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Shogun 2: Total War (PC DVD)
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Shogun 2: Total War is the long-awaited follow-up to the original PC game in the Total War turn-based Strategy franchise, Shogun: Total War. In it players assume the leadership of one of several warring provinces in a historically correct rendition of Medieval Japan simultaneously cursed by warfare and blessed with new wealth following the fall of the Ashikaga Shogunate. Using the natural and political resources available, as well as the strengths of their Samurai and peasant units, players eliminate enemies by all means possible as they seek to become the next shogun and extend their power over the whole of Japan. Additional features include: leveling of the player character, hero units and standard units, realistically varied AI responses and both competitive and cooperative online multiplayer support.
The Total War Franchise
In 2000, The Creative Assembly game development team reinvented the Strategy game genre with Shogun: Total War, an unprecedented blend of 3D real-time battles and turn-based game management that would become the first offering in the multi-award winning Total War series. With over 7 million units sold and universal acclaim from the press and community, The Total War franchise has consistently been at the cutting edge of the genre and is today one of the most successful PC franchises of all time. That success continues with Shogun 2: Total War. Shogun 2: Total War takes longtime veterans and newcomers alike to the next level of strategy gaming on PC. Based on 10 years of experience, Total War, Shogun 2 is the perfection of the series with a new Artificial Intelligence (AI), revolutionary multiplayer modes, brand new campaign map options and epic 3D real-time battles.
Shogun 2: Total War
Set during the golden age of Samurai warfare, Shogun 2 brings to life the most turbulent period of Japanese history. It is the middle of the 16th century in Medieval Japan. The country, ruled for nearly 200 years by a unified government under the Ashikaga Shogunate, is now split into many warring clans following the shogunate's fall. The player takes on the role of one Daimyo, a feudal clan leader ruling a limited area of the country, and will use military engagements, economics and diplomacy to achieve the ultimate goal: unification of Japan under his supreme command and the title of Shogun - the undisputed ruler of Japan.
Like all Total War games, Shogun 2 is a turn-based Strategy game, featuring real-time tactics. The original Shogun: Total War game was the first in the Total War series, making it the blueprint for those that came after it, but this new game does contain a variety of new notable gameplay features. These features include: the players role as an individual leader on the field instead of an invisible hand guiding combat; improved graphics down to the motion capture techniques used to animate matched combat; a built-in morale system that allows opposing AI to react to the forces you set before them, influencing tactics as well as their willingness to stand and fight; combined naval and land battles; and RPG like leveling of standard units and special Hero units that rise in rank with each successful battle.
Key Game Features
- Total War Redefined - Shogun 2 is the ultimate refinement of the original formula with a new, cutting-edge AI, more polish and online functionality than ever before. The result is the perfect mix of real-time and turn-based strategy gaming that invites both veterans of Total War and new players to experience the enjoyment and depth of the series.
- New Character Progression - Choose from nine different clans and compete for the undisputed supremacy of Medieval Japan. Gain experience to level up your own character-warlord as well as your generals and agents.
- A Complete Single and Multiplayer Offering - Play through the main campaign in single player or invite a friend online to play competitively or cooperatively in Campaign Multiplayer mode. Join 8-player multiplayer battles with your own upgradable avatar and climb the online leaderboard to show the world who reigns supreme. Also including exciting new modes of team play for clans, a first in the Total War series.
- New Generation AI System - Developed according to Sun Tzu's principles in "The Art of War," the game's artificial intelligence constantly analyzes its situation and reacts to your every move with greater precision and variety.
- Improved Land and Naval Battle Gameplay - Land battles never felt so realistic with new multi-staged castle sieges and terrain features changing according to the weather and time of the day - turning each engagement into a tactical challenge. Set buildings on fire to force garrisoned troops out and use your units' special abilities to turn the tide of the battle. Naval combat also offers more variety with the addition of coastal battles. Islands can work as effective cover for your ships, while sand bars and reefs can be used as traps against an enemy fleet.
- Accessible and In-depth Empire-building Gameplay - A streamlined user interface makes management of your kingdom much easier. Build and govern cities, recruit and train troops, conduct diplomacy and manage your agents – each feature is now introduced with comprehensive tutorials, gradually revealing the depth of the Shogun 2 campaign map – the heart and soul of the Total War experience.
Rank heroes & level units.
Huge scale conflicts.
Take control of every unit.
Combined land & sea battles.
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If you are an aficionado you may be disappointed. There isn't much new and the AI has some problems.
Some people don't like the Steam platform but if you are new to Steam don't be put off. Now I am used to it I find it It's quick, reliable and convenient and much better than holding discs. You can finish a game, uninstall it and 5 years later you have a new computer and want to play it again - it's right there ready to install.
still people online to play with.
