One step back but two very important steps forward.

User Rating: 8.5 | Total War: Shogun 2 PC
I saddens me that CA has made it so difficult to mod their newest games - and because of that Empire and Napoleon suffered somewhat. Unfortunately, since this is the same game engine, Shogun 2 is likely also going to suffer from lack of mods, as inspiring as we saw for Medieval Total War 2. It's quite telling that MTW2 still has a very active and interesting mod scene (I mean - who had imagined a Lord of The Rings mod when the game was released?), while Empire and Napoleon only have a few dedicated modders.

That said however, this game brings back a lot of good memories from the very first games of the series. The charm and artful quirks of Shogun and Medieval (1 and 1 respectively) that were somewhat lacking from Rome and onwards. While every game afterwards received undoubtedly better battle engines, the charm of the campaign maps and the events and texts that covered the often so pivotal immersion - were however slacked upon or mildly omitted as was the case in Empire. This has been remedied above and beyond any doubt.

Now, the music, the art, the style and the campaign map have regained their former style and charm and it is now as delightful to scroll around as the battle scenes are beautiful. For the first time an equilibrium between campaign and battle has been achieved and that is no small feat.

However, as you no doubt suspected, the AI is still a little wonky. So far I've only played about 6-8 battles and the AI has been more tactically flexible than that of Napoleon TW, but still stubborn and rash. With the inclusion of multiplayer drop-in however and the popularity of this series, I'm sure that one could play most battles against humans, if more of a challenge is required. The AI is however still quite easy to beat on hard.

Naval battles seem interesting, but I've yet to try them beyond the custom battles. I miss the broadside of a 1st rate though :)

The new Clan-based multiplay seems cool and the coop feature is amazing - I've yet to try the first, but coop works adequate and I've wanted this feature since Rome. I can't wait to experience a full campaign with a trusted friend in arms at my side (or at my throat).

I recommend this game, to both old-time fans like myself and newcomers alike. It's a solid game in a solid series and it makes up for some of the mistakes of Empire and Napoleon while drawing from the strengths of both. I hope the modding scene will expand the lifetime of this game, but I doubt it will be played much by the community when the next iteration arrives. In that regards it's one step back - but the charm, the dash and the shear potential are two very important steps forward!