Total War series returns to the land of the rising sun after a decade of absence. Shogun 2: Total War is the next hybrid real-time turn-based strategy from UK-based developer Creative Assembly and publisher SEGA.
It’s the 16th Century, Japan is going through the worst period in its history. After the great Ounin war Japan is surrounded by Chaos and turmoil where 8 warlords are clashing with each other for small pockets of power. These pockets of power would allow a warlord to get the blessing from the Central Emperor, enabling the warlord to exact his reigns of power on all of the lands.
Ancient Japan makes for a mesmerizing setting, especially when the storms roll in and you’re fighting alongside rumbling thunder and lightning strikes. It’s EPIC in every sense of the word. Unlike its predecessors, in Shogun 2: Total war, the developers are focusing more on the core components of the game. Rather than having huge armies at disposal, players will control 30-40 basic units (20 or so per faction) each with its specific purpose, so that players can play strategically, and to add a variety of gameplay experience, the units will upgrade over time.
In the previous Shogun games, the scale of the battlefield was enormous which ranged from continent to continent, whereas in Shogun 2: Total war the scale of the battlefield is limited to JAPAN only. The developers more then compensate for the reduced scale by the complexity of the characters and story.
The most exciting new gameplay feature has to be the inclusion of siege battles. The ancient Japanese countryside was littered with giant fortresses, and you get the chance to hold out in these against thousands of attacking enemies. It’s incredibly tense and tactical, and you have to make sure none of your defenses fall enabling enemies to pour in.
The Total War games just keep getting bigger, and this is the most exciting yet. The return to the ancient Japanese setting also makes it one of the most visually striking, with gorgeous menu design and elaborately designed units and castles.
Another great improvement is the addition of hero units in the game. These heroes are legendary warriors with unparalleled fighting skills, the hero units are a nearly unstoppable force on the battlefield, capable of holding bridge crossings against entire armies, or slashing their way through a battle line to engage the enemy general.
Players can counter heroes with a variety tactics, such as filling them full of arrows, or by having the players hero units engage them in duels.
Some of the most intuitive features of the old Total War games seem to be a priority again. For example, family trees are a much more important part now, seasoned generals gain significantly more value over time potentially to the point of becoming invaluable, and even the agents that serve in the game can be tailored to fit the needs of players almost like an RPG.
It is expected that like in the older Total War games players will grow genuinely attached to their leaders, family members, and agents in Shogun 2: Total War.
Diplomacy is also present in Shogun 2, and offers a very good deal of functionality in a way that makes data on clan relationships readily available. Players will continue to have a variety of options while conducting diplomacy, including trade agreements, trade embargoes, military alliances, open borders, hostage negotiation, arranged marriage offers, and even vassal demands.
If peaceful diplomacy isn’t going the way the player wishes then they can even threaten the opposing clan, although it can obviously lead to worsened relations or even war.
The interests of the Public also needs to be taken into consideration in Shogun 2: Total War, public order and happiness are managed primarily with taxation , although other influences do exist. Random events called dilemmas come up on occasion, some of which will affect the happiness of the people.
Choice of religion can also rock the boat, especially if Christianity is pursued for the sake of gaining access to European gunpowder weapons, cannons, and ships. If things are looking especially dire, players can entirely excuse a region from tax, construct buildings or pursue arts which reduce disorder, or even make changes to the clan family that will please the people.
Arts represent the technology tree in the game, and plays a big part in the overall direction that the empire’s goes. Player’s can focus on the arts of Bushido, Chi, or both. Bushido arts focus on military advancements, while Chi arts are more related to economic improvements and social order.
If a player chooses to treat each path equally, then they may find themselves lagging behind on the field or economically, so it looks like it may be best to focus on one or the other at least in the early stages of a campaign.
The art team has been inspired by all of the conventional icons of the land and the wide range of seasons and weather will help add variety to the battles. Players, for instance, find themselves fighting in the same province during the spring as cherry blossoms drift by, and then come back for a battle as layers of snow sit on the land in winter.
The team is reintroducing night time battles to the game, the way the lightning cracked in the distance and lit up the trees and soldiers as rain collected in puddles around them is phenomenal. The ranks of soldiers, all outfitted in distinctive primary colors and sporting battle flags on their backs, looked better than any we’ve seen so far in the franchise.
The units in Shogun 2: Total War have dozens of different bones, this allows for much more natural and realistic animations, these animations were recorded using the British Kendo Association and actual bushido fighters. To further add to the authenticity, Creative Assembly is also using all the original weapons on the original materials for the sound effects.
They’ve even gone so far as to record the sounds of the historical footwear of each unit type walking and running on all the types of terrain represented in the game.
Finally, It’s worth commenting on a couple other items that are sometimes missed in previews. First, the sound effects, voicework, and music in Shogun 2: Total War are fantastic. The voice overs in Shogun 2 by actor populates it with authentic Japanese and accented English. The music by Jeff van Dyck is also extremely well done and is always a pleasure to listen to.
Following the massive modernist approach of the predecessors comes a game that seems altogether more content with its almost microcosmic focus on 16th century Japan. Shogun 2: Total War will be a RTS of historical battle re-enactment, this is full of juicy gameplay experiences that will give players goosebumps.
Shogun 2: Total war is slated for March 3, 2011 for the PC in North America.