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Platform: PC Online Game Code|Edition: Standard|Change
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on April 4, 2011
This review is for the original Shogun 2 Total War and not for Limited or other special versions of the game. I haven't played Limited Edition or any other version so am not qualified to critique those. I also do not engage in multiplayer so I have nothing to say about multiplayer. If you're looking for critiques of any of the aforementioned then this review will likely be of no use to you.

Also, thusfar I have only played the game on Normal difficulty. I cannot speak to potential improvements or degradations at higher difficulties.

On with the review...

Shogun 2 Total War from the Total War series is absolutely the best. It absolutely blows Empire out of the water (a game with which I was not very pleased). When Empire came out I believed CA was going in the wrong direction with the series. Whatever they were doing, Shogun 2 definitely put the series back on a fair heading.

I will start with the negative:

AI:

Land Warfare: I haven't noticed a difference to the AI performance on the Battle Map. Despite what I've read I've not seen the AI attempt to flank me with cavalry. The cavalry charges straight ahead at my missile troops everytime. The AI melee infantry does not allow their missile troops adequate time to wear down my own missile troops or my line units. They march right through their arhcers ranks and conduct a frontal assault. To put it simply, if they transferred the AI capability from M2TW or ETW to S2TW you wouldn't know. They're all the same.

Naval Warfare: The AI is no better than it was in ETW. In fact I'd say on the Naval side of things it got worse. In ETW the enemy attempted to maintain some semblance of a formation as if fought. In S2TW each AI Vessel seems to zero in on one of my own vessels and initiate a series of one on one fights. It is a very disorganized method of fighting on the part of the AI. I had much greater difficulty in Naval battles in ETW than in this game. In fact, I find it far easier to win the Naval Battles in S2TW than in ETW.

Campaign: The AI on the Campaign Map (although improved) has still not achieved Napoleonic greatness. The AI on the campaign map is still relatively easy to dupe. For example, an AI Army might be one turn from taking one of my provinces, but I incite a revolt with a religious character and they run back to put down the revolt rather than trusting whatever garrison to successfully defend. Or if you threaten one of the AI provinces they will retreat to defend their province rather than pluck your province away from you. Averting invasion through either a Ninja, Monk/Priest or your own invading army is never too difficult.

Specialty Characters:

During my first campaign as the Shimazu I dominated with the Christian Priests. They have essentially made the specialty characters too effective at normal difficulty. I constantly incited Christian Rebellions which lead to two results: it ensured the AI would stay home and not bother me and, when the Christian rebellion took the town, allowed me to pluck another province without having to declare war on the faction that previously owned the province. If my Priests for some reason had an ineffective turn I could always count on my Ninja to sabotage an Army and prevent it from moving against me. Between the Ninja and the Priests victory was a lock.

Diplomacy:

Diplomatic Options: Diplomacy was overall improved, but there is no option to demand a faction give up a province. That option is in every other TW game, yet they removed it from S2TW. I would also like to have seen an option to create a vassal as is done in the Europa Universalis series of games. I think such an option would make for a more interesting and dynamic game.

Relations: I believe there is probably a bug involved with the diplomacy when it comes down to relations between you and AI Factions and what negotiations they are willing to accept. Here's why. There are varying levels of the AIs attitude towards you: hostile, unfriendly, indifferent, friendly, very friendly. Gaining alliances and trade agreements are very difficult (which I'm happy with); however I believe your ability to achieve them should generally correspond to their attitude towards you. Now, I'm not saying that a very friendly attitude should result in an alliance, but it should earn you a trade agreement. I have arranged marriages with factions which always resulted in our relations increasing to very friendly. Yet they still refuse a trade agreement even after I offer money, a hostage and military access. It's unbelievable how difficult it is to get a trade agreement even with a faction with whom you have outstanding relations.

Trade:

Trade with AI factions is often disrupted. When this happens you receive a pop up telling you trade with such and such faction was disrupted and is no longer possible. This always seems to happen after you sell your right leg and a few teeth to get the trade agreement. Anyway, I don't mind so much that this happens as I do that it is often with no explanation. I've discovered that often times it happens because your trade partner lost a province that had a port. Other times it happens for no other explainable reason.

