Shogun 2 Title Screen

The latest instalment in the Total War series, this time back in feudal Japan! How exciting.

Total War games are pretty unique in gaming – there’s no other game that can really replace them. The combination of turn-based strategy on the campaign map and real-time tactical battles has always made Total War stand out from any other game. While Paradox games have a more in-depth simulation for the strategy side, Total War games have a combat system that’s simply miles better.

Tactical battles are fairly realistic – you don’t send units to fight to their deaths, and it’s rare that you will lose an entire unit in fights. Instead, fights are governed mostly by the morale system. Troops with low morale will easily rout, so the battles revolve mostly around damaging the enemy’s morale by flanking or by causing massive casualties to force a rout.

Being surrounded is bad for morale

Being surrounded is bad for morale

In most Total War games, the AI is not really good enough to withstand cavalry flanks, and as such often falls to a simple charge up their rear end. It’s not quite as bad in Shogun 2, with the battle AI at least recognising the threat of the cavalry and sending some spearmen after it, preventing such tactics from being a sure-win all the time.

AI has generally been a weak point throughout most Total War games – one of my most memorable moments from Empire: Total War was offering to give the AI my entire country in exchange for a piece of technology and being rejected. Campaign AI often makes ridiculously stupid decisions, and the harder settings on the AI just gives them extra income/units and makes them more inclined to ganging up on you.

 

Shogun 2 does seem to attempt to fix these problems, with the Campaign AI often making not-all-that-bad decisions. Most deals will be rejected if you constantly break treaties with the other clans or attack them alot, and the smaller clans tend to produce huge armies for defense so you can’t just steamroll over everyone.

Shogun 2 Campaign Map

Those are some awfully big armies there.

The AI is still far from perfect, however, and often demands ridiculous things, such as a 1-province country demanding that you pay 4100 koku(gold) for peace when you have armies stationed outside his capital that can take it on the next turn. The AI also doesn’t seem quite able to deal with Agents in this game, especially religious ones. You can easily bring an entire clan to its knees with a few religious agents constantly sabotaging his cities, and the AI really can’t stop it.

There is a new technology system that appears to be much better than the tri-tree of Empire: Total War. The two technology trees in the game, Bushido and Chi, both add bonuses and unlock new buildings and stuff like that, but the bonuses aren’t really as important as they were in Empire. If you didn’t have Fire by Rank in Empire, your troops were pretty much useless most of the time, but there aren’t any such bonuses in Shogun 2 and most are pretty minor additional abilities that you can get by without. The only technologies that you really need are the ones that unlock the higher tier farms so that you can avoid famine.

Honour is a new system that measures your integrity and how much other clans are willing to trust you demands. If you constantly sabotage your allies or break treaties easily, most of the other clans won’t even accept your trade agreement proposals and you will have a much harder time trying to get any deals signed, which means it’s generally a good idea to not break treaties for the early part of the game lest you attract the ire of other clans. Low honour will also increase unrest in your cities, so it’s always a good idea to avoid that.

Agents and Generals now gain experience and level up from successful actions/battles, giving you skill points and the option to choose a retinue. This is a pretty good improvement over the previous systems where you would random gain certain traits from certain actions, along with a few innate traits that are picked up solely by random chance, and adds a bit of an RPGey feel to the game. Levelled agents are also quite terrifying, with a maxed-out missionary being capable of wreaking absolute havoc.

Shogun 2 Battle

These guys bring both swords and guns to the fight.

You can choose to adopt Christianity as your clan religion, which gives you access to more imported gunpowder weaponry and strong western-style ships. However, relations with other clans will be worsened and your honour is damaged, making it harder to use diplomacy. Unrest is also increased in provinces that are mostly Buddhist, and can result in rebellions if you’re not careful. It’s pretty amusing to switch over though, since you can start spreading Christianity to your neighbours to increase their unrest and force them to eventually become Christian as well.

I think that wraps up my thoughts on the Singleplayer so far. I’ve completed a run through on Normal and am currently playing through Hard, but both runs have been rather easy and I don’t really think it’s much of a challenge, though I did need to get a few Heroic victories in Hard in order to survive.

Multiplayer-wise, Shogun 2 is a much more substantial offering than previous Total War games. Units are unlocked as you play, and you start with only a few basic units that you can use. This doesn’t mean that you will be disadvantaged at the start, however, since basic units are much cheaper than the more advanced units, and you will be matched against people of similar rank to you to avoid any mishaps.

The unlocking-of-units happens as you take over provinces on the Conquest Map, which will grant you certain units depending on what province it is.

The Clan map for Shogun 2 is by far the most interesting aspect of the multiplayer. You can choose to join a Steam Group and mark it as your clan in Shogun 2, allowing you to fight in a clan league. This is essentially the same as your regular Conquest Map, except that fighting battles on it now gives your clan points in that province, and the clan with the most points in the province is marked as the current owner.

Shogunate of Gensokyo

My clan is awesome.

This adds a nice meaning to the battles in multiplayer, and gives you a good motivation for playing the multiplayer.

Anyway, that’s about all that I have to say about Shogun 2, apart from one more thing.

Blargh sea battles.

Yeah that’s all now.