Total War: Shogun 2 Exclusive Hands-On - Chosokabe Campaign

The Total War series returns to the land of the rising sun after a decade of absence. We go hands-on with the campaign mode and make war in these turbulent times.

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The game is Shogun 2: Total War, the next hybrid real-time and turn-based strategy from UK-based developer Creative Assembly. It is the middle of the 16th century and Japan is locked in the age of Sengoku jidai, or "the age of the country at war." We have been given the opportunity to get our hands on Shogun 2's campaign as Chosokabe Motochika, current daimyo of the Chosokabe clan, in lands of the Tosa Province on the island of Shikoku. Our homeland is at the crossroads of a new age. All across Japan great leaders are rising up, each casting his bid for the ultimate position of shogun--ruler over all. The years to come are to be filled with blood and violence, but our resolution is firm and our armies are strong. However, before we enter this conflict, we must first unite our rebellious neighbors under one banner--the Chosokabe banner--in the opening acts of our clan's campaign. Yes, we've finally gotten our hands on the single-player campaign mode in this epic strategy sequel, and this is our story.

Shogun 2 makes a strong first impression with beautiful graphics and authentic Japanese artwork. Creative Assembly has clearly put great effort into capturing the artistic style of 16-century Japan. Unit cards, icons, menus displayed as war banners--all these little things come together to set the perfect tone for this time and place. In keeping with this sense of design, uncharted areas on Shogun 2's world map are represented as traditional Japanese-style brush paintings, while known areas, such as the lone province of Tosa, are rendered in full 3D. After we took a moment to appreciate the game's impressive artwork, we proceeded to our first task--recruiting some yari ashigaru, trained peasant spearmen, to defend our boarders. Queuing them up showed how many turns they would take to field, and mousing over their unit card revealed a breakdown of their strengths, weaknesses, and current level.

With our troops set to cook, we ended our first turn. Each turn marks the passing of one season to the next; in our case, the passing from the green fields of summer to the amber hues of fall. We now had a unit of yari ashigaru, but it alone wouldn't win us this war. The Chosokabe clan is renowned for its legendary archers, so we constructed an archery dojo from the drop-down building menus in our city, which then granted us access to the skillful Chosokabe bow samurai. As we entered the new year, our citizens suddenly lapsed into riots and unrest. After reviewing the city overview and finance screens, we discovered that their complaints were well founded because we had been taxing them at full blast. While heavy taxation does provide more cash on hand in the short term, it will stunt overall economic growth--in addition to making everyone hate you. A simple slider let us turn down the economic pressure on our subjects, represented by a color-coded map of the province shifting from angry red to happy green.

The world of Shogun 2 comes alive in full 3D.

With the troubles at home under control, we turned our attention to the troubles abroad. These manifested as a visiting monk from the neighboring Kono clan who, despite his peaceful demeanor, promptly incited a rebellion in our province. We responded quickly to quell this insurrection, leading to our first taste of combat. On the field of battle, Shogun 2 once again looks stunning. Our soldiers were immaculately detailed, and in the distance, the sun's rays peeked out from behind a cloud of dirt and ash rising from a distant clash with the rebels. The battle itself was a simple affair. Armies were manipulated through point-and-click commands, and each unit generally had a few special abilities at its disposal. Our trusty yari ashigaru, for example, had the ability to form up in a defensive square, which crushed the enemy's heavy cavalry. Later in the battle, our samurai archers employed their highly demoralizing flaming arrows to soften up some enemy warriors before retreating behind our spearmen, who then made quick work of the weakened foe.

The battle was easily won, but we were not happy with having to slay our kin. We marched into Kono territory flush with vengeance and in search of blood. As we traveled beyond our borders the simple 2D map bloomed into beautiful 3D all along our path. After we arrived at the Kono stronghold in Iyo province, we discovered that this particular clan must have put all of its resources into monk technology because its military was almost nonexistent. From such an overwhelming position, we decided to auto-resolve this engagement rather than command the battle personally or starve our enemies out. After winning yet another victory, we had the option to either loot the city, resulting in a quick payout at the cost of its destruction, or instate a peaceful occupation, yielding less money upfront but retaining the city's facilities. We sided with the latter.