Now I will review the good:

Combat Units: There are some new special abilities granted to many of the units. Your general has an inspire ability which can be used to inspire ONE of your units to fight like someone took the last chicken leg off the plate. There is a refined rally capability which can work "before" your units route. You can see your generals influence circle around his unit which tells you which units will be rallied. Eventually you will get the technology to enable some of your units to do square formation (this is not a new capability to the series as it was in ETW, but it is first time the capability has been shown in a medieval type army. Though the AI is, at best, the same as in previous TWs, the new special capabilities make the battles much more fun to fight.

Tech Tree: Much like ETW you have to work your way through a tech tree which enables you to build certain units, buildings and acquire special capabilities in combat. Techonlogies are divided into Bushido and Chi. Bushido technologies are military related and Chi techonologies are related to special characters, governance, economics, etc. There are various branches to the tech tree on both the Bushido and Chi sides and you can either go down one branch to become a specialist in a certain area or you can research the branches evenly and gain experience in all the branches.

Special Units: As I mentioned above the Special Units are more capable. In certain cases they are too capable. BUt they make the game much more fun and moreso than previous TW installments, give you more well defined alternate routes to victory. The special characters aren't all unfamiliar to fans of the old Shogun. There are Ninja, Geisha, Monks/Priests and the new Metsuke. There are no spies (or Shinobi). The Ninja, the Metsuke and the Monks/Priests have divided up the role of the old Spy. Spies in the previous games can help maintain order in your own towns (Metsuke), upset the population of a rival faction (Monk/Priest) or actively spy and provide details of an army or settlement (Ninja). Along with roles formerly attributed to spies, each unit does other things. (Metsuke can apprehend and either imprison or execute other special characters (not generals though). They also fulfill the bribery role that diplomats used to. Ninja can assassinate other special characters and generals as well as the new capability formerly attributed to shinobi of sabotage. But now they can sabotage armies in addition to buildings. A sabotaged army is out of action and cannot move for at least one turn. Priests/Monks can convert characters putting them out of action temporarily or permanently. They can also demoralize enemy armies which makes them a less effective fighting force. Each of these characters as you can see has three abilities. And each character has its own associated development tree. For example. Ninja can: Assassinate, Spy and Sabotage. As the Ninja increases in rank you can choose for that Ninja to excel in one of these areas or generalize in two or all of the areas. It's up to you. It makes the game more dynamic and much more enjoyable.

Also, these characters have the ability to give certain bonuses to armies in which they are embedded. So overall the Special Characters were very much improved from previous TW games.

Diplomacy:

We talked negative diplomacy above, but it is not all bad. As I've mentioned it is difficult to reach agreements with rival factions even if you have good relations with them. From my experience alliances come and go. Alliances were much more solid in M2TW and ETW. Rely on allies at your own peril in this game. Sometimes they'll come to your aide in war and other times they'll leave you hanging. Trade Agreements are also tough to obtain and can disintegrate in the blink of an eye. You have to very actively pursue diplomatic relations. Overall diplomacy is much more challenging and realistic.

Siege Battles:

I love the siege battles. The only difference between this game and ETW is that the fortifications are now Japanese constructs rather than European. It's a pleasant change. It comes with its own new set of challenges (some for better some for worse). Overall the Siege Battles are fun and add a lot of quality to the game.

Overall, as I said before, this is the best game in the Total War Series. AI still leaves much to be desired, but every other aspect of the game I believe has been improved. CA is back on the right track and I can't wait to see what expansions are developed for this game.
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on March 15, 2011
About a decade ago Shogun: Total War was the masterpiece that launched one of the best Strategy simulation franchises in gaming history. It was a perfectly balanced game that combined turn-based strategic decisions with real time battles in a beautiful interface made in the style of medieval Japanese artworks.
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 this on), 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.

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

------------------------------------------------------------
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.
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on July 14, 2011
UPDATE REVIEW: I'm starting to more corrupted save files now and lost hours of game-play, very frustrating! Reduced rating from 4 stars to 2 STARS. It was fun while it worked though.

As another reviewer has stated, it's best to download the game from Steam. Just get the serial key from Amazon, activated and download it from Steam. Amazon's game download service has always been slow for me. I usually get about 2/3rds of my speed. Just be aware that the files are about 20GB from Steam.

Shogun 2 is a turn-based RTS game so if you are thinking that it plays like Starcraft or Command & Conquer, it doesn't. It's slow paced and the battles are strategic. Battles are long and drawn out, you can also "auto-resolve" battles but will be missing out on half of the game. I would recommend this to anyone who enjoys this type of play-style.

