"It's a War Out There"
War isn't something to be taken lightly. Even in games, war is often depicted as one of the most destructive and detrimental forces to society. However, most games place you in the role of a lone solider, and you experience the war from a first-person point of view; rarely do players experience the feeling of waging a total war. For those who want the full experience, the Total War series is there for you. You not only fight the battles, but you run the government, its people, and everything about a society that can be managed. Total War: Shogun 2 is the latest and greatest in the Total War series.
As a veteran of the Total War series, I can honestly say that not too much has changed. Before playing Shogun 2, I occupied a large portion of my time with Rome: Total War and the jump between the two games wasn't necessarily massive. Spear units still trump cavalry, bows are terrible in melee confrontations, and a well-placed cavalry charge can still send a healthy unit fleeing for their lives. However, there's something different in Total War: Shogun 2 that sets it miles apart from the previous Total War games -- the dedication to Japan and Japanese culture here is truly inspired.
- The Sengoku period of Japan is masterfully depicted in Shogun 2 -
Total War: Shogun 2 places you in control of a small clan in feudal Japan -- one that's vying for the position of Shogun in Kyoto. You start with a tiny province and you're tasked with waging war, forging alliances, and generally doing whatever it takes in order to gain the power necessary to take over Kyoto and become the new Shogun. Shogun 2 changes the formula by instilling the honor system into the game. While in previous games you could make and break alliances on a whim, in Shogun 2 the honor of your daimyo (the leader of your faction) plays a large role in the happiness of your people. If you forge an alliance only to turn around and break it later by declaring war on that same faction, your leader loses some of his honor. Lose too much honor and you'll be facing riots left and right in your many settlements.
Commanding your settlements isn't difficult, though, as the tutorials in the game are highly detailed and extremely informative. If you're new to the series, the tutorials will teach you everything you need to know about Total War: Shogun 2 in order to prosper. Don't take that to mean that the game is easy, though. Quite the contrary, Shogun 2 is a challenging game no matter how you dice it, and it never relents, especially toward the end of the campaign. You'll need to use each unit how they're meant to be used, otherwise you won't be taking over any castles during what's sure to be a short campaign venture. Use your units wisely and you'll find yourself with a pleasing victory message on your hands, so long as you don't like to send large groups of units in a single direction. Frequently, I found myself selecting all my units and moving them forward only to have some of the units arbitrarily decide that the opposite end of the map was a much better place for them to be. After multiple attempts I found this to be a consistent problem, and eventually I just moved my units in groups which easily circumvented the issue.
The actual battles are a sight to behold. If you send in a unit of samurai to kill an opposing group of samurai, zooming in won't reveal a series of generic attack animations resulting in units dying. Instead, each individual unit will battle with their counterpart until someone strikes a decisive blow. After hundreds of battles, it may grow somewhat repetitive, but I never got tired of seeing two samurai engaged in a duel to the death. This is all aided by the gorgeous graphics that Total War: Shogun 2 brings to the table. The top quality graphics make the game amazing to behold in action, although some computers may struggle with some of the finer details. Regardless, the game remains impressive to look at on just about any graphical setting except the absolute lowest available.
The quality persists throughout the game, even onto the naval battles that now make up a large portion of the campaign. In the past, Total War games left naval battles to be automatically resolved based on the strength of the units, but Total War: Shogun 2 leaves the mandatory option in the past in lieu of an amazing, comprehensive naval battle system. While most ships house archers which can set other ships ablaze, there are craft which focus on boarding and taking ships over. This means that you can come away from a naval battle with an entirely new fleet in addition to your old flotilla of ships. Of course, you also take on the upkeep of the new ships -- conquering isn't cheap after all.
- Battle is necessary, but deftly managing society solidifies your victories -
The sounds of Total War: Shogun 2 are on par with the graphics in the game. Warriors bellow out a warcry when told to charge, and you can single out the sounds of weapons clashing together in a heated battle. Even on the high seas, you can hear the sounds of war loud and clear. The voices of Shogun 2 are appropriately Japanese, as well. Most characters' dialogue is in full japanese with subtitles for guidance. The tutorial voices are fully in english with a convincing Japanese accent to hammer home the authentic Japanese feeling. Eventually though, I grew tired of the tutorial voices and I played through my second campaign without the tutorial altogether.
The Total War: Shogun 2 multiplayer is incredibly well done. Once you're finished with the outstanding single-player portion, you may think that multiplayer will be a bevy of battles with preset armies like previous Total War games. Upon clicking the multiplayer button, you're faced with two options: Multiplayer Campaign and Avatar Conquest. Multiplayer Campaign is exactly what it sounds like. Avatar Conquest is a new experience altogether, however. You create an avatar and pick a territory to start in. You gain experience and unlock new units through battling other players online. Eventually, you can fully customize your avatar and give him the appearance of a powerful shogun instead of a lowly faction daimyo. Avatar Conquest always offers new challenges thanks to other players attacking other territories to advance their own armies. It's inherently competitive and addictive, especially if you form a team with other players to defeat opposing armies.
Total War: Shogun 2 is an amazing game. It's a complete, no-holds-barred upgrade to an already impressive franchise, managing to feel distinct from it's counterparts by offering an even more immersive experience. As a fan of all the previous Total War games, I'm willing to say that this is the best entry in the series yet. Total War: Shogun 2 is breathtaking in every way possible. The attention to detail is phenomenal, and the game never relents in terms of it's amazing quality and impeccable presentation.
GameDynamo's Score for Total War: Shogun 2 (PC)
|Joey Blackwell II
Avid gamer who's more passionate about writing. Hopes to be a renowned writing voice in the world someday, while still being addicted to games.
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