Big In Japan: Shogun 2 Preview

The men fought their silly battle, tragically unaware of the moon creeping ever closer, closer, preparing to pounce.

Recently I paid a visit to Creative Assembly, had a play of Total War: Shogun 2 and wrote about it. Yes. But not here! No. I did the deed over at IGN, and if you feel up to braving the journalism badlands outside of RPS then you can read it here. If you’ve lost interest in Total War, this preview is probably for you. Look, I say things like this:

Empire wasn’t perfect, and Creative Assembly know it. As such, this upgrade of the first game couldn’t have come at a better time. Firstly, compared to the huge tracts of history Creative Assembly’s been wrestling with recently, Medieval Japan is a comparatively tidy time period. Secondly, Creative Assembly are getting to look at their game in the context of the brand-free smash hit it once was- when all the mechanics worked almost flawlessly. Thirdly, the team are borrowing a bit of Eastern philosophy. Creative Assembly wants the design of Shogun 2 to be ‘zen’. Shogun 2, then, isn’t going to be a bigger game than previous Total War titles. It’s going to be better.

And then I segue into describing the new skill trees, the new interface and the new and ludicrously in-depth multiplayer, which boasts a (are you ready?) collectible card sub-game. Interested? Go and read.


  1. Choca says:

    Can’t wait to try this tomorrow :o

    • Quintin Smith says:

      What’s that now?

    • Chris D says:

      Dammit Quinns! Some of us are trying not to get our hopes up here.

      Also, do my eyes deceive me? I was just to make a not particularly subte hint about how much I’d like to see more Journey of Saga but it seems that obsessively checking the site only to be crushed a little each day has finally paid off.

      Gotta go!

    • Chris D says:

      Ok, that wasn’t supposed to be a reply, but never mind.

    • Choca says:

      @Mister Smith : I’m visiting The Creative Assembly today to play this. I hope the weather isn’t too horrible on your godforsaken island.

  2. apricotsoup says:


    What is it in my mind that makes this the most interesting part? :E

  3. President Weasel says:

    But what about the AI generalship? Have they addressed it? Have they promised to address it again, only for it still to be simple-minded in preview playthroughs again, but with promises (again) that it will be really great when it ships.

    • Quintin Smith says:

      I raised the question of AI. They said they weren’t letting the game out of the door without acceptable AI, and the AI in the battle I played seemed OK. Nothing for it but to wait and see. And pray.

    • neinei says:

      Having seen what CA considers “acceptable” AI in the past, this worries me intensely.

    • President Weasel says:

      Indeed. I told myself that Empire would be the last TW I bought based on their promises- this time around, unless I see a couple of reviews from sites or specific reviewers that I trust, I intend to wait for the inevitable patch and then the equally inevitable patch to fix the patch. if the internets then say the game is good I’ll buy it.

  4. Brumisator says:

    Either I respect Quintin less, or I respect IGN more, I can’t decide.

    …I guess I’ll hate everything, like a good ol’ internet misanthrope, yeah, that’ll do.

  5. GenBanks says:

    Every single time a new Total War game is on the horizon I say this… but here goes: I CAN’T WAIT TILL THIS COMES OUT

    As much as I like Napoleon/Empire, I’m looking forward to getting stuck into the fight with swords and arrows (npi) again :D

    • anduin1 says:

      guns in TW should come with a “Never again” slogan, this engine does its absolute best when melee and arrows and at most ridiculous artillery are used. I had fun playing empire and napoleon but I end up replaying Rome/Medieval II mods more than vanilla ETW/NTW.

  6. derf says:

    So they’re going to address the core mechanics? That means the AI should be improved.

    Now, how about unlocking the mod-making capability? Vanilla can only go so far.

  7. Hmm says:

    Please please PLEASE do not infest this game with mandatory Steamworks. At least make it optional, just like Football Manager – you’re not FORCED to install Steam just to be allowed to install the actual game.

    • Delusibeta says:

      It has multiplayer, ergo it will have mandatory Steamworks. Thus is the Sega way.

    • Hmm says:

      That doesn’t contradict what I wrote, does it? If you want mp and updates or patches, THEN install Steam. Football Manager was also published by SEGA.

    • Delusibeta says:

      Yeah, edited. The number of retail games which has optional Steamworks is so insignificant I forgot about them.