This proved to be a wise choice because this new city housed a sake den that, like all great sake dens, was the perfect hangout for ninjas. For a modest fee, we recruited one of these killers and sent him out to poison the food supplies of our next victim: the Sogo clan. Ninjas have a variety of nasty abilities at their disposal depending on the unfortunate target, but their chance of success varies with each task. Once our ninja had successfully undermined the enemy forces--forcing them to retreat back into their keep--we moved him up to sabotage the keep's gates. This let our troops pass through them unhindered during the inevitable battle to come.

Special units, such as your generals or ninja, can level up and unlock new improvements.

But, before we could draw steel against the Sogo, our army needed to be resolute in spirit. Mastery of the Arts is Shogun 2's tech tree for your entire empire. It is divided into two branches: Bushido, which improves your military might, and the Way of Chi, which improves your finances and government. With so much bloodshed in our immediate future, we decided to start down the Bushido research tree. This afforded us improved troop morale and the ability to construct a sword school, which was essential for training the iconic katana samurai. Once this research option was completed, the game automatically selected a new option within that tree--or we could change it to whatever we saw fit. Mastery of the Arts requires no resources, only time, and it is the backbone of a successful empire. With our armies rested and our minds at ease, it was time to take the fight to the villainous Sogo clan.

Unlike the Kono, the Sogo were out in full force. This was it: our first major battle, the siege of Takamatsu, which we decided to command personally. Our objective here was to take the Sogo's stronghold either by capturing the inner keep or annihilating all of the enemy's troops. As the attackers, we had the advantage of choosing when to strike, and because a sudden downpour greeted us on the battlefield, we decided to wait for better conditions. Once the rain let up, a thick bank of fog rolled in, and we decided to capitalize on it. Our general delivered an inspiring speech lambasting the Sogo troops as we deployed under the cover of fog. Before we could march on the enemy, we had to select a formation for our troops. We could either choose from a list of formations with names like Flying Geese and War of the Tiger, or we could build our own. We decided to go with formation Cloud Dragon, described as a missile-heavy attack formation, to make the best use of our unique samurai archer units.

Every unit has a counter; these cavalry troops can be easily routed by a squad of spearmen.

Our target, the Sogo's castle, was built on a hillside, surrounded by walls, and it sat at the far end of an open field. To get inside and capture the inner keep, we would have to scale the walls and either gain access to or destroy one of the three gates. The efforts of our cunning ninja had ensured easy access to the gates, but we had long since forgotten this while laying out our strategy. Scaling the high frontal wall would be suicide, so we decided to hit the eastern side of the keep where the walls were shallowest. Our troops had to weather a barrage of enemy arrows as they moved into position, so we ordered them to run, instead of walk, to minimize our losses at the risk of tiring them out. Once at the eastern side, we paused the action to issue individual orders. Our yari samurai, a step up from the yari ashigaru, would scale the walls and engage the forces within while our samurai archers would lay down covering fire. While the enemy was distracted, our lone squads of naginata samurai and heavy cavalry would hit the single gate on its side, destroy it, and rush in to relieve our melee troops. Finally, our commander unit would linger just outside the gate and improve the fighting abilities of surrounding troops. With all the orders locked in, we resumed the action.

Our yari samurai began the short and terrifying ascent up the wall, each unit praying the spray of arrows screaming down its ranks wouldn't find purchase on its armor. The samurai archers fired high over the walls to provide what cover they could until the yari units crested the top and spilled over into the killing fields inside. Meanwhile, with the enemy distracted, our naginata samurai (needlessly) decimated the enemy's gate with a healthy application of fire. After a brief confrontation with an interception force, we cleared a path for our cavalry to charge in and hit the enemy's archer squads unhindered. Across from the gate sat an enemy guard tower, which rained down arrows on our troops. Each major structure inside a keep has a small flag next to it. Stationing units near one of these flags let us take control of the structure after a set amount of time, not unlike the capture-and-hold mechanic of conquest mode in first-person shooters such as the Battlefield series. Our naginata were perfect for the task and set up at the enemy's castle after converting the guard tower. This initiated a countdown timer at the top of our screen, letting us know how long we needed to hold the position to achieve victory. After roughly a minute, the battle was over.

