Shogun delivers an epic strategy experience with an authentic feel complete with beautiful art and an great soundtrack.

User Rating: 9 | Total War: Shogun 2 PC
Score: 9.0

Difficulty: Hard

Time Spent: 40-100 Hours


Shogun delivers an epic strategy experience with an authentic feel complete with beautiful art and an great soundtrack.


Total War: Shogun 2 is the latest installment in the Total War series, a line of strategy games which puts the player as the mastermind of a military campaign, turn by turn, as well as the general of all the battles you fight, controlling the tactical elements of your armies in real time. The time period of this game is set in feudal Japan, where numerous clans battle for control of land, as well as the position of Shogun, military ruler of all Japan.

As the daimyo, you are in charge of managing the military, financial, and diplomatic elements of your clan to secure as much land and military power as possible, as well as to become shogun. This opens a great depth of strategy to the game, as every aspect is a major factor in the success or ruin of the clan. Although the essence of the game is in producing a powerful army and crushing your enemies, many things need to be taken into consideration when planning a campaign. For example, as an army increases in size, so does its upkeep cost. Since most of a clan's revenue comes from taxing your citizens, it is important to balance the size of your army with the happiness of your people, since an excessive tax will cause the clan's cities to become agitated and rebel. However, happiness can be improved not only by controlling your taxes, but also by spending money on buildings to keep the population satisfied. Infrastructure incurs a significant cost to one's treasury, but also bring important benefits, such as converting more citizens to your clan's religion, or enabling special units such as ninja to be produced. Since units and buildings incur a significant costs and benefits, one cannot expand without careful thought, bringing significance to economic decisions in the game. The decisions of each season carries weight.

Diplomacy is also an important factor in the planning of a campaign, which is more significant than it was in previous games such as Medieval II and Rome. Alliances, trade agreements, and rivalry between clans can be the deciding factor of whether a clan flourishes or gets destroyed. An alliance can bring you protection and security, but can limit your expansion as friends and enemies are in constant flux. Breaking off an alliance can lead to serious consequences, even turning a clan against you in some cases. Making enemies can be advantageous for a safe expansion, but having too much can prevent you from making new alliances when needed. Managing diplomatic relations can be a tricky experience, since clans take factors like your specific allies and enemies, personal honor, past agreements, and size of empire into account when making a decision. Not only does this bring a new level of depth into running of the campaign, it is the deciding factor on the consequences that military expansion brings.

The management of family and generals are an important example of the connection between interpersonal relations and waging war. The family tree consists of the daimyo's family and generals. Generals are either part of the family (daimyo's son, for example), or adopted. Each general or special unit can develop traits and retainers as they level, giving them a myriad of unique benefits differentiating them from each other. For example, one skill from the skill tree can be developed to attack with a higher command rating, another can be developed to specialize in ambushes, and a retainer can give a general a bonus to diplomatic relations. Your generals can also be promoted to different offices, such as being the commissioner for supply or development. These variations bring each general or unit a specific role and brings another area of depth to the strategic experience, as well as creating a personal connection between the player and their units.

The second half the game, which is the real-time tactics element, is an exciting, epic experience where the player controls units' actions on the battlefield. The infinite combination of units and tactics on the battlefield makes each battle a unique experience in which critical and creative thinking are rewarded. Visually, the battlefield is as bloody and chaotic as it should be, with heads being severed and bodies impaled amidst a din of whistling arrows and clanging swords. There is no victory like watching your calvary cut down the routing enemy after a devastating envelopment. Each battle feels like a fresh challenge, as the player has complete freedom over their units and that there is no one way to win a battle. To mix it up, weather, elevation, and forestry and also factors on the battlefield, deepening the strategic experience and widening the options to attain victory. The fact that fire arrows cannot be used in rain and that fog causes archers to be less accurate adds realism as well as strategic depth.

The campaign map as well as the battlefields are fantastic aesthetically and formidable graphically. Each individual unit is rendered as well as a main character of an RPG, which is an example of the amount of graphical detail shown by the game. However, the most impressive graphical element of Shogun II are the aesthetics. Every piece of art shown in loading screens and map notifications look like it was straight out of a Japanese painting. The campaign map changes every season, clearly conveying moods of spring, for example, with lush greenery and cherry blossoms and winter with a darkened, chilly look. Even the battlefields the player commands its armies on look beautiful, with mountains or sea on the horizon, birds and cherry blossoms floating in the air, or a foreboding fog obscuring the enemy force. The amount of detail shown in the game not only speaks for the graphical quality, but more importantly the work of art Shogun II is.

The music in Shogun 2 sound perfect for each occasion they are heard, whether the player is musing over their diplomatic alliances or circling their cavalry around for a vital flanking maneuver. Whereas on the campaign map you hear a serene, calming tune to accompany your meditations of the campaign decisions, you hear alterations of inspiring, exhilarating tracks and rumbling, heart pounding pieces depending on whether your army is moving in formation or slaughtering the enemy. As well as matching the mood and actions of the player, the music sounds suitably authentic pertaining to traditional Japanese instruments and culture. The music in Shogun 2 sound enjoyable in both the extremes of calmness and intensity, and is the best soundtrack of any Total war game.

There are few flaws in this masterpiece of a game. The AI is improved from the previous Total War games. Enemies will reposition themselves based on the formation of your own units, and will oftentimes seek positions to their advantage, such as atop a hill. However, enemy units rarely strike first, posing a limitation since the player almost always has to go on the offensive at the start of a battle. Getting units into formation can be problematic for the inexperienced player, as it is more complicated than it should be. Sometimes simply trying to line up your units can result in complications, such as accidentally merging a group with another. Pathfinding on the campaign map can also be a slight annoyance, as moving units by segments seem to result in a shorter distance covered than if it was moved in one action. Additionally, the purpose of generals only seem to be those of war, unlike previous games where a general can be made to focus on managing cities.

Although Shogun II is a little more simplified than the previous games, it crosses the line in regards to unit and clan diversity. Every clan can produce every type of unit, which results in starting position and special traits being the only differentiating factor. The lack of unit diversity can make the player feel as if they are fighting the same army over and over again, causing battles to feel repetitive.

Another significant aspect of the game that deserves to be mentioned is the Shogunate. One of the campaign's goals is to become shogun by holding Kyoto for a year. However, if one becomes too bent on conquering land instead of acquiring the Shogunate, the clan's notoriety will steadily increase until they are declared an enemy of the state. This causes most neighboring clans to declare war on it, regardless of all the diplomatic work put into maintaining goodwill. Although it can be said this would make realistic sense as a clan gets large and threatening, this can prevent players from expanding massively, which is the point of the game, and can render all previous diplomatic work futile. The Shogunate adds a new area of strategy, but can also adds unneeded limitations by stifling the objective of conquering as many territories as possible and maintaining diplomatic relations.

Multiplayer is also an option in Shogun II. A player can fight in skirmishes or as a clan on a campaign map easily. Although multiplayer is not the main focus of the game, it adds more replay value to Shogun II.

Shogun II is a masterpiece that is filled with little details that not only deepens the strategic thinking required to succeed at the game, but also delivers an epic, immersive experience that is easy on the eyes and and ears.