Home > Previews > Shogun 2: Total War Demo Impressions

Shogun 2: Total War Demo Impressions

February 23, 2011 Leave a comment Go to comments

By Tom Dann

Total War games have always looked great. Environments are attractive, and individual units look good, especially considering just how many of them there are. But the Total War games have always very much been about function over form: while the games visual assets are impeccably recreated, there’s never been that little extra something, the little details or creative flairs, to set them apart. Shogun 2 changes all of that.

The first indication is the gorgeous Japanese style art in the main menu (see above for an example). The Creative Assembly have been very open about stylising Shogun 2 a little, rather than keeping it completely by the book. It is a game after all, not a documentary. Helping this endeavour is the cultural limitation: because the game is focused solely on Japan, the developers have allowed themselves to be absorbed by Japanese culture. The last few entries in the Total War series, while excellent, have lacked character, and this can be partially attributed to the large number of factions included in each title. The games still make the most of the time periods, with Medieval 2, for example, brimming with little details such as seals and crosses to evoke the era. Shogun 2, though, takes these touches and applies them even further. Take, for example, the campaign map. The islands of Japan are represented by a gorgeous ink drawing, which comes to life with the typical 3D map we’re familiar with as you conquer the territories.

If all this talk of Total War discovering form makes you worry about the functional side of things, then worry not: this is still Total War. The campaign map works just as before. You start with a small region, and must build up your armies to conquer more territories to add to your empire, while also bulking out your defences and keeping your population happy by maintaining a healthy economy. Sounds complicated? Those who have played Total War before know it’s much simpler than it sounds thanks to the easy interface and excellent tutorials. Veterans and newcomers alike will be pleased to know that Shogun 2 may well be the most accessible Total War game yet: The Creative Assembly have clearly spent some time working on the interface, which is more streamlined than ever (and more attractive, thanks to more of those little artistic flourishes).

Additionally, thanks to the scale reduction (veterans may complain that it’s a backwards step, but battles are still huge, and it focuses the game: quality over quantity), there are fewer and more distinctive units with better defined roles on the battlefield. The purpose and use of each unit type is well laid out in the tutorial campaign here, though one hopes there will be more units in the full game. The units that are available look incredible, however. Though occasionally a little too shiny, the model and texture details are incredible considering just how many of them there are. The new lighting effects add a much needed level of atmosphere to battles, particularly when they’re bathed in the golden yellow of a setting sun. Environments look great, too, whatever season you’re in.

Shogun 2: Total War is the next evolution of the strategy genre. Having nearly perfected the functional side of the game, The Creative Assembly have set their sights on the artistic side, and have been mightily successful. The game is full of little touches which make it just as fun to look at as play, while the gameplay has been further streamlined making it the most playable Total War game yet. The Total War series is a treasure for PC gamers: a series which could never be ported to consoles, it’s everything that’s great about PC games, now made even better.

Shogun 2: Total War will ship on March 15th.

Copyright Tom Dann 2011

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