Is Shogun 2: Total War like that friend who went off to become a mime for his or her career that you haven't heard back from since? Simply put... no, but if it was, when that mime swims you want him or her to drown.
Shogun 2 is such an instantly accessible RTS; it was quiet blinding in its pure ability to still maintain its depth for the hard-core RTS gamers & Total War veterans. It may not contain quiet the amount of depth as Empire, but that’s expected for the Era Shogun is set in.
A good example of this slight decrease in depth from Empire is in the naval battles: Boy oh boy are they horrible the naval battles, they lack any real control compared to Empire’s naval battles, whether it be from the amount of sails you could select to choose your speed in Empire, to deciding to bombard your enemies with all the cannons at once manually on one or both sides of your ship. The amount of awkward moments you will have from Shogun 2’s naval battles is staggering, the moment where your ship gets stuck between the corpse of a ship you just utterly destroyed and a corner of shallow water on an island, and requires 30mins to get out and by the time they get to the main battle to flank and reinforce your main onslaught, the ship arrives to see their armies fleet destroyed and then routes (runs away) and gets shattered (runs away and WILL NOT come back, the alternative is broken, which allows them to come back) made me nearly snap my laptop.
The previous paragraph may insinuate Shogun 2 is a horrible game, but that is just the hideous naval battles, everything else on the other hand, is bloody fabulous and makes for a thoroughly decisive purchase for any RTS and Total War fans.
Whether you just want to battle it out with up to 7 friends in 4v4 battles and do custom offline battles with the shameful AI (shameful in battles, not campaign). The absolutely thrilling balance of rock (swordsmen), paper (archers), scissors (spears), baseballs bat (cavalry), sniper rifle (siege), weighted paper(matchlocks/gun units), invisible rock (ninjas), top trumps (retainers/perks), super rock covered in paper (general) style gameplay makes for varied, consistently awe inspiring battles to the death with honour and glory awaiting all except for those who flee battles as cowards. On top of the style of battles, there is the option of variable funds to allow for smaller battles with smaller armies to be generally quicker battles, ranging to ultra-funds which as the ultra-insinuates, and just ultra.
There is also the abilities to make the size of fleets or armies range from small to ultra; to improve performance make them smaller (equivalent of an ant colony), to see a battle that covers the whole map and makes you want some alone time to compensate for the sheer scale of mega unbelievableness (not a real word, but who cares, ultra battles deserve a new word to describe them).
You will only find the need to micro-manage your armies in the department of ranged units, your General (I will come on your general later on) and your cavalry units. The swords men you chuck in at the bulk of their army, maybe micro manage some simple flanking manoeuvres, and the spear men you let take the charge and brunt of assaults or tackle their horsey units (cavalry). But once the micro-managing comes into the fray of a massive battle, it is easy for lesser players to find themselves overwhelmed with amount of on-screen mayhem and forget that their General is left unprotected and about to get flanked by Great Guard (Great Guard are the supreme ultra-come here so I can end you, cavalry units) and then realise all your micro-managing has been all in vein as all your army flees in the knowledge “Our General has fallen!”. This may have happened to me once or ten times.
There is your General unit who summed up, is the heart and soul of your army, without him your army will lose a significant amount of morale. He usually can take on any single unit on his own as he is fairly powerful, but outnumbered and unprotected is the key to losing your battle.
Every battle contains a General, online you get your Avatar (an amazing system I’ll describe soon) and offline in the Campaign you can either have as many Generals as you have gained over time in your battle (usually 4-8 max) and if there isn’t a general your most powerful unit will act as a general for your unit, in a clever act to rally your troops spirits, even if a meagre attempt, and always becoming a pitiful failure against a real army with a real general, but remains a nice idea.
Then there is your Avatar system, which appears for online battles & clan battles only. This is the equivalent of a ranking system online. Online you unlock more units for your army and retainers (perks) by taking over a conquest map of Japan similar to the campaign (I’ll talk about soon) but without economics, politics, diplomacy and any other nonsense other than killing. That’s achieved by winning battles, whereas the Avatar system ranks up your General and allows use of more retainers (perks, this is the last time I’m telling you the meaning of retainers). Ranking up your General is really nothing unique, but is a first in RTS gaming and WOW to quickly summarise is it’s affects; you can make your General go the route of the warrior and destroy any combatants with his sword, or the way of the bow and shoot them before they even know you arrived, or the way of the leader and make your army learn the ways of victory, or perhaps a balance between two or three of the arts.
The game, as do all the games in the Total War series, possess great historical value. While you decide how history will unfold within the game, it is based around real Japanese history and allows for anyone interested and devoted enough to research on their own and find out more about Japanese history and how their fate developed and unfolded.
As with all Total War games, their is the option to do individual "historical battles" which replecate in great detail of the most dramatic and decisive battles within the Era of Feudal Japan in the 16th Century. The fate of the battles is still in your hands, but historically accurate are the settings. Battle of Sekigahara is a prime example of the historical battles, a battle which the winner became Shogunate in 1600 to the age of Tokugawa rule. Very educational.
The campaign sees you overtaking Japan, working towards your aspiring dream of becoming Shogun (Ruler of Japanese armies) and being more powerful than you could ever imagine!! MWUHAHAHAHA!!! The means in which you achieve this is entirely down to you the gamer; Diplomacy and a bit of licking can get you far in Japan. Economics can see you rise more powerful in the long run, but will that be too late? Honour can see your allies treat you with loyalty and dishonour can see you rise to fame and infamy quickly, but will your allies appreciate this? No they won’t, they royal screwed me over as I became Shogun, so trust me, honour will serve you well as I learnt the hard way in Shogun 2. A GREAT MORAL COMPASS!!! Creative assembly should pay me for saying that ;)
On that note that will some up Shogun 2, a great moral compass. Trying to teach you the values of honour from an ancient civilisation which is cool and all, but you just want to go Genghis Khan on all their bums.
A great game all round, with a few niggling flaws, well worth 20 quid which is the average asking price online.