I know "Best in Series" is a VERY controversial thing to say especially in the TW series, but hear me out...
However, I'm going to start off with the bad.
- As of right now, the Multiplayer Avatar Conquest seems broken to me. There is a lot of lag, the lobbies are weird, odd bugs. Ect. Please note that this did not effect my score of the game as I don't play TW for multiplayer.
- Some odd bugs. You'll experience some weird bugs every now and again. AI sometimes not attacking the castle, ect. These happen rare enough that they do not effect the game too much, however.
-MP Campaign has a fatal bug. This one was kinda disappointing to me and this alone was probably worth at least .5 of the points of why its not a 9 and not a 10. Somewhere around turn 60-100 in MP campaign, a desync bug comes in. Basically, whenever you go to play a battle with friends it crashes both your games.
- Not Tab friendly. You can tab out, but tabbing in and out often has caused me some adverse side effects such as crashing and some audio issues.
Now onto the Good. Please note that all the good im referring to is new features in the total war series, I will not be referring to anything that has been present in old versions.
-The AI is Good....seriously. Honestly, I know you don't believe me if you played a past one, but the AI is GOOD. Not only is the AI good its actually...hard! Campaign AI is great, and they keep you on your toes. The AI allies with each other to take on you when you get to big, the AI won't start useless wars or betray you if they like you. The AI will also help you in wars if you're allied. The AI will even try to make a bunch of trade agreements to make themselves rich. Overall, the campaign is quite challenging on normal difficulty. As for battle AI, the only big difference is the AI knows how to flank now. The AI will actually send cavalry around to hit you on the sides and what not. The Battle AI isn't that much different, but definitely some nice improvements. Oh, and also during sieges they'll hit the walls on multiple sides instead of just one.
-Naval Warfare is more understandable. This is just me, but I personally never understood ETW naval and I was terrible at it. I find Shogun 2 much more understandable and fun. Just my opinion.
-Graphics are great. You can see most the screenshots, so I won't comment on this much. But quite honestly the graphics are better than most FPS's which is a big feat for a RTS.
-2 player Campaign is great (albeit fatal flaw mentioned above) The 2 player campaign is great to play with a friend. In past games, you were forced to autoresolve. However, in S2TW (Excuse me...TW: S2) not only can you play the battles, you can "gift" some of your troops to your friend so he can control some of your troops! This is completely optional, however. Also, in Head-to-Head mode of Co-oP you can play as the enemy AI in every battle.
- The Campaign is immersive. One thing that is really quite amazing is the fact that the campaign EVOLVES. You start with some 60-odd factions. But as the campaign reaches its climax, its reduced to like 7 factions and they're all quite big and definitely not push-overs. So you start as a broken country and it evolves into a war of GREAT powers. And I have to stress that these powers are FORMIDABLE. You can lose the campaign, I nearly have multiple times, I've had to revert to hold saves. But the challenge is refreshing from the old steam-rolling campaigns of old TW's.
-Beautiful Japanese culture in the game. The game really does free unique as Japanese culture is truly unique. Its a nice refresh from European culture.
-Soldier system is better done than Empire/Nap. In Empire/Nap. Some might complain that Shogun doesn't have that many troops. But I think its quite well done. You have 4 (maybe 5) main types of troops. Yari (Spearmen), Swordsmen (Katanas), Bow, and Cavalry. Some others are Siege equipment and special units (Bomb throwers, muskets) Along with that comes different types of troops. At first you mainly have "Ashigaru". Ashigaru are pretty much peasants. So, for example you'll have "Yari Ashigaru" "Bow Ashigaru." However, as you progress you can get Samurai. As in Yari Samurai, Bow Samurai etc. Samurai are better at self defense and are better armored. For example, i've had a group of bow samurai be able to hold off a group of Yari Ashigaru.