The game was based on the teachings of Sun Tzu, the Chinese strategist, who believed in the indirect approach: search for comparative advantages, use your forces with economy, surprise and deceive, and only fight limited wars. The medieval Japanese setting (relatively small armies made up from a limited number of distinct units fighting on different terrains), served as the perfect substrate to implement these strategies.
I have played every single Total War game since and they were all a joy to experience - yet nothing surpassed to the first Shogun. Until now.
KNOW THY SELF, KNOW THY ENEMY. A THOUSAND BATTLES, A THOUSAND VICTORIES (Sun Tzu)
The gameplay has matured, deepened and acquired a number of new features, including some RPG additions. We now have Mastery of Arts, a tech tree branching into Bushido (warfare) and Chi (governance & finances). There are now hero units, inspiring the troops, going after the enemy general or turning the battle at that crucial point.
Generals are upgradable and modifiable, increasing their effectiveness and making them indispensable. The honorable death of a seasoned general will affect many aspects of your overall strategy and may prove the decisive point of the entire campaign. Which is why subterfuge is so important.
There may be no honor in using Ninjas - but now they can assassinate the enemy general or soften up the enemy defenses by sabotaging their production or the integrity of their defensive structures. And because the Ninja knife cuts both ways, make sure to have enough Metsuke units to sniff out the ninjas send by the enemy.
Children serve as hostages to ensure cooperation whereas marriages are arranged to strengthen alliances. And since no army fights on an empty belly, one should make sure to set up complex trade agreements. Ones that will hold through the treacheries of war. Because sooner than later, your task will graduate from impossible to you-gotta-be-kidding-me.
INVINCIBILITY LIES IN THE DEFENSE; THE POSSIBILITY OF VICTORY IN THE ATTACK (Sun Tzu)
The AI will make your life miserable. Enemy units will try to flank you from every possible direction and they will try to make use of your troops movement in order to achieve this. And then, just when you think you are winning, every single clan and province turns against you...
It is possible to let the AI auto-resolve all battles and play the game as a highly sophisticated turn-based Civilization game - but why miss all the fun?
Unlike the first game, SHOGUN 2 also has sea vessels and battles. While in a sea battle, you either board and take over or burn the enemy vessels. However, the real strategic consideration is this: when attacking a neighboring province, did you leave adequate defenses to prevent, say, the sacking of your own castle? Because the AI does not forgive such oversights.
OPPORTUNITIES MULTIPLY AS THEY ARE SEIZED (Sun Tzu)
The graphics and sounds of Shogun 2 are something one has to experience to believe. Even on DirectX 9 (WinXP - which is the OS I am experiencing it at), the strategic map feels like flying over the real Sengoku period Japan whereas the game design goes into unbelievable details. Every ribbon on a set of armor, every blade of grass, every ray of light reflected on raised katanas or refracted through the clouds are just gorgeous.
The game absorbs you into its world and never let's go. In one word: Kan-Zen (Perfection).
HE WHO KNOWS WHEN HE CAN FIGHT AND WHEN HE CANNOT, WILL BE VICTORIOUS (Sun Tzu)
I usually deduct a full star from the final rating of any game that comes with any form of DRM that requires online activation or ties your game with digital shackles. Because even the retail version of SHOGUN 2 comes with mandatory STEAM, I did exactly that. However, because I rated the game well...above 5-stars, this could not become apparent and the game still rates a perfect score.
Yes, STEAM is the pheasant festering on the porch someone has to do something about. However, SHOGUN 2 is one of those extremely rare games that are worth their DRM hassle. If STEAM is still a deal-breaker for you, well, now you can make an informed decision either way.
SHOGUN 2 truly embodies The Art of War - and it will stay with you for a very long time.
Kokoro yori okuyami moushiagemasu.
On a more sober note, I want to send my deepest sympathies to anyone in Japan hit by the latest earthquake and ensuing tsunami. Courage and endurance have always been characteristics of the Japanese psyche.
There's all sorts of really groundbreaking things they could have added, such as a real time campaign map (have a look at Defcon to see how this might work), or the ability to have a 'parallel universe' mode where you can rewrite history by developing technologies that were never developed (but would have been feasible at the time, such militarised hot air balloons or 18th century versions of the Maginot line and other such low, 'anti cannon' structures to replace forts... not fantasy stuff, but stuff that could easily be used without destroying the 'sense of the period').
What would have been **really** cool would have been a new 'War council' window, where you can plan high level tactics with your allies... things like agreeing which city to attack, so that you and your allies send armies to lay seige to the same city by the same turn (after the appropriate money has changed hands of course), or instructing a particular faction to protect your back as you move forward to attack an enemy, or simply asking a protectorate for some of their unique units (effectively allowing the trade of mercenary armies between nations, and so you can build multi-national armies... how cool would that be - attack an Ally and their mercenary units in your army turn against you; politics and strategy finally start to blend). NB - I can't see the War council idea being difficult to implement as this actually occurred in Medieval 2, where the Vatican issued crusades i.e. factions had to send an army to seige a city by a certain turn).