  8. Yargh says:

    The new multiplayer elements look very nice but I still don’t see myself playing a multiplayer game.
    I’m afraid my version of real-time strategy is less real-time and a lot more pause-and-think-and-give-orders-every-minute-time strategy, which really doesn’t fit with playing against another person.

    Not to mention that I am constantly interrupted at home and often leave a battle on pause for 30mn or more at a time…

  9. Hmm-Hmm. says:

    IGN! RAAAaaaaar!


    Maybe I should take a gander..

  10. We Fly Spitfires says:

    I loved the original Shogun and am very excited about this. There’s something about Samurai that’s very appealing :P

  11. Conor says:

    Looks lovely. I would love it if they did a Total War in China during, say, the Three Kingdoms period. That would be fun.

  12. foop says:

    Bet they’ll make modding incredibly difficult again.

    Bet the AI will, after much proud boasting about how it’s been completely rewritten and wasn’t let out of the door until it was perfect, be slightly pants.

    • D says:

      I’ll take your two and raise you a
      – Bet it will be incredibly hard to adjust your entire army formation 1 degree to the left.

    • Reapy says:

      YES! This has been my biggest issue with every total war game so far. It is still easy to just ‘break’ your entire formation by making a misclick when you want to just rotate slightly to the left to keep everything lined up with enemies movements. All of a sudden the troops are moving in super spirals or everybody is standing at weird rotations not holding the frontage you need.

      I’ve never seen anything done to address this, even just a freaken tutorial to explain it if I’m doing something wrong.

    • Alphabet says:

      I third this. The whole control system seems to be designed to produce a rag-tag army layout and then a general fuckfest. Maybe that’s realistic? But I wanted to be able to give orders, not to draw where I wanted my units to be like some cross between Marshall Ney and a CAD-happy graphic designer.

  13. Xercies says:

    Hmm unlocks in strategy…could either be unbalanced or really like BFBC2 and actually be kind of balanced that higher levels can still fight against lower levels.

  14. Iain says:

    I wish they would just work on the AI and nothing else. But I’d still be happy with Medieval 1 graphics.

    Also I like more features like attrition, as it was always a bit silly that massive armies could march through deserts for years at a time. But I fear they’re going to go back to “zen” which should read simple or arcadey. Meh.

    After the appalling AI of Civ 5 I’m beginning to think that strategy developers are loosing the plot.

  15. alh_p says:

    hmmmmmmmmmm. Thank you Intertube Quintin, we shall see. I’d like nothing more than to see your closing remarks borne out, but…

  16. Jsnuk says:

    The real question is, will they bother to optomize this one? Total War games are notorius for running like a drunk emu through shit being poured into a sinkhole. Hell, I booted up Rome the other day and, everything on max on a big siege its was incredilag.

    • anduin1 says:

      I didn’t love Empire right out the gate but I also was one of the few that experienced few problems from launch to the current patch. Meaning CTD’s were to a minimum, no graphical lag but all the other problems from the engine itself persisted…squimish AI, wouldnt invade over water (Britain = unassailable fortress) but by patch 13 or 14 a lot of the kinks were worked out despite the AI still being retarded in battle

  17. Tonsko says:

    Bastards. After playing Empire, I swore to never buy another TW game again. I don’t suppose there will be a demo?

  18. D says:

    I hope they don’t screw up the matchmaking by restricting certain regions. It was a pain to try to play Empire with a friend who lives in Australia, I had to change my steam settings to be able to.

    • D says:

      I guess this is what happens when you only spend 3 seconds on thinking of a name. I guess there is room for double D’s on RPS’s sizable chest.

  19. Luke says:

    There was a thread in the forums, posted by one the design team, just before Empire was released. It was an AAR with the Prussians, and it sounded brilliant. But it mentioned things happening that have notoriously never happened in Empire, because those bits were broken, such as Naval invasions and junk, as well as diplomatic complexity that the game never even came close to nearing. They must have been grossly exaggerating, at the very least, when they wrote that up.

    I’m not very confident that I can trust the word of CA now as a result, and will wait for the community word on this one.

    • Fumarole says:

      Naval invasions happened in Empire; maybe not on day one, but later. So throwing abouts words like ‘never’ makes you look like a git.

    • neinei says:

      Are we feeling slightly pissy, Fumarole?