It should still be noted that the combat still has SOMEWHAT of a rock-paper-scissors setup. IE:
Bowmen destroy Yari and swordsmen at a distance, but will naturally die in melee usually. Cavalry, as always, beat archers (unless there is alot of them)
-Bushido and Chi are great and really allow you to customize your nation. For those who don't know what I mean, Bushido (War) and Chi (Peace) are the two technological progresses of learning in TW. Bushido enables you to learn alot of new combat things (Fire Arrows, general commands, etc) However, once you get past all the general stuff you're able to specialize. For example, instead of just having Yari Samurai, you could specialize in Yari and get Naginata Samurai. Naginata samurai are pretty much shocktrooper Yari. (heavily armored, pretty high damage) and eventually even Yari hereos which will be discussed later.
-Generals matters. Generals truly do matter in Shogun more than any other TW. Naturally, general abilities can only be used if a general is present. But now generals have levels sort of how Agents did in past games. Generals now have skill trees just like Bushido and Chi. You can have a general who is an amazing soldier (+Morale/damage/charge to general unit) OR a great leader (+Morale to soldiers/etc) OR a benefit to learning (+3% to the rate of Bushido learned). Also, armies will rout QUICKLY if they do not have a general leading them. When soldiers have a general around, they'll usually fight much longer. Also, your troops will only regenerate men if you have a general in your army. So if you don't have a general and you lose half your army and you got stacks with 50/120. They won't regenerate in friendly territory if you don't have a gen in the army. Also, in Shogun 2 naval admirals are actually land generals. In other words, in ETW you actually created a physical "Admiral" and that Admiral was bound to a ship and could never leave it. in Shogun 2 you actually take a land general unit and put him on a ship and he then is the admiral. (Your generals can even take on Admiral traits when they get more command stars)
-Seasons are great. The Seasons look beautiful in this game. In past games it went a turn a year (or was it two years?) and it went Summer-Winter. in Shogun 2 a turn = a season. So 4 turns you'll go through Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter. Along with winter comes attrition (If an enemy territory in the winter, you'll lose men to starvation/freezing. So you actually have to plan your campaigns around the seasons.
-Agents are pretty cool. The agents in the game are:
Ninja: Basically, take the Assassin and Spy from old Total Wars and this is Shogun 2's ninja. Ninja's also have skill trees and can specialize in assassination, sabotage, spying, or sabotaging armies (Poisoning their food which kills some of their men and makes them not able to move for a turn) Ninja excel against Monks but are vulnerable to Metsuke.
Metsuke: Secret police more or less. Metsuke make sure that your generals stay loyal, your cities stay safe. A metsuke can oversee your city and protect it from ninja attacks, or follow an army and make sure your general stays loyal. Metsuke excel against ninjas but are vulnerable to Monks.
Monks: Monks are like priests in the past games. Monks spread Buddhism to wherever they are present. (Missionaries spread Christianity) Monks can incite revolts in enemy regions and convert Metsuke. Monks are vunerable to Ninjas and excel against Metsuke.
- Religion plays a part. In the game there are 2 (well three) religions. Buddhism and Christianity are the two main ones. Ikko Ikko (I think thats what its called) is the third and it is only practiced by the Ikko Ikko clan. Everyone starts as Buddhists except for Ikko Ikko. However, you can open your prots to Christian trade. This will naturally net you some money, but it will also let you have access to Christian technology (Read as : Gunpowder) Opening your ports to Christian will cause unrest as that region is slowly converted to Christians, however. Monks and Temples can help counter this. As Daiymo you may choose to convert to Christianity at the risk of upsetting Buddhists in your nation. Religion can play a roll however, because if you're getting hit hard in the campaign against Buddhists, you can learn gunpowder from Christians. Gunpowder while not overpowered, is a great advantage. Just as it did in real life, it can massacre enemy Samurai.
-Heroes. At first when I heard "Heroes' I was like "Ehhh..." but it actually fits in quite well with the game. Heroes are specialized units. IE: Yari, CAvalry, bow, swordsmen. Heroes consist of about 40 men or so (Compared to the 120 of normal infantry units) but are EXTREMELY skilled. Heroes will never run and will fight to the death of every last man.
In Conclusion : (My fingers hurt....) Shogun 2 is a amazing, immersive game that is unique not only to the whole gaming industry, but unique to the series. It proves many great improvements to the game and certainly takes the place of the best RTS ever in my mind. Theres alot more in conclusion, but I've been writing too long.