people, and their traditions and position within society is still unsure.
The game is played the same way as the previous title with almost zero changes overall. Players still manage their territories and armies simultaneously in an effort to both make money and conquer the land. Balancing the two is still key – tax income versus your army upkeep, supplying everyone with food, and other ventures all add up. Players must keep their treasury in the green and food in the populace’s stomachs to keep them happy, but you can’t win if you sit there the whole game.
That’s not to say there are no new changes to the game. Gone are many of the more advanced units, after all there weren’t guns and other advances available yet in Japan. Most of the choices have been shrunken down into just naginata units, archer units (these vary at least), and sword units. There are still some neat ones like bomb throwers, but the variety seen in the original game is gone. Instead they added a few extras within those categories. The top unit to build now seems to just be the samurai, at least until players unlock the hero units. Heroes were available in the last game, but in this expansion they’ve been increased tenfold and they are WORTH the time and effort. There have also been changes to the agents available for use; these are the characters that players can use to sow confusion and cause disruption to others, or even use them to bolster their own towns. The previous iterations of these units – the geisha, ninja, metsuke, and monk (or missionary) – have been changed around to the shirabyoshi, monomi, junsatshushi, and sou respectively. Most of them perform the same functions, though the shirabyoshi is unable to assassinate anyone now. I will say though that I hardly used most of them other than the sou, who was integral in keeping the peace for me.
A new gameplay addition to the game is clan support, which directly affects how much time you’ll be focusing on new towns you’ve conquered. Since the game is now broken up in three major clans, your respect and how much people like your clan play a major role. Conquering a town that is 100% against your clan means you’ll be leaving your army garrisoned there for the sole purpose of keeping the peace until they are swayed. This is where the sou, who can inspire towns, and certain buildings come into place. It’s possible to cause uprisings or convert enemy towns to your cause by simply being that damn awesome (the clan estate line of buildings increases your influence), and having agents in place will increase the rate at which a town likes your clan. These are important things to remember as you try to march across the land – go too fast and you’ll end up with a series of pissed off people and riots in your wake. This time around players need to take it a bit slower and plan things out.
The research trees have also been changed around to match the time period. Previously you could have possibly learned how to construct catapults or firearms through the Arts, but in Rise of the Samurai these are non-existent. Instead, learning the Bunka (civil) or Budo (war) arts grants upgrades and units that would have been expected during that time – sword-carrying units or new ways to repress the people. Ahh, glorious technology and improvements.
There are still some issues within the game. Playing cooperatively with my brother this time around went fairly smoothly for about 80 turns until the same glitch started rearing its ugly head – the desync. Once this began the game became nearly unplayable because every turn or so we’d have to stop, transfer a save to one another, and then reboot the game. Let’s just say after dealing with it so much during my last playthrough I was extremely disappointed and a little pissed to see it back. Its been present in other Total War like Empire and for it to keep popping up is getting ridiculous.
There are also some minor issues with units still present. One in particular is how archer units will not attack if they have their line of sight blocked. That is understandable, but what isn’t is that the unit doesn’t always try to correct this and move to a new vantage point. They will move to the correct placing when going into combat, but not during, which gets frustrating. I also watched as a battle in which I had a superior force was very nearly decimated by a force less than half its size. While it could easily be said that it was poor leadership on my part, I watched my units break within seconds of meeting the enemy, even with my two generals standing behind them using the rally and inspire abilities. It didn’t really make sense and the battle was a very close victory for me.
Shogun 2: Rise of the Samurai is still a great title that is sure to keep you entertained, especially so if you enjoyed the main game. The problem is that it’s still essentially justShogun 2 with a *slightly* different coat of paint. It needed more to really differentiate itself from the main game. It’s still got the fantastic gameplay that the Total war series is all about, but it didn’t feel like a full expansion to me.Note: Total War: Shogun 2: Rise of the Samurai was reviewed on PC. A digital copy of the game was purchased by SelectButton.