Shogun 2 Review - Seven (thousand) Samurai

In a declining PC market, Creative
Assembly has taken a
great risk in keeping true to its series with Shogun 2 : Total War. style="">  Unlike other sequels
recently, Shogun 2 is
just as complex as its predecessors in the grand scheme of things while
cutting back on the interface and trimming the fat of unused features
of the
last few games in the series.  
assured that the Total War series has not been ‘consoleified’!

href=""> style="border: 0px solid ; width: 501px; height: 281px;" alt=""

style="font-style: italic;">Even samurai have weaknesses,
like flaming
bombardment.  Then again most things are weak to flaming

For those of you that don’t know what
Total War is all
about, it’s about pure conquest.  You
have two main views of gameplay.  The
first is a strategic province map where you can select your next
targets, move
armies around, and fortify territory and relations with other
resembling something along the lines of Risk or Civilization. style="">  But where the gameplay
really starts to shine
is the tactical combat that happens when armies clash, where the
gameplay zooms
down to a more traditional RTS level, albeit with a few thousand troops
on the

The resulting clash is a matter of
tactics and
rock-paper-scissors, as each troop type has a natural advantage over
others.  There are
often neutral
buildings on the battlefield though, and controlling those will give
benefits to your army and prevent stalemate style tactics on open
ground.  When the
battle is won, the province is
captured and you’re one step closer to your ultimate goal—becoming the


Shogun 2 has received a T for Teen. It's a semi-realistic depiction of warfare, and blood will spill. Assassinations, geisha 'diplomacy', and some swearing are involved. Keep this in mind if any of the younger ones are playing.

Gameplay - 95 / 100

One doesn’t conquer Japan in a day though. Over a multitude of turns, you’ll have to deal with the other lords. Some prefer offensive actions and a show of strength to keep you at bay, but diplomacy is often better than open war. You simply cannot fund a war with opponents on all sides, so keeping people content with offerings and pacts until you’re ready to destroy them is a preferred (and historically accurate!) way of dealing with things.

Assassinations return, and over the course of both tactical and strategic gameplay you’ll get treated to mini-cutscenes of events unfolding. Oddly enough, the cutscene for a failed ninja maneuver is better than a successful one! Warlords issue inspiring speeches at the beginning of combat, and that greatly increases the epic feeling of a war game.

Does the formula still work though? Absolutely! The unit balance is a little confusing at first (Do you know the difference between a Yari and a Naginata?) but once you get the feel for things, you’ll be issuing decisive orders and uniting Japan under the banner of your choosing. It’s a little bit of a step back from the previous Empire and Medieval II from a unit depth standpoint, but that’s actually for the better. Those games were filled with useless units and dominant strategies and neither of those problems have reared their head thus far with Shogun II.

Graphics - 90 / 100

href=""> style="border: 0px solid ; width: 501px; height: 281px;" alt=""

style="font-style: italic;">The attention to detail is
outstanding, and it even looks this good in motion.  That is,
if you have a graphics card from the last 6 months.

There is one word for the graphics of
Shogun II :
stunning.  Another
phrase could be used
too though and that’s ‘incredibly taxing’. 
While on the highest settings it’ll rock your world as men
steel charge each other in bloody combat, it’ll also make your video
likely melt from the processing necessary. 
Even the map of Japan looks impressive as you zoom through
it, with fog,
crashing waves, and more to make each territory feel much more alive.

Is this a game worth upgrading for
though?  Perhaps
not, but is there another strategy or
tactics game in the near future that will push you that far? style="">  You might as well upgrade
for this and the
newest expansion to Dawn of War II because you’ll be hard pressed to
get more
impressive animations and scale than these games.

Sound - 87 / 100

Warcries, rousing speeches, and the visceral sound of combat never get old. Shogun II delivers a solid musical score to complement the outstanding voice work and effects, and while it could use some more variety, it fits the setting well.

Multiplayer - 90 / 100

href=""> style="border: 0px solid ; width: 501px; height: 281px;" alt=""

style="font-style: italic;">The map of Japan has as much
graphical detail as recent RTS games do in their gameplay.
 It's quite impressive.

No one expected deep multiplayer, but
Shogun II actually
delivers a solid experience.  As
attack and win matches against provinces, you unlock more units to mess
with.  Typical
battles are fought as
single engagements, with each side having a funding allotment to buy X
units.  Battles are
then won with tactics
and strategic engagement, and capturing of the neutral buildings to
gain a
positional advantage.  It’s
possible to defeat a superior force if your units have a better
position at
higher ground, so no battle will play out twice as cavalry storm the
field in
one plains war, where as another one will charge forward with samurai
with bow and katana!  Both custom games and matchmaking are
available, and you’ll
never have to look far for an opponent!

Value - 82 / 100

The bugs get in the way of the fun out of the box though. Creative Assembly has been prompt with fixes, but it’s disappointing as ever to find a game ridden with camera and multiplayer bugs. Since the majority of the game-breaking bugs are toast, you’re free to enjoy a game that will play out differently every time you play it, especially since you can change who you play as and customize each game appropriately. If you’re sick of the strategy, you can get into a quick and dirty tactical war with another player within a minute, giving the game a surprisingly strong value for both single and multiplayer, something I certainly wasn’t expecting from the Total War series at this point.

Lasting Appeal - 82 / 100

With a few more limitations on unit variety compared to previous games in the series, the lasting appeal of this game has taken a small hit. However, the speed and feel of the combat has improved for the better, and ensure that this is the go-to Total War game, especially for multiplayer. Of course, if you’re not into the setting, you’re not going to get a lot out of this game, but you know damn well what to expect with Shogun II. Knowing that, you’re going to be playing this game for a long, long time.

Pros and Cons


  • Interface has been
    streamlined, but still remains
    powerful as it should be for a PC strategy game.
  • Watching
    huge samurai battles never gets old.
  • Multiplayer is quick and
    painless, and no two players
    wield the same armies.


  • Requires
    an absolute beast of a machine to run at max settings with large armies.
  • Somewhat
    simpler than previous games, which hurts for longtime fans of the
  • Some stupid bugs and
    glitches in the initial launch,
    and a few still exist.


So does Shogun 2 live up to the Total War franchise name? Absolutely! Returning to the warring states of Japan and simplifying the formulas slightly was a great move for the series, and with a fresh coat of glossy paint for graphics, it’ll give a new generation of gamers a taste of how massive battles were born with Total War. It might take every last bit of power for your computer to make it shine, but samurai combat and ninja assassinations never looked better. You don’t need a geisha’s help to convince you that this sequel is worthy.

Overall 87/100 - Very Good


Last Updated:

About The Author

Around the Web