"Bringing a Sword to a Gun Fight"
Total War: Shogun 2: Fall of the Samurai delves into the enduring conflict between the powerful Imperial throne and the waning days of the traditional samurai lifestyle (hence the second subtitle). This is an all-new standalone expansion to last year's successful Shogun 2, meaning you do not need to play through the original to enjoy the exploits that Fall of the Samurai has to offer, though linking the two is possible if you own both. Also, the fact that this game takes place about four centuries after the original, the dissonance between the original's 16th century feudal Japan and this entry's end to that feudal era provides some rich narrative atmosphere that indicates that Fall of the Samurai is more than just a mere expansion, it is practically a new game.
Gameplay alternates between managing both territory and military via a turn-based map of Japan, and then direct controlling said armies in real-time combat. In the former, you develop towns, position your forces, and negotiate. The latter gameplay element mixes organized warfare with more visceral, up-close melee skirmishes.
By being set in this particular time period, Total War: Shogun 2: Fall of the Samurai is intriguingly the closest to the modern day era that the Total War series has come. Expectedly, new features are introduced to reflect that. Naval units are now heavily-armed and steam-powered, and the addition of land and sea unit interaction allows for more options and changes to strategy.
For example, not relegated solely to nautical combat, ships (which are still quite cumbersome to control) are also able to bombard land-based enemies with ranged artillery support. Conversely, coastal ports can be outfitted with gun defenses that allow land-based units to attack sea-based foes (with the option to aim via a first-person view), making invasion by sea an even more difficult objective. Another series-first feature is a useful railway system that increases the rate of troop movement across the map, although their availability and implementation are limited to specific territories.
Fall of the Samurai's story details traditional samurai culture's (perhaps futile) fight against technological weapon advancement. You are able to play through both sides of the conflict for differing perspectives. Three of the all-new six factions are loyal to the emperor, cautiously welcoming and adapting to the influential and technological power that western advancement brings. The remaining factions are devoted to the shogunate, clinging to the old ways in the face of that modernization. Atmospherically, Total War: Shogun 2: Fall of the Samurai has much in tune with the 2003 film, The Last Samurai.
The intended abolishment of the samurai way, growing resentment toward outer influences, and the dramatic social and economic transformations that accompany them are the source of the conflict. With one side fighting against history and one fighting against change, any victory is Pyrrhic at best. Indeed, having to choose a societal and ideological side in this historically based narrative, which the finale tasks you with, makes for a dramatically intense endgame.
This forced industrialization is even slightly mirrored in the gameplay, with the advancement of the branching technology trees firmly favoring modernization over tradition. Siding with tradition, the apparent underdog weapons-wise, requires approaching battles with different skills, relying on tactics like ambushes rather than flat-out military might. Seeing as how the A.I. is at times wonky and unpredictable, like units standing idly by as they are being attacked, the perks and power of pro-modernization can help alleviate some frustration. It is best to find a balance between the two though, as maintaining amicable and diplomatic contact with foreign powers offers access to more resources and should ease the game's overall challenge.
Focusing on the influence of western powers that helped spur a bloody civil war, Fall of the Samurai covers perhaps the most tumultuous era in Japanese history, and that strong narrative backdrop only enhances the stellar action-based and strategic gameplay. The Total War series is practically synonymous with the fine melding of turn-based strategy and resource management, and by incorporating essential elements from past entries, Total War: Shogun 2: Fall of the Samurai serves as perhaps the best entry point to convince newcomers to see what the series is all about.
GameDynamo's Score for Total War: Shogun 2 - Fall of the Samurai (PC)
Writes for a few media outlets, does graphic design work for a few clients, as well as production work for a few studios (all poorly). Believes the best correlation between the words "twilight" and "sparkle" has less to do with vampires and more to do with a sarcastic pony.
[View Total War: Shogun 2 - Fall of the Samurai images / screenshots +]
[Watch Total War: Shogun 2 - Fall of the Samurai videos / trailers +]
[View more Total War: Shogun 2 - Fall of the Samurai articles (news, previews, reviews) +]
[View Total War: Shogun 2 - Fall of the Samurai cheats / guides +]
More from GameDynamo