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Reviewed: Shogun: Total War
Author: Chris Kim       Date: June 28th, 2000
Page: 2

Strategy games are typically two-fold: battle and empire construction. Both elements are crucial to victory because if even one side is unbalanced, disaster is imminent. The empire building portion of strategy games usually involves construction of a city and management of resources and/or workers to maintain the city. Battles are probably the biggest portion of most strategy games as it is very taxing and puzzling to figure out where and how to attack an opponent. Careful consideration of planning attacks can pay off immensely for the player because it usually results in less death to the attacker. It's often the most fun and immersive part of the strategy genre to command the troops in the heat of battle.

The latest game to take a stab at the strategy genre is Shogun: Total War, developed by Creative Assembly. The setting in which Shogun takes place is 16th century Japan, when the land is politically divided and one nation and leader must rise to take the place of Shogun and reunite all of Japan. One of the nicest features about the game is that it is historically accurate, and all of its information is based on true factual history. Each secular clan has their own unique territory that is under their control in the beginning of the game along with specific military strengths and weaknesses. Historical battles are also available to play that recreate the battles during the actual war.

Tutorial at Work
Which Clan?
Want Some Tea With That?

Basically, the game is split into two distinct modes, a turn-based Risk-esque board game and a real-time 3D battle engine. The heart of the game lies in the excellent battle system, however. Taking a true 3D engine and placing it into the diverse terrain of Japan works very effectively as the engine cam recreate some of the most intense and testing battles. Easily one of the best features of the game is the massive number of units that can be onscreen at once. It allows up to 5,000 units on the screen at one time with every unit rendered. This is no lie either, literally, 5,000 units are on the screen at once clashing at each other, it can be insane, but it sure can be fun. This allows for some very unique methods of attack, and just watching the units attack is amusing.

Using a completely 3D engine definitely has its advantages--it allows for true line of sight and tactical strategies. The terrain is truly taken into consideration as it offers distinct advantages. Using higher elevation locations for launching attack allows for higher percentage of missiles landing than would standing at the bottom of a hill and shooting up. Hiding in the terrain, especially trees, can create surprise ambushes that is beneficial as the enemy will be totally unaware of the attack until it happens. Weather effects such as fog and rain also adversely affect how attackers will play in battle.

Map in Campaign Mode
Results of War
Auto Calculate?

Since there are so many units on the screen at one time, it gets slightly difficult to control all of them. This is one slight fault of the game, it takes a while for units to face and stand in the correct formation. That is another element that is crucial to winning battles; how well the player places their units and sends them into battle directly translates into higher success/failure rates. Group and single formations are plentiful and offer lots of different strategy as to how and where to send units. The wedge is often used to strike a stake into an enemy force while a loose formation allows units to avoid being hit from missile attacks. Group formations allow for more variation ranging from center offensive to defensive lines. The different formations place stronger/weaker units in certain spots where they are safer or stronger position to attack.

Unit experience and general abilities make the game more interesting. Similar to how other games feature experience for units that allows them to fight better, Shogun also allows the generals of an army to gain rank that will higher the morale and abilities of the whole army. The experience is dubbed honor, but functions the same way experience does in any other game. The higher honor allows battles to flow more smoothly, allowing for more leadership that results in more successful battles that result in victory. There are basically three types of units, grounded foot soldiers, ranged soldiers, and then horsed soldiers. Each set of units has their advantages and disadvantages and specific strategies on certain terrain. The variation between the units creates a lot of unique strategies when launching attacks.

Ninjas on the Attack
That a Way!
Prepared for Fire

Campaign involve the process of selecting a clan and then conquering all of Japan in order to reunite the country as one. This involves war and negotiation between other enemies. Using the emissaries, players can talk and propose deals with opposing clans to form alliances. Diplomacy, is however somewhat weak. All the player can do is make alliances and then break the alliance later in the game because the player must rule over the whole nation of Japan at some point--the lack of true diplomacy features is disappointing. No other options such as offering money or asking for help is featured as in Imperium Galactica II: Alliances. Espionage is pretty simple, but it does a decent amount of good. Ninjas and Shinobis can be sent into enemy camps to assassinate or spy on enemy clans that result in increased knowledge or assassination of a high-ranking officer/general.

Building a nation is actually quite simple. Because the building portion of the game is turn-based, there is no worry about how much time is taken up. It feels and plays a lot like Risk, the board game, in terms of how units are moved and what can be done in the game. In each province, there are buildings, which depending on the abilities of the province, will yield more or less revenue for the clan leaders. There is only one unit of money in the game, called Koko. It is raised by the amount that can be produced (that means it's rice, says so in the manual) from each province. Upgrades can be purchased and built for more effective production of Koku. The strategy game is a nice addition to the campaign, albeit a bit less than what it could have been. The only slight problem is that a status menu of revenues made in the year are displayed once and there are no details as to how much is made in each province.

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Added:  Wednesday, June 28, 2000
Reviewer:  Chris Kim
Page: 2/5

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