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Shogun: Total War

Shogun: Total War offers fans of the strategy genre an entirely original experience. Set in various eras of JapanĎs history; one of which is the renounced Sengoku Jidai era, your goal is to build an army consisting of  Ninjas, Samurais, Spearmen, Archers, Cavalry, Musketeers, Daimyo and more, with which to battle your way through Japan, all the while claiming defeated provinces as your own.  Enemy armies will, like yours, continue to grow and expand, sometimes youíll find yourself desperately defending against an unexpected attack, an attack that perhaps came from a respected ally, did they change sides? 

Shogun has all the aspects of real-life relationships, and you canít be too careful with whom to place your trust.  Even after many years of a stable alliance, your Daimyo may fall at the hands of an Assassin sent by yours truly.  But thatís not necessarily the end of your conquest, any heirs will take over after the death of their father and lead your army to bigger and better things.  If on the other hand you have no heirs, your armies will disperse into small factions, and your journey through Japan shall come to an end.

When you start out, youíll have to choose from 8 clans, each offering various advantages and benefits, as well as the era in which you wish to play. Youíll have to watch your economic and financial situations, building farm land is a basic requirement to gain a stable income, and then there are also the matter of taxis which can be altered. Doing this, however, may effect your population loyalty which can lead to all kinds of problems if they begin to rebel.  Constructing buildings and training facilities is a necessity for any army, allowing you to train fine warriors with improved attributes and honour which will then lead invasions against neighbouring provinces.  However, if you expand too fast, taking over land before you can put it to use, you will just end up losing men and money in the long run, as other armies will grow and be eager to take back their homes.  Itís quite logical - spreading your armies over lots of land leads to smaller factions which are more easily defeated, thus it is ideal to build up a fairly dense army before leading your troops into full-scale invasions.  Evidently, itís a game of strategy.

Trade is an interesting aspect to the game, allowing new and alien technologies into Japan, which just might give you that important edge in battle.  Bringing musketeers into a time where archers were glorified is always interesting. Trading posts and ports will also add to your annual income, so itís a good idea to take advantage of them, and watching out for new opportunities will prove rewarding.  In that respect the game is as fun as it is tactical, as serious as it is light-hearted, and the ability to personally command a battle or automatically resolve it means that no one needs to get impatient!  Overall the Gameplay is spectacular and whether or not you choose to personally command those battles in a stunning 3D environment, everyone can enjoy this game equally.  Itís bound to keep you playing for hours on end, journeying through Japanís past, changing the historical outcomes.

The Graphics during turn-time and world map are much like a game board (2D), however when you lead an invasion and choose to fight the battles yourself, the graphics really shine.  With a good enough processor you will be able to see the dust rising from the wake of your army, screams and shouts will arise from the furious roar of battle, and, depending on the time of year you fight, the field may be covered in snow or soaked with a heavy rainfall.  Your army tires as it marches up and down tough terrain, and the moral will change in certain situations.  Yet again, strategy is important in any and all battles.  Various formations can be selected, each offering their own advantages and using them wisely could be the difference between a victory or defeat.  Back to graphics though; the scenery does look fantastic and incredibly realistic, the design team did a great job.

Like with all intensive battle games the music plays an important role.  Shogun uses traditional Japanese drum roles and themes to give the user a feeling of actually being there.  At times itís peaceful and at times itís intimidating, but on the whole it creates the desired effect.  I have no criticisms for this area.  On the other hand, I do for the multi-player aspect.   When I realized the game was multi-player a friend and I immediately decided to try it out, however it proved a disappointment.  We were hoping that a standard campaign could be done with 2 or more players, each leading different clans and eventually coming one on one, but that wasnít the reality.  All you can do is simply battle each other with a default army, and thatís it.  This is alright for a while, but soon it begins to become repetitive and you just donít bother with it.  So for a game that has a multi-player function thereís a lot to be desired.

As might be expected, Shogun can be played over and over, each time leading different armies through the vast lands of Japan, altering the outcome and experience.  I say that genuinely, having played it myself for many years and rarely getting bored.  It really is a landmark title that deserves the praise it received.  I think the same can be said for the Total War series as whole, every release bringing pure quality into our homes.  If you enjoy Shogun you may also like Rome: Total War and Medieval: Total War.  Well, hereís an evaluation:

Gameplay: 95%
Graphics: 80%
Audio: 90%
Replay: 95%
Overall: 90%

Last Words: Another stunning edition to the Total War series!

Copyright © 2005 Mike Montgomery

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