Top positive review
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Top of the Total War Trophy Closet
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:
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.