I'm running this on SLI Geforce 480 GTX and occasionally encounter some graphical bugs. It appears on the game map; game art sometimes disappear & as well as transparent menus. I also lost about 3 hours of gameplay due to corrupted save file, it only happened once though. Not entirely game breaking but still annoying. Overall, it doesn't detract from the game.
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on February 16, 2012
Another Total War edition. I was very happy to see a "local" campaign mission, instead of the all spanning global battlefields in Rome and Empire. Additionally, the concept of moving to a whole new theater type, moving away from a Europe central game was interesting.

However, the gameplay took the rating from a solid 4.5 to a mere 2 since it is very USER UNFRIENDLY.

Quickview Pros:
-New take on TW with units, "local" campaign, and "Siege"-style naval warfare
-Stability far improved on newer systems than Empire TW
-Decent expansion pack opportunities

-"Drop in" battle against online opponents

Cons:
-Nightmare to control land and naval battles
-Units are unclear on their purpose, strengths and weaknesses
-Unit replenishment takes longer and is no longer player controlled
-New defense requires ALL control points be held by defender constantly, loss of one means loss of the battle.

Technical Stuff:
The game is FAR FAR more stable right out of the gate then Empire was. My system is top-spec and had problems getting Empire to run, and had to be rolled back. Not a problem with Shogun, everything worked as advertised right off the bat.

Campaign Gameplay:
-The campaign is more of the same from TW, again though, the campaign (and battle) controls have been tweaked just enough around the HUD for there to be disorientation when you switch from Rome, or Empire. I was not a fan of the constantly retooled HUD, since it makes swapping game to game more difficult for loyal players.
-The campaign elements are also slightly different, there aren't "outlying towns" anymore than get built up, but you earn spaces inside your cities for you to build a variety of buildings on. There's more selections per space, but you won't be constantly looking for outlying, undeveloped areas.
-The campaign map also does away with repairing units directly. There's no more clicking "rearm, retrain, restaff" unit and it just happens, now units have to sit and wait to naturally be retrained with new men. This can be annoying to those of us used to hell on wheels marches with massive land armies.

Battle Gameplay:
-Land armies are nightmarishly hard to learn. In creating a game without "supreme units" the designers have created units that seem unable to fight. No units seem to be very good at anything, and it seems to come down to massive bouts of throwing miscellaneous troops into warfare. The addition of tiered unit types using Japanese names, rather than easier to understand "veteran" units or "light infantry" and "heavy infantry" designators just makes things harder on the player.

-Naval Battles have completely declined into morasses of ships bumping into one another. Whereas Empire introduced naval warfare as a great and vibrant new field along with ships that could fight well, the ships in Shogun are are better left to fight "auto-resolve" as controlling them in any meaningful way is daunting. I relished in naval battles in Empire, but hung-up my admiral's hat in Shogun for "auto-resolve" unless I had cannon ships.

-Defense in depth has become the word in laying siege to a city, or defending. The cities now are completely surroundable by the advanced AI of the game, and instead of high walls and towers/cannon you have tiered plateaus guarded by infantry, and occasionally oddly placed defensive buildings. Gates are good defenses, but walls are easily walked right over by infantry. Also gone are the "take and hold the town-square" style battles, in favor of multiple positions around the town. I found it annoying to hold 5 of 6 positions, including the town center, and lose because I was repulsed off one defense position. Combine this with the nightmare of land armies smashing into one another, and defense against siege is just an annoyingly complex task, ill representing any of the players skill in the game.

All in all I was very disappointed in the direction Shogun 2 took, and I find myself replaying Empire, Rome and Medieval Total War instead of bothering with the headaches of Shogun 2.
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on December 26, 2011
This game is amazing best one of the total war series.

Gameplay is great not to difficult to learn. some parts are challenging but a quick google search for tips will help you through the parts that may be challenging to learn. Enjoyable from beginning to end.

Awesome expansion packs! It changes the time of the game (year begin to year end) so the expansions aren't just something to nickle and dime the player. All new units/clans for the expansions its like playing a different game but with same mechanics adds to already high replay value. You will have fun for hours with this game.

The multiplayer is easy for anyone to play even if you dont like the total war series you can have a blast on multiplayer. The game play is battle orientated so you will find yourself fighting battles with custom armies not building cities for hours upon hours in the multiplayer mode. nice break even for someone like me who loves total war.

Can't say enough good about this game! It is a must own for anyone who has ever liked a strategy game its massive and has something for everybody!

