Total War: SHOGUN 2 - game review

Date: 2011-03-18 10:45:00
The review was based on the PC version.

In more than ten years of history of the Total War series, we have to fight against the background of falling cherry blossom petals, besiege medieval fortresses, feel the irritating sand under the armor of a Roman legionnaire and inhale the tart smell of gunpowder. After all these adventures, seasoned in combat and used to performing impossible tasks, we return to our roots - to Japan of the Sengoku period, where it all began.

The latest work of Creative Assembly is a comeback in a really great style - it combines the original, already proven patterns with new achievements in an almost perfect way. You can clearly see that the authors made the new Shogun exactly as they wanted - and you immediately feel that they really enjoyed designing the game. They managed to develop a very interesting synthesis of the gameplay mechanics of Empire and Napoleon with the aesthetics and atmosphere of the first Shogun . This means that we will once again play the role of one of the Japanese daimio (clan leaders) to conquer the entire island at the head of his troops. However, it will not be a conquest in the style of the over ten-year-old prototype - all technical solutions were taken from the last parts. So it can be said that the newest Shogun owes its soul to the eldest of ancestors, but inherited facial features from his parents. In this way, an almost perfect balance was created. It is not without reason that this work of Creative Assembly is referred to as the Zen ideal transferred to computer monitors.

But how does it work in practice? As in every game in the Total War series, the game is clearly divided into two levels - strategic and tactical. In the first one on the map of Japan, we manage the economy, diplomacy, dynastic politics, the activities of agents and the movements of pawns representing armies - all in a turn-based system. However, when two troops stand in the same field, the player is transferred to the tactical map, where he directly commands hundreds of brave warriors - the fight takes place in real time with the option of an active pause.

How were the Empire mechanics connected with the spirit of the first Shogun? All strictly technical solutions were taken from it - on a three-dimensional world map we develop cities and their external outbuildings (such as courts, mines, quarries, etc.), move pawns with a limited range of movement and manage politics. During the battles (both sea and land), we control graphically excellent unit models, with equally exquisite animation. The interface is very similar to Empire - the differences are minimal. And all this is dressed in garments made of cherry blossom petals - our subordinates address us with a Japanese accent (although in English), we encounter Japanese terminology everywhere (chi, bushido, ashigaru etc.), ornaments (graphics resembling period originals) or music.

As the action of Shogun 2 takes place in Japan of the Sengoku period, we said goodbye to armies composed almost entirely of infantrymen equipped with firearms - we will tear hostile guts again with swords, spears and other equally deadly tools of murder. In this way, the creators departed from the most criticized element of Empire - sedate battles - but taking the best of their previous work.

In Shogun 2, the player has the opportunity to play the role of the leader of one of ten quite diverse clans (one of which is only available to owners of the extended edition of the game), who dream of a shogunate in feudal Japan. There is only one way to achieve this goal - by capturing the capital of the country, Kyoto, and a certain number of key provinces into which the island map is divided. Many winding paths lead to victory - not necessarily military conquest. The game has developed "peaceful" levels of gameplay - so we are dealing with a very extensive tree of city development, "arts" (something like inventions) have appeared, and agents have become much more useful than in the previous parts of the series. Diplomacy has also been greatly developed - it has finally become possible to create true resilient alliances, lead opponents like puppets and implement the "divide and rule" policy. Therefore, the winner of the game may not be the one who gathers the largest armies, but the one who will secure appropriate alliances and have a significant economic base. For the first time in the series, the feather has become really stronger than the sword.

Agents have become a very interesting element of the game - not only are they very useful, but also have the possibility of various development, thanks to the appropriate trees. This means that one ninja may be radically different from the other because he was shaped differently during his education.

There are five types of agents in the game. Metsuke is a kind of counterintelligence officer - his goal is to intercept and arrest enemy agents. A ninja can serve as both a scout and a saboteur or assassin. The role of the geisha is to physically eliminate the enemy - unlike the ninja, however, she is always visible on the world map, so metsuke can easily arrest her. Finally, the monk and missionary are destined to convert the population of a given territory to their religion.

Commanders are a separate category - they only deal with matters of war. Their skills are used not so much to make the life of an opponent on the world map difficult, but to support the armies they lead. A good commander can encourage troops to continue, more strenuously march, raise their morale or even force them to fight despite the fact that the enemy is outnumbered.

Sieges are also very interesting - it is no longer a simple assault on one specific gate or throwing all your units into a breach in the walls. Most of the fortresses are made of wood - so you can burn them. The possibility of climbing enemy walls and embankments is also a significant novelty - we can approach him from a completely different side than he would have expected. Finally - due to the very small size of the fortifications - shooting the enemy with arrows that will fly over the walls may be an excellent tactic.

Sea battles have also undergone a significant evolution - the player is no longer a slave to the direction in which the wind blows, and the battles are much more dynamic. This is mainly due to the fact that ships with cannons are available only at a very late stage of the game - earlier, only archers and melee soldiers were on the ships. The goal is therefore not to sink a ship, but rather to wipe out its crew with effective fire or boarding. So there is much more fun, especially since the troops here also have many interesting skills.

Unfortunately, Shogun 2 is not a perfect work. The computer opponent's not the best intelligence is especially noticeable - although at times he can surprise the player with really daring solutions, in most situations it allows us to lead to slaughter. He is particularly clumsy in sieges, in which he leaves a significant part of his troops in reserve, while the rest bleeds out - facing the next small waves of enemies is not a challenge for the defender. Also during field battles, the computer cannot fully use the terrain advantage provided by forests or hills - it almost always decides to attack from the front, even if it has no chance. Fortunately, the AI looks much better on the strategic map - the enemy usually hits where we least expect it, makes meaningful alliances, and goes on the offensive only when he has an advantage.