This conflict felt true to form for a Total War game. Clearly, Shogun 2 expected us to do a great deal of planning before entering this fight, and even though we did lay out a plan, it all exploded into one desperate struggle on the battlefield. We actually had to run the above scenario a number of times before achieving success. Each failure, however, reinforced the importance of preparation. Without a cohesive strategy, no number of special unit abilities or bonuses from our general could win us the day. Second chances were a rarity on the battlefield, and conceding defeat meant surrendering precious time and resources to prepare for the next assault. Capturing Takamatsu put us in possession of a naval port and, subsequently, a meager navy. Naturally, some of our less-than-friendly neighbors from the mainland took notice and attacked.

Unlike European naval warfare, Japanese vessels aren't wholly dependent on the whims of the wind to be successful. Instead, they use brute force to make their way through the water via massive rowing crews. These giant warships--which looked like nothing short of a floating fortress--subsequently moved more slowly and deliberately than our land troops. We were in command of a bow Kobaya (a small assault ship), a medium Bune (a significantly larger siege vessel), and a heavy Bune (an even larger version of the previous one) and turned loose against an enemy of similar makeup. On the open sea, there are two ways to achieve victory: Successfully ignite the enemy's ship because ships are all made of wood or pull up next to the enemy, board the ship, and kick everyone out. The former proved to be the more successful tactic after our heavy Bune, loaded to the brim with troops eager to take control of an enemy's vessel, had the proverbial rug pulled from under it at the last moment. After it had locked in with an enemy vessel, a trick of the tide ripped the opposing ship away just as our troops took the plunge--sending them all crashing into the sea and, thus, incapacitating the ship.

If you're trying to command your armies from this intimate perspective, then you're doing it wrong.

Our time with the Chosokabe came to a close after we conquered the province of Awa from the Miyoshi clan and, finally, succeeded in unifying the island. But this was just a taste of the full Shogun 2 experience. Diplomacy, kinship, economic trading, and more all felt harmoniously integrated under one stunning artistic vision. We're very eager to get our hands on the full retail release of this strategy giant come March 15.

Discussion

149 comments
tokstah
tokstah

Faaaarrrrrkn AWesome!!!

FlaviusJulius17
FlaviusJulius17

@flaviusJulius17 this was my first campaign and I played as the chosokabe

FlaviusJulius17
FlaviusJulius17

Ummm... So, I have the game, and it sounds like, for this preview, there wS no upkeep costs, because I just used an army of 1 general, 3 yari ashigaru, 5 bow ashigaru, and one or two samurai. With the army these guys are describing, they must've had an impressive economy

liamvicks
liamvicks

i carnt wait for this game tomorrow :D

itachi100
itachi100

Crossing my fingers in hope that this doesn't turn out as god awful as Napoleon and Empire.

leop4rd
leop4rd

@Galbat0rixx if they did that I can almost guarentee you would get people saying "omgzorz this is just RTW with updated graphicz, lazy developers". I would personally have another era or part of the world (maybe china?) rather than a remake of a relatively recent game (post 2000 anyway). Also does anyone know if you can control individual city taxes like you could in medival 2 and rome etc. ?

Devchi
Devchi

A Total War focused in the Hellenic era would be great. Not just a Alexander expansion, a Total War Ancient Age (or something like that).

Kirkwellgm
Kirkwellgm

I must note that GS has yet to say Anything (granted I might have missed it) about the howls of the fans in regards to Emipre and Nap TW. Depending on your point of view those games were released flawed, or released broken or released fine, but face it a lot of the community was unhappy to one degree or another. Has CA listened to the fans? Will Shogun do what Empire promised? Lets see a critical review GS, adress my concerns!

glassfish8
glassfish8

ww2 or modern would be too hard the latest if any would be ww1 becuase it does not have gurrila like tactics it involves trences and mass charging. however it would not be as pretty as other total war games it would be verry differnet witha few edozen soldiers in 10 square meters rather then hundreds in previous games ww1 total war would ether be epic or fail i dont think they will do it anytime soon i think they might make a rome 2 after this one then who knows maby medieval 3 or one with genghis kahn and the ancient wars in asia

moglime3
moglime3

@Morethot That would make it too complex for today's technology, too many battles with aircraft, battleships and soldiers. Its more than likely they will expand Shogun 2 to encompass the whole region or make a China: Total War because China has had more civil wars than any other country in the world.

