(If you are familiar with RTS games ignore this next paragraph.)
If you are unfamiliar with the Total War series, it is a real time strategy series that involves a campaign map in which you run your cities, politics, families, finances and armies. Whenever you are involved in a fight, be it a siege, land battle or naval battle you then go into a detailed fight that allows you to control your army, unit by unit.
For all of you familiar with the Total War series, Shogun 2 does a lot to improve upon all previous attempts. I know I have outlined many of these in previews and articles on Shogun 2 already but there was much more to be explored. Here are some improvements over the more recent Total War games, like Empire Total War and Napoleon Total War.
-Stability Issues at launch
I would like to think I could list more, but that may be just a little to specific for a list. One of the main and only problems I have had with the game, as have many others, is multiplayer bugs. Since the game came out on March 15th, there has been numerous game breaking bugs, as well as many minor ones. They have patched the game twice since then and the most annoying of those bugs seem to have been eliminated. One of the the least talked about improvements is naval battles. Naval battles, unlike in Empire Total War, are easy to get used to and actually enjoyable. You do not need as much strategy as land battles often require but once you unlock most of the units you can devise some interesting strategies.
Singleplayer is the games strongest suite and it always has been. You can play from nine different clans. Each clan has special units and usually some kind of specialization. The campaign map they use is the best looking of any Total War games and it also has the most interesting fog of war. Diplomacy is handled easily. All you must do is simply make contact with any unit of a clan in order to begin negotiations of any sort, be it trade or war. There is also a research tree that is divided between the Art of War and the Art of Chi; both paths have a long list of different things you can research. You must research about 80% of the city improvements. Learning arts always has a additional bonus, like increased income or morale or armor for all infantry units.
You can choose between a long campaign or short campaign in singleplayer, as well as various difficulties. If you are familiar with previous Total War games they have added a new legendary difficulty that sounds pretty tough and interesting. If you use legendary difficulty you may pause battles but issue no orders, you also have no minimap, you cannot see enemies very far, you have centralized camera movement on your forces only, there are no longer identifies on enemy units and more. There is also a multiplayer coop, or versus, campaign that has all of these same options. Here is a quick overview of the SP and MP menu's and options.
Multiplayer coop campaign used to have its own share of bugs and issues but it seems to have been cleaned up since recent patches. It works very well and with little lag. You and your partner have the option to choose to only do autoresolve or do real time battles. Something great that they added to this that makes it just as fun as singleplayer, is a option to give your ally some of your units during a battle. If you have a fight you can share as many units as you wish so both players can have a role in the battle. I'm really glad they came up with this finally. I was disappointed that in Empire Total War, when they first introduced a multiplayer campaign, that you could only autoresolve battles unless both of your forces were involved in the same fight. Multiplayer campaign has been problematic. I've played it about 15 hours and a good couple hours of that was trying to get around game stopping bugs. There used to bugs that wouldn't let you load a certain save or would crash the game for your partner when you when into the diplomacy screen with a clan. I can gladly say that, since the recent patch, I have no longer encountered any of these problems and it has worked very smoothly.
Multiplayer Avatar Conquest is a lot of fun on its own as well. You have a avatar, who is your general, that you can customize in various ways and also unlock and level up. Through achievements you gain new pieces of armor for your general. You get to choose what your banner with be and all of your colors. On top of avatar customization there is also veteran units that you may earn. When a unit does particularly well in a battle the game often gives you the choose to make them a veteran unit. Veteran units are fantastic, they get their own skill tree to level up and they cost slightly more than a normal plain unit, you also may customize there colors. For instance I've fought one person whose army was a full array of colors, so it added insult to injury when I lost to a rainbow colored army. The only downside to veteran units is that they can be injured and must rest for a battle before being used again at full strength, you can use them at half strength or whatever they are at.
There are a number of different options for you in the multiplayer avatar conquest mode. You can play as a team, with friends, and using a matchmaking service that will set you up against others in land, sea or siege battles. You can also drop-in to other players campaigns, if they are allowing it, and take over the AI in a battle against someone. You have the options in matchmaking to only select whatever type of battle you wish to play, it doesn't always work though. I've selected only naval battles before and ended up in a siege battle. You also have the option to look through a battle list that shows any battles people have created.
One of the main draws of Avatar Conquest is the conquest map. You start with only minimal units unlocked and they have a conquest map that you must use to unlock new units and retainers, retainers are battle bonuses you can use during any mp battle. The conquest map, as shown above, is very vibrant and well made. Just as in singleplayer, you choose where you would like to start. There is also the option to be a clan and do clan battles over the conquest map. There is a clan option that shows all the territories for the tier your clan is in. You have a little avatar piece and a naval piece on the map. You move them to whatever territory, that you can make it to, that you wish to conquer. Once you win a battle in any of the avatar conquest modes, as I mentioned in the last paragraph, you take that piece of territory and gain whatever it offered. That applies to the clan system as well. The main difference is when you are in a clan you also lose territories, on the clan map, when you lose a battle. This of course had it bugs as well but many have been squashed, there are still quite a few though but it is much more accessible now.
The graphics for Shogun 2 are fantastic, to the say the least. It is true that this game is a bit hard to run. If you played the demo though do not be dismayed, the retail game runs a good deal smoother. The weather effects are varied and wonderful looking. There are also common weathers effects and less common ones. For example, I've played the game around 55 hours and just saw my first rain storm a few days ago. Rain, fog, mist and wind are all very impressive and make it easy to be immersed in the environment. All that being said the minimum system requirement are pretty high. Take a look.
"CPU - 2GHz Intel Dual Core processor, 2.6GHz Intel Single Core processor , or AMD equivalent (with SSE2)MEMORY - 1GB RAM (XP), 2GB RAM (Vista/Windows7)
VIDEO - 256 MB DirectX 9.0c compatible graphics card (shader model 3)
Hard Drive- 20GB free hard disk space
OTHER DETAILS - 1024×768 minimum screen resolution"
A lot of people have said that you need a system a good deal better than that to run it decently.
All in all this is a great game. I have not felt this kind of draw to a Total War game since Medieval 2 Total War. While the game may be smaller, in scale not in detail, it is very fun and addicting. I often find myself saying just one more turn and before I realize it a hour has gone by and that is a very rare thing these days. I recommend this greatly to anyone interested in strategy games and Japanese culture. The aforementioned bugs have mostly been fixed and are being fixed at a decent rate. Also I've made a video highlighting many battles, land/siege and naval, check it out.
*Bug's at retail release are the only thing holding this back
*Works on a array of different computer setups and looks gorgeous all around.
*The soundtrack draws you into the Japanese environment and the battle sounds are fitting.
*Simple, yet diverse and exciting. Lot's of options. The flow of battle feels excellent. Bugs hurt it.
Length of Play-10
*There is a lot to do in this game and lots of reason to continually keep coming back.
Violent Score: 9.5
Written By Sean Cargle