I am not a fan nor am I good at Real Time Strategy (RTS) or 4X (Explore, Expand, Exploit, Exterminate) games.
Yet, despite this, I still find it fascinating how it is able to draw someone inexperienced in the genre to at least try it out.
This is where the Total War series of games came into play, specifically Total War: Shogun 2, which incidentally was made free for a period of time earlier last year, and drew new players such as myself to the game.
Total War: Shogun 2 is a strategy game developed by Creative Assembly and published by Sega as the seventh iteration in the series.
Considering that the game released nearly a decade ago on March 15, 2011; it has surprisingly aged well, considering that hardware at the time had difficulty even running it.
The game is set in 15th Century Feudal Japan where clans set out to dominate and rule over Japan as the new shogun and as someone who has interest in Japanese culture and history; Total War: Shogun 2 not only satisfied my curiosity for the time period but also is a joy to play.
The game plays out as a 4X game on the world map, in similar vein to Civilization games, but transitions into an RTS game during clashes with hundreds to thousands of individual troops on the battlefield map.
Players start by choosing one of the available clans and try to expand their territory across a wide map covering the whole of Feudal Japan: from the Shimazu Clan’s Satsuma Province at the most South-western portion of Japan to the Date Clan’s Iwate Prefecture at the most North-eastern point.
The scale of the map ensures that all battles, historical or non-historical, can be played out on the whole map.
This is further expanded in the various downloadable contents such as Rise of the Samurai and Fall of the Samurai that takes place chronologically before and after the main game.
These downloadable contents are tweaked with various mechanics that fit the era such as the introduction of hand cranked gatling gun that signified the start of modern warfare in Fall of the Samurai.
As mentioned earlier, Total War: Shogun 2 is a 4X game, which encourages player to explore, expand, exploit and exterminate, in an all out battle to claim the title of shogun, all of which are executed in a turn by turn basis.
From the management of castles and provinces to expanding, capturing, and manipulation of other clans to serve your needs, Total War: Shogun 2 sets a textbook example of not only what a 4X game offers, but also how it reflects on warfare conducted during both historical as well as present times.
This is made even more evident in the army management and strategy, as players are able to build and balance their army around the various resources that are available to the player at a given moment.
But the most standout feature and the other half of the gameplay is the RTS element of commanding troops on the field of battle.
Each unit can go from tens to hundreds, and it is possible to field an army comprising thousands or more with your opponent doing the same. This can lead to dramatic display of force as armies clash against each other.
This is backed by the various advantages and tactics that one can employ or be forced to take, from controlling the high ground to give archers and spear units the advantage of range and charge superiority, to flanking manoeuvres, and more. However, if players feels overwhelmed with the RTS elements, they can simply opt to ‘Resolve’ the battle through arbitrary calculations done in the background and displaying the results.
I would suggest against doing so as the robust battle mechanics, which takes into consideration the health and more of each unit, can lead to many surprisingly comebacks in battles.
Clever use of this mechanic can even lead a smaller army to rout a larger force.
All in all, even with these tactics and strategy involved, I have to say that despite some of the frustration of dealing with opponents that are able to out-manoeuvre or outsize the army, I still find myself thinking about playing Total War: Shogun 2 in analysing mistakes and formulating more detailed tactics to use in the future, and perhaps the knowledge gained will help to give a better understanding of both old and modern warfare.