The Total War series has been kicking around for just over 10 years, and for many people it marked the first time that a strategy game really started to challenge Civilization for its place as leader. The main, and key, difference between the Total War Series and Civ has always been the direct control of armies. It is rather refreshing to see that the series is finally returning to the place that the entire experience started, Japan.
The single player campaign starts off by having a clan take over the local territory from a random group that is milling, which is interesting because it also starts off with them talking about plans of becoming the Shogun–and having aggressors in their home area doesn’t seem like something that a military leader of Japan would really stand for. From that point forward the game basically requires that a steady balance between building an army and managing the supply of wealth and goods from every town that is taken over.
What has allowed Total War to leave such a lasting impression on so many people is the constant battles that the player is able to control. Normally games of this nature have a series of units that can be created, from ones that feel like peasants with sticks to fully trained warriors, and what separates this from the rest is the consistent balance of those units. The game makes great strides to make even the more throwaway units worthwhile given enough numbers, or against the right kind of units under the correct conditions.
One of the drawbacks to this depth, though, is that it can take awhile before chunks of the game are fully understood. It is entirely possible to have one town expand too fast and cause the local population to start to starve, which will cause a revolt, thus leading to that town being lost along with all of its income/units. These kinds of events are common the first time that the game is played, and can easily lead to the loss of the campaign. Although there is an odd addiction that seems to gets it hooks deep inside one?s mind, leading to the start of another game almost instantly after losing a previous one.
Shogun 2 does its best to make itself accessible to new players, even if many of the tips can easily be forgotten after the third town starts to need micromanagement. From instances like allowing the computer to take control of the tax rate, staying off revolts in provinces that the player is too busy elsewhere to notice, to playing the battles for the player in instances when it is the tenth time that day the campaign has been restarted and the outcome of the battle is clearly known. The only downside to all of this is that after several hours it can become clear that the computer is vastly better at all of these actions then the player, which can be mildly depressing when one thinks that they are awesome at this game.
What really makes Shogun 2 is the small touches. Troops will yell out commands in Japanese, the music is spot on for setting the mood, and the way that the unexplored areas of the map are displayed as old black and white painting is simply pleasant to look at. Even with the large strokes that might make giant bullet points on the back of a box it is good to know that enough effort went into the game to tie it into a lasting and meaningful impression.
Total War may be one of the more complex series out there, and in the past there have been many reasons to avoid it– mainly stemming from the fact that at times it could feel unapproachable through simply the amount of choices given. The hardcore have always had it as a staple to call home, but this time around it feels as if everything finally met in exactly the right spots, and enough assistance that anyone can get into it if they want. For anyone that has a computer that can run this game, they owe it to themselves to go out and buy it and enjoy the subtle wonders that it has hidden inside.
Not As Good As: Taking over all of Japan
Also Try: Civ 5
Wait For It: An expansion
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