I’ve been pretty excited about Shogun 2: Total War since I saw it for the first time at a SEGA Event last Fall. I dabble very casually in RTS games, and the ones I play tend to have more RPG elements integrated in them. I seldom play them competitively, preferring single-player and comp-stomp with friends. As such, though I’ve heard many, many good things about the Total War games over the years, it was a series I had never gotten around to playing, despite the fact that co-op campaigning was introduced in their last game, Napolean: Total War. Upon seeing the game in action last fall, however, as well as learning just how the co-op campaigning worked AND put it in a feudal Japan setting (a setting that’s near and dear to my heart) - well, let’s just say I was quite intrigued.
At the beginning of the game, you pick one of nine clans (or ten, if you got the limited edition) available to you. Each clan has particular strengths. For example, a clan may get a bonus to particular type of unit or agent, or a particular clan may be the only clan who gets access to a certain unit. From there, you’re thrust into feudal Japan in a state of complete war as a massive number of clans fight to become the next ruling family.
Shogun 2: Total War is basically composed of two different types of gameplay, one turn-based and the other RTS. The turn-based half takes place on a huge map of Japan divided into a ton of different territories. Each individual territory starts off with a specific clan ruling over it. Clans can form alliances, make uneasy treaties, or wipe each other out. In a short campaign you win by conquering 25 territories by the end of the era (which must include several specific territories), while in a long campaign you win by conquering 40. A domination campaign dictates you control 60 territories by the end of the era! The co-op campaign works the same way as the single-player campaign: jointly, you and your partner must control the specified number of territories to win the game. You are automatically allied and cannot declare war on each other.
This has got to be one of the most gorgeous world maps ever seen in a strategy game.
On the campaign map you build up your cities, recruit units, move your armies around to initiate assaults, and much more. You can recruit agents (such as ninja) which can spy and assassinate for you, sow dissent in enemy cities to make them ripe for your army’s plucking, or apprehend other clan’s agents. All of these agents level up and have access to agent-specific skill trees which increase their effectiveness in certain areas (e.g. you can choose to have your ninja specialize in assassination or city subterfuge). You can also pick overall traits for your Clan’s reign in the form of two trees: the Way of Chi and the Way of Bushido. Each of these trees contains a large amount of arts, which, upon being gained, do things such as open up the possibility to recruit certain units, or improve the effectiveness of certain units or agents.