Galbat0rixx
Galbat0rixx

@leop4rd well a re-do of the Roman Era wouldn't go totally amiss.

slapstik89
slapstik89

why are there so many awesome games being released this year. I'm gonna end up buying all of them, but never playing half of them...fwaaahh!

leop4rd
leop4rd

this looks AMAZING but the worrying thing is is this gna be the last total war game were gna see?, they cant really branch into post napoloenic becuase the style doesn't fit, if they've redone shogun, done medieval, done roman era, where next?

simon1812
simon1812

I want to download the demo and try it, but do I need to get steam? I hate steam!! it is like that weird cousin one rarely ever see but when he visits he starts looking around in your room and stuff and asking personal question, "hey!! I know we are blood but cmon!!! boundaries!!!!!", and then you hurt his feelings and goes back home to the rest of the family with stories about how rude and impolite I was... so can somebody pitch me site where I can get it without steam?

Dominicobaggio
Dominicobaggio

In all seriousness i cant wait for this game. I sank so many hours into shogun its embarassing. But one thing which worries me is there seems to be no weight to chargers. just watch the videos and see what i mean. Units run to each other, then stop and stroll into combat. This sometimes happened in rome but most charges had weight to them in that game. I hope this is ok. I even have to invest in a new computer for it so its a big moment hahah.

fzd88
fzd88

that 3D world map looks gorgeous!

Rickiej
Rickiej

@pureADR3NAL1NE Every clan has his own unique unit(s). It has been told in one of the interviews.

MoreThot
MoreThot

This game is going to be awesome. I wish they would make a WWII or go someplace modern with this type of gameplay. Total War franchise is amazing.

cloudsofwar
cloudsofwar

@pureADR3NAL1NE u might be right but the units are diffrent in stats from faction to faction and each one has different abilities

pureADR3NAL1NE
pureADR3NAL1NE

I have a feeling there will be no difference between the factions. I mean they're all Japanese so there can't be many differences.

franku571
franku571

it any body know tf they are going to hare a demo

Slavadil
Slavadil

Swweeet! This game looks awesome.

kozzy1234
kozzy1234

@theoander Give Napoleon a try its much better then Empire. The Ai is better and there are virtually no bugs (way better performance and not as many bugs). Give it a try man, if Shogun has the level of polish as Napoleon has then we are in for a treat.

kozzy1234
kozzy1234

I cant wait!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Got it preordered and playing Napoleon Total War until its out!~

cashomoney
cashomoney

rome total wars for me, medieval doesn't seem to play to well with my computer ( since i switched to windows 7 >:( )

MrPilgrim
MrPilgrim

im just glad they are focusing more on swords and arrows with some cannons peppered in

machine321434
machine321434

medieval 2 total war will always stay the best of all total wars for me...

theoander
theoander

I should be excited... I was a huge fan of the series until E:TW, now I've lost faith in CA and the series. I'll wait for player reviews before making this purchase,

Rar05
Rar05

Malikn lets hope this one is legit, but even more a set-up to the real total war and thats rome, gotta be Rome 2 next

malikn
malikn

They're bringing back some of the old mechanics along with the revamp. I smell Rome 2 in the works, something fans have been begging for since MTW.

