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Platform: PC Online Game CodeEdition: StandardChange
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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 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 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 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 January 20, 2012
First, I'd like to say I am disappointed to read PC game reviews on Amazon and find that half of them rate the game at 1 star because of the distribution system - in many cases by people who don't even own the game! It's quite sad, since alternatives would be to play severely dumbed-down console games (I am talking about strategy games).

This game requires a high-end PC to run smoothly. With 8 gigs of RAM it takes a couple of minutes to start the game and just under a minute to switch from campaign map to battlefield - not terrible but definitely noticeable. Graphics are beautiful - which is a waste since you typically don't have time to watch individual soldiers fight.

Overall gameplay has not dramatically changed since the previous games in the series - yet it became more refined. For example, there are only 2 religions and 5 trade nodes (each can be reached in a few moves); trade and religion remain important but they don't overwhelm and let you concentrate on conquest rather than tedious management.

AI is, let's say, unpredictable. It is capable of really good and bad moves, both on campaign and battlefield maps. If you are not careful it is capable of giving you a beating even on easy difficulty. AI does use agents such as ninjas and priests with pretty good efficiency.

Overall, this is my close second-favorite game in the series after Rome. My only complaint is that the turns sometime drag out - it can be late at night and your only choice could be facing 5 long defensive battles for over an hour or autoresolve them and loose some key provinces.
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on January 30, 2012
I played the original Shogun, then Medieval, Rome, and pretty much focused on the melee type games rather than Empire or Napoleon. I have no experience on the multiplayer or avatar portions of this game. So far my experience is about 90 hrs worth of play on normal + hard modes and the domination mode and long campaign modes.

Couple quick items. If you have never played the series before, this game is like playing Civilization (or similar) except you have the option of actually playing out the battles. So while on a campaign map you may have little icons representing armies, when two armies engage, you actually have the micro-manage ability of playing out the battle in real-time.

Briefly I do want to mention a correct to a review I saw - there ARE vassals. The vassal provinces also count towards your own goal. Vassals add another layer of fun to this game. Choose to have them at your own risk or enjoyment. Don't be surprised if they suddenly back-stab you.

Let's talk negatives:
Steam. Downloading the game took 12 hrs. Granted my wireless link was terrible but this is terrible.

Load times. I don't know if it's steam related - but this game is slow to load and the battles are slow to load as well. I am not running alienware but I do have win7/intel quad core/ati 5650 graphics card so i'm fairly sure it's not my rig.

Now with the positives:
Quick Saves. Right before a battle is engaged - it shows the total army compositions and asks if you want to save, autoresolve, run or fight it out. Great new feature.

Siege Battles. In the original, you never did this much because they always just surrounded you and waited for you to starve. In Rome or Medieval they brought so much artillery it was just a slaughter unless you had the right defenses. In S2TW - it's just pure melee with arrows mixed in. It is beautifully done with soldiers falling off the sides of the walls as hails of arrows or musket-fire (should you choose to deal with the christians). Or you could artfully scale the walls with the new ninja units. If you are loaded with cavalry, they can now dismount to assist in the siege. Keeps also automatically produce garrisons, so a small fort will generate a squad of katana samurai, whereas a huge castle will generate archers, ashiguru and more to help defend. Some keeps actually have a moat surrounding it preventing or significantly slowing the enemy.

Bridge Battles.
In the original a couple key choke provinces/points like Kawachi or Echigo had one single bridge to defend. You could load up on 20 units of archers and nothing would get past that point unless you ran out of ammo. Now there are other "shallow" water areas where the enemy can actually bypass the bridge. The bridge is also very short and so crossing it is very easy. Basically there is more strategy to defending these choke points than in the past. Not to mention that enemies can bypass the area altogether since ships can drop landing parties.

Tech Tree.
I believe this has been covered very well on the other reviews - the only thing i would say is diversity is key. You can't go all bushido because you will run out of money. You can't go all chi because you will be rich and ripe for the pickings with lousy troops. Balance is key.

AI is tougher.
In Hard mode, The ai was smart enough to engage my infantry first with his, and then flanked (on both sides) my infantry with a cavalry charge even though I desperately tried to hail arrows at them first. The AI completely ignored my missile troops and the route was on. I'm sure if I kept pausing the game I could have gotten the troops in position in time - but what fun is that?

In normal mode the AI consistently sends it's calvary head-first for my missle troops. Although if you are yari, it will consistently reposition the calvary to attempt to hit your yari from the side (not always though). For the most part- normal is a lot easier.

AI Naval Battles.
I don't like naval battles much -but I did notice the AI purposefully sought out the "general" boat. Ships are an afterthought in this game and probably the weakest link for sure, but far improved from Rome/MTW.

Automatically Resolving Battles.
Autoresolving is quick and keeps the game flowing and the casualties are factored in manner that makes sense to a degree. This is a big change compared to the original shogun where you absolutely had to battle each one.

Things that are neither positive or negative - just new things i noticed:
1) you can't spam ninja/shinobi/diplomats anymore. Not sure why you'd want to spam diplomats but I digress. Now we are limited to a max of 5 (depending on how many buildings you have) of each specialized unit (monk or priest/metsuke, ninja).

2) Generals have non-transferable traits. Trait is not the right word but I can't think of exactly what it was. In Rome TW, you could transfer a useful person (like veteran centurions) to another general and stack them up (or take all the traits away if a general is too old), creating one singularly impressive general.

3) The game ends at year 1600. This means you cannot keep playing and playing, or turtling etc.

4) Experienced troops are not diluted with fresh ones. In the past if had experienced troops, but they were depleted, you had to find another set of experienced troops and use your math to figure out if they could be combined. Or if you combined with fresh troops the experience level got halved. No more! Now the game has a replenishment feature that slowly recoups the causalities back to full.

DO NOT READ THE BELOW IF YOU DO NOT WANT TO GET A SPOILER.
4) As you progress in the game, there is a clan page that tracks all of your events. Of particular note is how the current shogun views you. Once you reach a full yellow bar of notoriety (this occurs based on the honor of your daimyo, how many provinces you hold, how many heroic victories etc you'd had) - then the shogun will proclaim you a menace and basically every single clan that is not an ally of yours will team up to attack you...this is called realm divide. This is similar to how in Rome TW the other two roman factions ganged up on you once you got too dangerous for the senate.

Anyways - sorry for the long review - but I felt the game deserved it.
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on April 6, 2011
Me and my two roommates play this game constantly and repeatedly. Be prepared to sink a ton of time into it as it constantly rewards you with new upgrades, new units, new provinces, etc. Very deep and very beautiful. Worth a computer upgrade to see all of the bells and whistles.
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