All not to be. Perhaps the worst disappointment is the AI..
Yet again with Shogun, the AI starts off looking great, but a few plays in in, you can beat it straight away. Despite the sales blurb, the AI isn't that great. I won't give the game away for Shogun 2, but the previous Empire AI certainly had a problem with cannons; it didn't understand line of sight (AI cannons spent all their time shooting at the sides of mountains in hilly maps) and the AI always sent cavalry on suicide runs against well defended cannons. The Empire AI was also useless in defence; you just (1) pick off the enemy horses with your cannons, which (2) leaves the enemy cannons defenseless, then (3) hit the enemy cannons with fast moving horses from the side/rear (which is now easy as the enemy has no horses of its own to counter), and finally, (4) decimate the enemy infantry with your cannons and/or move your infantry into buildings if the enemy start advancing. You could beat the Empire AI consistently not because of skill, but because of the known mistakes it made.
Unfortunately, it is looking like the Shogun 2 AI is the same, albeit with different mistakes.
I think the big issue with all Total War Battle AIs is that they never realise that combined (or even paired) units can have a weighting greater than the sum of the parts, and that the weighting of many units changes with range or location. The AI just cannot move its forces in a way that increases its multipliers and certainly not in the same way a human opponent would. Once you realise that failing, all total war AIs are simple to crack.
Another big issue I've always had with the Total War battle AI is that you always seem to be playing against the same opponent. It doesn't matter which historical general you are playing agaist because the AI general always plays the same strategy. In real life, Napolean fought one way (heavy reliance on cannons), whereas the Prussians fought a totally different battle (split army into two, one side holds the enemy to the front, whilst another line attacks from the side), whereas the British simply built a massive trading empire (complete with massive navy to protect the supply lines) and then funded everyone else for most of the time (hence 'Nation of shopkeepers'). I'm not that knowledgeable with Japanese tacticians, but unless all Japanese generals used exactly the same tactics on the battlefield, the Total War AI is still emulating the same single nameless general it always did.
For the campaign AI, it is still not true to life either. In real life you get power blocks building up, where *all* weaker nations become protectorates, and you cannot attack any weak country without incurring the wrath of a superpower. Such political dynamics is non existent in any of the Total war games (because in the game model political ties are too weak to promote such dynamics). As implied earlier with my 'War council' idea, political ties are also still not really useful - you cannot work with your allies in any tactical way (other than trade) as there is no real way to attack and defend together.
Finally, in the world of quad core (or i7 x8 threads) processing, it would be expected that the Creative Assembly would finally write multi-thread efficient code. They haven't.
Shogun 2 only uses about 10-15% more processing power than Napolean total war (and yes, I set the graphics way down to ensure the graphics card wasn't the bottleneck). Sure, the Shogum 2 engine uses 50-60% of a quad core, but that is only as efficient as other notable game engines were 2 years ago (and implies dual core optimisation). If you have an i7, then much of your extra threads will be wasted for now. Maybe ok for a mindless first person shooter, but you would expect better from a deep strategy game.
Given all this, Shogun is the second Total way game I wish I hadn't bought on release (the first being the original Empire Total war). My advice is to wait 6 months until the price comes down a little, the AI is a little less obvious (either via updates or third party AI patches), and they start throwing the DLCs into the deal.
The Total War games are still the best strategy games out there, but I won't be buying them on release again; this is worth 3 stars on release. but perhaps 5 stars in 6 months time.
*** Update June 2011 ***
The price has now halved from release, and the all important post release patch has just been released (lots of little fixes plus full DirectX 11 support). Now is probably the time to buy Shogun 2 if you haven't already.
Post patch, Shogun 2's AI still has an awful problem with understanding doors (which is really not the step forward from 'a problem with understanding cannons'), but hey, at least the factions are more confident than in Empire (they actually attack each other in Shogun 2, and know how to invade from the sea), and although there are fewer units and little difference between faction units or maps in Shogun 2, at least Shogun 2 is more strategic.
Downside is that the units in Shogun are all a bit similar, with very few classes, little variation between factions, and no variation in the maps (Japan is a country with little climatic variation, etc).
*** Update May 2012 ***
The price is now less than a quarter of the original asking price. It is a steal at this price!
If you're reading this, you're possibly looking at buying this game. I personally found the game seemed rushed. I don't see any graphical improvements since Napoleon. I am running the game extremely smoothly on full graphics, I just don't see any improvement - I actually prefer the Napoleon visuals.
If you love Japanese history, buy it! It isn't a rubbish game!
If you're in desperate need to play a new Total War game, buy it!
If you're happy with Empire, Napoleon and are simply browsing for possibly a new game on pay-day, I would miss this one out and maybe look into Attila instead.
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