The Creative Assembly return to their roots but was it a successful venture?

User Rating: 8.5 | Total War: Shogun 2 PC
I was introduced to the Total War series (like many people) through Rome: Total War. The game was a magical piece of strategy for me with the detail and information given to you about each unit, each building, each town just so informative and so just right. This trend has been pretty much constant throughout the series since but with alterations made along the way.

One new addition in Total War: Shogun 2 is the Total War Encyclopedia. A central hub just bursting with information about the games contents. It moves away from the individual information sheets of previous games where you would have to seek out what you were looking for and generally makes the information gathering part of the game more streamlined. It is a symbol of what Shogun 2 attempts to accomplish: The most streamlined Total War experience to date.

For the most part this is a move in the right direction, previous incarnations included a clunky HUD that whilst very useful, detracted from the fantastic battles that ensued in real time. Shogun 2's HUD is not the sparsest yet but it is a mix of sparsity and an easy access to all the tools needed. This continues on the campaign map where controlling a Japanese clan has never been easier, the game feels fluid but also fresh which gives Shogun 2 a distinctive feel over its predecessors.

The campaign map is not the biggest of the series but it is the most involving. When you start a new campaign only a small portion of the map is open for you to see, the rest is hidden with only a medieval style map drawing, outlining Japan. As you move through the map on your conquest this map transforms gradually into the campaign map familiar to Total War veterans. This makes the start of the game seem more important and pivotal than ever and gives you an authentic feel of discovery and conquest as you progress. It is a welcome addition to the series.

The map is the best looking yet as well. On full settings the four seasons are beautifully captured from lush green forests to striking whites of snow it is a pleasure to be overlooking the world given for me to rule. The same can be said for the battles, the units are all extremely detailed and the terrain really does immerse you in the battle, beautiful rolling fields where leaves fall gently from the trees can soon become soaked in the blood of fallen Samurai or Ashigaru units, a horrifically beautiful piece of art that is thrill to play in.

Though you aren't there long enough. It is safe to say that Shogun 2's battles are the shortest in the series. I am typically a slow general, one who takes his time to turn battles to his advantage. I have been on the battle map for over an hour before but in Shogun 2 battles typically last around ten minutes. This is because the speed of the units and their death rates are ridiculously high. Soldiers will run at the speed of marathon runners and no sooner have you deployed than the enemy are charging you head on. It is a real shame as you are never on the battlefield long enough to really appreciate the brilliance of the map design in Shogun 2. Though some maps do feel a little tight and the whole experience gives an arcade feel as opposed to previous incarnations that had much bigger spaces which implored you to varied tactics. In this respect Shogun 2 falls below the marker set so high by the series beforehand.

The AI is improved but it is not much better, instead the game is heavily biased against you. This is an attempt to make the game more challenging without necessarily improving the AI much, if at all. The result is a game that at times feels too unfair and jarring and can detract from what is an otherwise fantastic experience.

The multiplayer has been changed greatly also as it adds an Avatar feature whereby you create your own clan and then fight other peoples clans. Its a good change from the fixed matches of old games and introduces a learning curve that is more immersible in the experience.

Shogun 2 is rich in content despite its focused setting. Units are almost identical among clans but this does not affect what is a rich experience. What Creative Assembly have done here is create their most friendly interfaced game yet, complete with the best visuals in the series to date. It is just a shame the some of the gameplay lets down the rest of the experience and can leave sometimes annoyed at it. Overall whether a series veteran or someone new, Shogun 2 is a great game and one you should purchase.