Dominicobaggio
Dominicobaggio

I wonder if the samurai will take young boys on campaign with them for when they get lonely like real life :P

devilson6969
devilson6969

i wanted this game to come out after i finished the first one and was hoping that they will do a remake of it and naw my dream is coming to life ^_^ hope they will not kill it like the other games in this series

HamadaHD
HamadaHD

i grew up on the total war series... i cant wait for this game :(

achilies07
achilies07

Thus I'm worried abot the music... My favorite soundtrack is still Rome total war.... I hope they found a way to make it epic... This game better not suck!

achilies07
achilies07

Thus I'm worried abot the music... My favorite soundtrack is still Rome total war.... I hope they found a way to make it epic... This game better not suck!

phv86
phv86

but hey i dont just want rankup and better units. i want a persistant empire to rule and to conquer other lands

phv86
phv86

Persistant world for your avatar= Awsome. That means im gonna get this game from day one and own all of you

tiggerlu
tiggerlu

Games will always be buggy, the AI will never be perfect - whatever happens, you gotta let your imagination fill in the rest. How many samurai games are there like this? In history? By the time we're all dead and gone, probably less than 5... So yeah, I'm all for good quality, but I don't work for CA, and I'm just happy they decided to redo this game.

sataricon
sataricon

I wonder how will game spot and other sites review this game? After all they gave such a high score to Empire though it was full of bugs that took a year to fix.

FlaMezV2
FlaMezV2

@TheLawLord I agree with you totally yet still I will buy the game. Merely because i've hyped this game up to my friends sooo much that if I don't buy it and warn them if it's bad then I will be a "bad person" (the language is VERY "PG" i know)

ThePlumpPenguin
ThePlumpPenguin

Medieval total war with the viking invasion pack is still probably the best one out.

TheLawLord
TheLawLord

If you are as pissed about Empire: TW as I am, please don't buy Shogun 2 based on the mainstream reviews or hope that this time they really fixed the game. Wait six months. Read TW enthusiast reviews. Don't buy the hype. Stop supporting a series that threw quality out the window a long time ago and demand better.

TheLawLord
TheLawLord

Rome: TW is arguably in the top 10 games of all time list, and is certainly top 25. Medieval II: TW didn't deliver quite the same punch, but was playable and mostly fun. Empire: TW destroyed my faith in TW as a series and Creative Assembly as a developer. First, the state of the game on release was totally inexcusable. Second, the 1.3 patch should have done way more than make the game "playable." Yes, it was playable in that it didn't CTD constantly. But the economics were still totally obscure, made no sense, and really just boiled down to plunking as many ships on trade routes as possible with no concern about what they were producing. The naval battles were hilariously unrealistic and pointless. The land battle AI continued to be atrocious in siege battles despite it being a common and well-known problem since Rome: TW. The infamous no-firing soldiers. The "this time we fixed it, for real!" diplomacy. People that think Empire: TW is up to the standards of a 9/10 or A game are engaging in revisionist history. In the coup de grace though, there was the PROMISED campaign multiplayer for Empire: TW that never materialized. Oh wait...it did after all in the form of a $40 expansion pack known as Napoleon: TW. Releasing a buggy and poor quality game is one thing, but reneging on the campaign multiplayer and then having the gall to charge me an extra $40 for it when all I had was a broken game in the first place was an insult to every fan of the series.

Darko27
Darko27

OMG!!!!! cant *#!*#$ wait to buy the game! soo many new things that i WOULD have put and they did! . surely will have a big impact on new generation games!

Gionder
Gionder

oh, come one Decogon... Empire TW was quite good, but that time in-between turns was excruciating! i'd like "loading" times to be AT MOST as slow as Medieval II with expansion. That already makes you wonder it could be a little faster, but E:TW and N:TW (exp) are simply ridiculously slow inter-turns. i've got a Phenom II x4 955, 4gb Patriot 1600 CL8 DDR3, Nvidia 9800GTX+ and i play it at 1280x1024... the game makes my money a waste, cuz i just can't bear the god-saken major laggy time between turns, and my system is not all cr4p.

Sniperwolf_SN
Sniperwolf_SN

I think Rome and Medieval will still better ... I hope battles to be great ... cz the campaign will not! any way this series is great and I think it will be fun

downloadthefile
downloadthefile

I didn't like Empire nearly as much as some other strategy games. The previews overrated the heck out of it. I loved Medieval Total War, though, so I still do have large hope for the franchise. Maybe its just that I love that Medieval time period but I give them the benefit of the doubt.