Shogun has a great subject, and a perfect melding of strategic and tactical gameplay.
Despite the apparent success of the strategy-game genre, there has been a pronounced lack of quality games that offer more deliberate, strategic gameplay in addition to action-packed combat. Thus, the arrival of Shogun is an especially welcome addition to the genre: Not only is Shogun a challenging and engrossing 3D real-time tactical combat game, but it also features a great turn-based strategy component that complements the combat wonderfully.
The goal of Shogun is for you to unify a fractured Japan. In the Sengoku Jidai, or warring-states period of the 16th century, Japan is nominally under the rulership of an emperor who commands the entire Japanese nation. In reality, powerful warlords, or daimyo, control their own regions of a divided Japan, and each hopes to become the shogun, the ultimate warlord who would unite Japan under his military banner. Historically, the time period was one of great warfare and strife, which makes it well suited for a strategy game.
The main component of Shogun: Total War is the campaign mode, which simulates the course of the Sengoku Jidai period. There is also a historical battle mode, which lets you replay five historical battles from the 16th century; as well as a custom battle mode, where you can cull your own armies and game-world variables to create a battle to your liking.
In the campaign mode, you begin as the leader of one of seven rival clans of Japan. Each clan has its own strengths and weaknesses, and each starts out in a different area of the map. All of the seven clans have unique benefits and geographic advantages or disadvantages, which lend the game greater replay value. Regardless of which clan you choose, war is the focus of Shogun. The game's research model is very simple, and there is a paltry diplomacy model and limited espionage options. There isn't a bewildering array of choices to confuse or distract you. Some players might be put off by this simplicity, but it's actually liberating. The strategy portion of Shogun is very much like an enhanced version of Risk, as it distills the basic fun elements of strategy gaming without offering too many choices, much like the classic board game.
The campaign mode begins with an overhead view of Japan, which is portrayed as an unfurled map of the country spread out across a table in your throne room. Each province is visible, along with pieces that designate your generals and special units, such as ninja and emissaries. The strategy portion of the gameplay involves moving your pieces around the map to gain intelligence (using shinobi, your spies), offer alliances (with your emissaries), assassinate other leaders (with your ninja), or conquer other provinces (with your generals and their armies). All the while, you're trying to generate money from your provinces to fuel your war machine with unit-producing or unit-enhancing buildings and castles, as well as with troops.
Each province you hold generates koku, or bushels of rice. This is the game's resource unit, which you use to buy troops and buildings. You collect the koku tax every four seasons, or turns. You will never have enough koku to buy all the troops you want and to construct buildings in all the provinces; instead, the game always forces you to make difficult strategic choices about what to build and when. Luckily, there are several things you can do to enhance your influx of koku. You can set higher tax rates each year for your people, at the cost of their loyalty; build improvements to your farmland; or conquer other provinces for their yearly income.
One problem with the annual tax collection is that the tax report indicates yearly unit and building costs but provides no detailed breakdown of this cost. For instance, it would be helpful to know the yearly upkeep cost of a common spearman compared with that of a more costly samurai, or the upkeep cost of a particular building.
Diplomacy in Shogun is also pretty flimsy. All you're doing is effectively buying yourself time until you betray your neighbor or your neighbor betrays you. The only diplomatic option you have is to offer alliance treaties. You can't coordinate joint attacks on neighbors, ask for loans, demand tribute, or conduct any other such negotiations - all options you'd expect from an epic strategy game like Shogun. More extensive diplomacy options would have been welcome.
The game's espionage aspect is less anemic. You can hire shinobi to spy on your enemies, incite revolt in enemy provinces, or stabilize loyalty in your own provinces. The process isn't as glamorous or involving as it sounds - you just move your shinobi into a province, and the results supposedly happen. You can also recruit ninja, who can assassinate game pieces - such as generals, emissaries, and even daimyo - on the map. Unfortunately, it's very hard to ever get a ninja to complete an assassination successfully. Ninja need experience to stand a good chance of accomplishing their missions, but until they complete several missions in the first place, they'll never get that experience.
Shogun's technology tree is fairly simple. You need to build a castle to operate the basic military structures. Upgrading your castle opens up options for better military buildings, such as the famous archery dojo and Buddhist temple. Some of the late-game upgrades actually require special conditions, such as the arrival of Dutch traders or the rising of a legendary swordsman in your military ranks. Although you'll want to start conquering territories early, you'll need to carefully balance your desire to throw money into producing the basic units with the necessity to build toward better troops and upgrades. As the game is geared toward offense, there are no defensive structures for you to spend money on.
- Player Reviews: 20
- Game Universe:
- Empire: Total War Gold Edition (PC, MAC),
- Rome: Total War Gold Edition (PC, MAC),
- Empire: Total War (PC),
- Medieval II Total War: Gold Edition (PC),
- Medieval II: Total War Kingdoms (PC),
- Medieval II: Total War (PC),
- Total War: Eras (PC),
- Medieval Total War Gold (PC),
- Rome: Total War Barbarian Invasion (PC),
- Rome: Total War (PC)
- Number of Players: