Can you imagine what I would do if I could do all I can?
With these words in my mind, I started a new Japanese adventure. But if you want a historical introduction, I should write a separate article for it. Yes, there are so many things to say about the Total War series. Basically, Great Britain has some unique features: a passion for tea, the Big Ben, Sherlock Holmes and Creative Assembly. Of course, we care for the last one, the history buffs who brought us real warfare and times when (in my opinion) fights were more honest, based on force and brains, not on who has the most red buttons suitcases.
A few years ago, at a game show, I talked with one of the Creative Assembly designers. Back then it was all Medieval II: Total War, so the discussion was more about sieges, cavalry charges and firearms. But beyond that, I had in front of me a programmer who almost surely was capable of facing university teachers in terms of medieval history. The point being? The same attention to detail, to respect the historical facts as much as possible, is present in Shogun 2. Yeah, right, it’s just a bloody remake you’ll say. Well, it is, in spirit; the body is up-to-date, improved with all the new elements from its predecessors and something on top (annoying for some, but mostly well received): truly functioning AI and diplomacy. Of course, Shogun 2 isn’t perfect, especially in terms of multiplayer, but with so much content, it’s impossible to do everything perfectly.
Shogun, Medieval, Rome, Medieval II, Empire, Napoleon and Shogun II. In a way, an entire era has come to a close: after Napoleon, the only historical path was that of the modern wars, so Total War risked becoming some sort of Civilization with a touch of history. On the other hand, it was a smart decision, since the fans of the series (myself included), often dreamt about a truly 3D shogunate.
A real story
The Sengoku Jidai period (Warring States) chosen for both the original game and Shogun II is probably the most glorious age of Japan. Of course, back then glory was defined by severed heads, seppuku, political intrigue, betrayal and, above all, Tokugawa Ieyasu accomplishment to unite the clans under his rule. This is the short version of the events between the middle of the XV century and the beginning of the XVII century, excellently transposed into the single-player campaign. For veterans, this comeback only has the third dimension and a new graphic engine as novelties. For the rest, you’ll feel at home as a daimyo, a leader of one of the 10 most powerful clans in Japan.
Tough choice. Let’s start with Shimazu, for old time’s sake. An easy campaign, theoretically, because you start in the lower left corner of Japan, without enemies around and very close to naval commercial nodes. But you will soon clash with neighboring alliances (especially Shoni and Sagara), Christianity and the need to have the castles filled with troops to quench revolts. Still, it’s a campaign for more aggressive players.
At the other end of Japan, the Date clan attracted my attention. The start position is apparently just as simple, with only one enemy and fast access to maritime trade. Still, Date relies on swords (no dachi samurai), so infantry oriented tactics can put you in the lead. On the other hand, this campaign finished with a seppuku after some 10 turns because my army was too far from the capital when the AI decided to occupy it.
Chosokabe, the clan from the demo, is attractive for fans of islands, water and fleets and the aggressive Mori clan who is right in your spine. Depending on gaming style, you can be enclosed in your little island or conquer all around and be an Asian England, protected by water, but with a certain disadvantage, since it’s hard to get troops until you conquer new territories. And now that I’ve mentioned them, Mori is considered a boring clan, but it’s well placed, with the need to protect their river and watch their backs – land attacks are quite numerous.
Oda is fit for beginners, since they gather fast huge numbers of ashigaru (peasants) and one or two provinces in the beginning are good for the economy. On the other hand, competition is high in the middle of the map and the Mori or Chosokabe aren’t too far if they get strong fleets.
Hojo is the architect clan by excellence. They have bonuses for buildings, assault weapons and castle repairs; they also start with 2 provinces, so the economic advantage can be decisive. Their army isn’t very strong, but it will break low morale troops (ashigaru), especially when under siege.
Hattori has a series of special powerful units, but expensive; a strong economy is key here, especially because Hattori starts quite far from enemies and has time to grow. If you’re not careful though, you can get to starvation and bankruptcy, so it’s a difficult clan to master, recommended for seasoned players.
Takeda is one of my favorites, especially that cavalry isn’t only their bonus now, as it’s also stronger. The advantage is that you don’t really need to distract the enemy for a flank attack; Takeda horses can be used in the front line or in bigger numbers than that of other clans.