*This game will push your PC as far as it can go* This game pushed me to buy and SSD something i have been wanting but waiting on because of price. Well worth it though it improved everything from the load times in games like Starcraft II to MW3 And battlefield 3.
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on February 3, 2013
Really fun game, the multiplayer is great (well except when you come up against 10 star opponents with all cav armies) after I got through my first campaign, which is much (a ton) harder than any total war game that I've played before (Empire, Medieval 2, Rome), I started to have doubts on if I should have purchased Fall of the Samurai. If your a veteran to the total war series, now I would recommend that you did get fall of the samurai, but if this is your first total war game this would be the game I recommend. Other than that the game itself is spectacular, and I gave it four stars because while it may be an amazing game graphically and technically, it's very similar to Medieval 2, only with the campaign being much harder
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on April 9, 2011
This game has many improvements from Empire, but it scales the world down some. Simplification in many ways is what made this game great in my mind, but it still holds all the complexities of intricate campaign management. Everything is just streamlined excellently. There are a few glitches, especially online, but I assume that since it's a new game they still haven't ironed everything out yet. I've been playing Total War games since Rome way back in the day, and this one is already my favorite.
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on April 19, 2011
In simple terms, Total War: Shogun 2 is the best game in the series in a long time. All the mistakes of the last major release, Empire, have been addressed. There are plenty of interesting factions to chooose from, the strategic and tactical AI is improved, and I've heard some good things about the new multiplayer from trusted sources. Even if you are not a big fan of the setting (I'm not), you will still find plenty to keep you happy. Just keep in mind that the technical requirements are pretty legitimate - make sure you review them before you purchase to make sure your PC will deliver a reasonable performance.

My only complaint about this purchase was that I chose to purchase via Amazon's new digital delivery option. The download was very slow compared to other services. On top of that, Shogun 2 is a Steamworks game, meaning that you will be playing it via Steam anyway. That means that had I been given the serial numbers up front by Amazon I could have downloaded the game directly from Steam. I'm not sure why Amazon feels that I must download the game from them when they've already gotten my money, but you are locked into doing that because they won't give you your serial numbers until your download is complete.
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on May 28, 2011
First off the Amazon Download was very disappointing. I started the download at 9 AM on a Saturday, took a look at 11 AM and it still had over 16 hours to go. I have a 5MB/DSL line. When I saw it gave a code for Steam, I stopped the download and registered the game with Steam and I was able to download the game from Steam in less than 4 hours. Then for fun I did a test at work where we have a 100/mb's line - the Amazon was still going to be over 12 hours while the Steam download of Shogun 2 was less then 2 hours.

It's been over 10 years of playing Total War and I can say this is by far the best edition to come out. It seems that Total War Empire was such a disappointment on release (many many bugs and issues) they made sure to make up for those mistakes in this game. The only issues I experienced were a few crashes during multiplayer, which after the last patch seems completely fixed.

It's a interesting experience playing Shogun the first few time because they have made so many refinements to the game over the years that at first I didn't like it. They made changes such as - Towns now have their own garrison, you can only have 5 of each type of Agent, limited amounts of buildings in each city and much more. But, after playing several games you realize the brilliance about the changes. No more managing dozens and dozens of army's all over the place, worrying about each town's protection, specialization of agents that can now be game changers and much more. Also, the Map and scrolls they have put on the right side of the screen now allow you to manage your entire Empire in just a few clicks.

The game looks great while playing but you will need a top notch video card and machine to get the most out of it. My fairly new machine only did best at Medium Video settings which the game still looked great. The play was great and the AI seems to give a good challenge. During play over the different levels; their cavalry flank my units, set up ambushes, hid armies in forests, made sure to keep it's best units out of arrow's way.

At first I was reluctant to try Multiplayer. I was worried about cheaters, min-maxer's, and my lack of experience. Then after a few tries I was hooked. Of course I lost most of my battles at first but I learned and gained experience for my units and new traits for my general. Now I can put up a good fight with almost anyone and winning 50% of my battles. In fact I have had so much fun with multiplayer I have to really get back to finishing my solo campaigns...

So, game 5 of 5 stars. Amazon download 2 of 5 (it works but to slow when compared to Steam).
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on October 1, 2014
Truly wasted a whole year of my life on this game, really i did.
It was worth losing my job and dropping out of college for that time.
Ahhh those where the days, when all i cared about was my hatorri clan and modding my way for a legendary victory.
Even if me playing, was just a coping mechanism for real life.
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