I was out of the loop when the first Shogun: Total War came out and by the time I found out of its existence, after the release of Rome: Total War, I just couldn’t go back and play it. So, I was more than excited to see Sega return to this fascinating era. But the big question is, “does it stack up against the greatest of Rome or the rebirth that was Empire?”
Graphics – The graphics for Shogun 2 are great on two levels. Yes, everything looks amazing as you would come to expect. Soldiers move independently and you can watch two men fight in armies of thousands, trees sway in the wind, parts of ships can be blow off; the whole nine yards. What I really like is that even with all its visual pop, the game does not take a monster to run. My computer, which is almost two years old now, can run the game on maximum settings without any problems.
City Management – The gameplay has been streamlined just a bit to make managing some of the smaller details a little easier. Now, you aren’t waiting 20 turns for another village to come around like you were in Empire.
Combat – Even following the same Total War formula, Shogun 2 is able to keep it fresh with its focus on warfare in ancient Japan. While major siege weaponry is rare, its impact is larger. Horse-based units have a more balanced place in the power rankings. Navel combat is also a lot more interesting now. Without gunpowder, ships require a lot more thinking to be effective. The right combination of ships could best a larger force with the right strategy.
Gameplay Options – The campaign is a lot of fun, tasking you with trying to become the new Shogun of Japan, while playing a delicate political game with other clans, European trades and pirates. The historical battles are the cherry on top for history buffs or players who enjoy varied battle situations. Multiplayer is as solid as ever but I didn’t spend too much time with it, the Grand Campaign was enthralling me way too much.
UI and Presentation – As always, the team spent a lot of time on the finer details. Everything feels like it fits within the theme of the time period. Load screens have amazing artwork and, as always, timeless quotes and poetry about war that stems from the era. Everything felt like it had been created with care and the utmost respect for the culture.
Unforgiving – The game is unforgiving in the opening moves. If you take the wrong first steps, you can cripple yourself for the rest of your campaign, forcing you to start over.
Diplomacy – The other clans are tough opponents. One wrong decision or move that they don’t like and they will break off trade ties or alliances with you in a heartbeat. It became a game of musical chairs when it came to trading partners. It also wasn’t easy to improve relations with most of the clans.
Shogun – The Grand Campaign is all about becoming the Shogun of Japan, but let me just say this: the game does not warn you what will happen when it deems you ready to make that push. Let’s just say that you should never trust a wolf in a wolf pack.
Other than those few minor issues, I had a blast with the game. While it stuck to what Empire: Total War did and didn’t come up with a lot of new things, it was still a lot of fun to play. If you have the dough, you should pick this up.