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Reviewed: Shogun: Total War
Author: Chris Kim       Date: June 28th, 2000
Page: 3

Generally speaking, depending on the difficulty level selected, the computer AI adjusts to that appropriate level. There are four difficulty settings, each increasingly more difficult, and not just because the computer puts out a thousand more units every difficult level, but because the computer AI actually is smarter. In the campaign mode, the computer can be relatively easy to defeat in somewhere around ten hours on easy, while on hard it might take fifty hours. This is because at the higher difficulties, the computer is actually smarter and will use every advantage it can get on the battlefield for its own use. In battle, the computer AI is very adaptive and will be able to adjust and acclimate to the player's strategies. This dynamic AI really adds to the intensity of the battle by adding a much more competitive and possibly lethal opponent.

On the multiplayer side of things, the game is generally very smooth and exciting. With support for up to eight players, the heat of battle can be extremely exciting. Unlike the campaign mode where players must conquer provinces, multiplayer is just straight up battle in the 3D engine. Players will receive 5,000 Koku to work with and players will select their army using that money and be thrown into battle. The sheer number of opponents onscreen at one time is amazing to say the least. It makes for a very unique set of tactics as to how to approach the game with so many units fighting at once. Single player skirmish modes are also available that follow the format of the multiplayer game, along with stand-alone scenarios that depict historical battles that actually happened.

Up in Smoke
Death is Coming

Quite possibly the biggest let down of the game is the interface. Real-time strategies are known to have some of the most intuitive and easy to use controls and interfaces, but unfortunately for Shogun, it is not. While some parts of the interface are easy and very streamlined for simplicity, many portions of interface are very rough and seem difficult to control. The biggest aspect is with the battle formations. While selecting between the different formations is simple, actually getting the units to properly line-up and setup into the formation quickly is a pain. Usually, the units will clumsily run around and face opposite directions making them vulnerable targets to on-coming attackers. Camera angles are fairly simple to work with, usage of the arrow keys pan the camera in various angles. Controlling groups is not too difficult, but an easier way to distinguish each player would have been nice. As it is, flags identify each group and the selected group's flag will bounce once activated, sometimes making it difficult to distinguish each group.

In the campaign mode, differentiating between the territories is rather difficult because of the lack of identifiable graphics on the screen. Each province is separated by a small outline of the color of the clan that possesses that province. This small outline is very faint and sometimes very hard to distinguish, although there is a small map in the corner of the screen that will allow players to see which territory is controlled by whom. Another quirk with the interface is the lack of ability to see what is in each province. Clicking on each territory is the only way to see what is currently being built in the area, this is fine when starting the game out, but later in the game, when players gain control of thirty to forty provinces, keeping track of each province can become extremely cumbersome.

Large Onslaught
Yeah, Run Away!
Hiding in the Trees?

Terrain is the biggest feature in the game, and the variation between each area is fantastic. Each weather effect, snow, rain, and fog all look realistic and have a realistic impact on the gameplay itself, not just graphically. All ground textures are nicely detailed and look realistic. The fog effects are extremely convincing and really do a lot to hamper the ability to see far off in the distance. Since the battle-engine is fully 3D, all real aspects of the land, trees and other vegetation are very realistic and modeled excellently. Since the strategy screen is turn-based and no action really occurs there, flashy graphics weren't necessary. Hence, the graphics are very similar to those that would be found in a board game. Even square pieces are used to represent the armies of the player. One item of note are the throne room and movie scenes, these are simply amazingly rendered.

Each unit is structured from sprites and not polygons. Although they aren't rendered in 3D, the sprite for each unit looks good. This is mainly because the camera distance is quite a bit away from the unit itself, so the sprites appear 3D. It is quite apparent why sprites were used instead of polygons--because today's videocards could not support the massive number of polygons needed to model every single unit on the screen at one time. Even with a GeForce 2 GTS-based videocard, having all the units 3D modeled would bring the computer down to its knees. As it stands, the performance of the engine is excellent. At 800x600 and with at least 3,000 units on screen at once, the game remained silky smooth on a low-end C450MHz.

Avoiding Death
Status Menu
Haha, Run Fools

Movies require some impressive actors to convey a convincing meaning of realism. Shogun: Total War also has some equally impressive sounds to simulate the cries of battle in Japan. While there is not a whole lot in terms of music, the sound effects are more than enough to fill the air. Throughout all battles, clashing of swords, arrows firing, and muskets blasting, and shrill cries of death all possess the ear with a vibrant tone. Voice acting that is in the diplomacy and throne room are quite nicely acted out (there are even Japanese versions of the speech!).

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Added:  Wednesday, June 28, 2000
Reviewer:  Chris Kim
Page: 3/5

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