    • anduin1 says:

      their attempts are diplomacy have always been ridiculous, AI is either too lenient or too stingy, offend them enough and they declare war on you half way across the world

  20. Navagon says:

    I definitely have to have this game. I actually enjoyed Empire. But more so with the smaller empires. It can become too much to handle when you’ve got a a hell of a lot going on.

  21. Langman says:

    “Empire wasn’t perfect”.

    Is it me or is that a very safe, wishy-washy comment from the article? Empire was a complete fucking disaster on release.

    Why can’t RPS ever be more open about it? There’s always been a strange hesitancy by the writers here to open both barrels on it.

    • alh_p says:

      Because they won’t be given a chance to review it otherwise. It’s THE MAN, man.

    • Alphabet says:

      I agree. This item has been the only RPS item ever that for me had a hint of the ususal corruption of the gaming press, where office visits lead to credulous reporting. Empire wasn’t ‘imperfect’, it was terrible. Its Battle AI was so poor that it rendered the game worthless, and in a series predicated on reproducing the tabletop wargame of yore, that’s a serious flaw. Add in balance, stability, resourse-use, and historiographical issues, and the fact that CA make absurd claims every time the series advances, and you get pretty much my most disappointing game ever. I do wish someone would make a great Napoleonic (or any era, really) battle-simulator. But it won’t be CA, and I won’t be buying their promises or their games any more.

    • DiamondDog says:

      You seem to be assuming that the article should match your feelings exactly. Maybe Quinns has a different opinion on Empire? I’m not sure, but just because you were let down by the game don’t presume to think everyone else was.

      I’m not going to pretend I loved Empire, but I feel like I need to balance out some of the CA hate.

    • cowthief skank says:

      I enjoyed Empire.

    • neinei says:

      “Maybe Quinns has a different opinion on Empire?”

      Then he can’t have played the same game as the rest of the world.

      “Iā€™m not going to pretend I loved Empire, but I feel like I need to balance out some of the CA hate.”

      What? Just… what?! I haven’t been able to play Empire since patch 1.4, and Napoleon since release. Because the AI is BROKEN. Not fucking “imperfect”. Broken. As in, you litterally cannot play against it, because it’s more inclined to run in circles than actually fight back. This is not playable. Don’t you fucking dare to try and “balance out” any “hate”.

      “I enjoyed Empire”

      Care to elaborate?

    • InferiorBeing says:

      Heh. I can just imagine Quinns playing NTW, watching the enemy army running blindly in circles without fighting back at any point as they are massacred by musketfire, and thinking “Hmmm… this is slightly less than perfect.”


  22. jonfitt says:

    Hmmm. Your preview highlighted that they have paid a lot of attention to style and theme. However none of that is important to me as someone who has played TW from the original Shogun.

    The absolute only thing that they should focus on is making the core Total War game more enjoyable, and to me that means genius AI that will come as a mind boggling shock (at this point “ok” AI is too little too late). It needs to deeply understand *all* of the game’s concepts and constantly challenge the player with combined efforts without resorting to cheating.

    The other thing which to my mind needs addressing is the fact that as the game has progressed, the real time battles have lost their significance. What once were decisive battles to secure victory became Benny Hill whack-a-mole.

    The other thing you mentioned was the hooks to try and promote multiplayer. I like the idea of using real opponents for a single player style campaign, but the thought of CoD-like perks made me groan. The game simply does not have the audience for good matchmaking when opponents will have bonuses on top of differing skill levels.

    • jonfitt says:

      As a side note, Total War development press releases for Rome onwards have always focussed on how they’ve:
      Made battles fully 3D,
      then rendered soldiers with unique armour,
      then added unit kill animations,
      Next we’ll have the soldier cry tears of anger when their friend dies.

      All these graphical improvements look great in previews and get people really excited about the game… until the reviews and initial impressions come out.

      I just want CA to stop focussing on the flufff and remember why the original games were good. Obviously you can’t stick with voxels and sprites, but I cannot think of an engine improvement which has made the games any better since Rome.

    • jalf says:

      I still don’t see why people consider Rome to be among the “old” games. Rome introduced the first major change in engine/technology as well as gameplay. The new overcrowded wannabe-Civ campaign map, the more uniform battles with less tactically relevant terrain, and also some pretty crippling AI shortcomings.

      Rome was where they first changed the recipe, and the newer games are still largely Rome-derivatives.

      And I absolutely don’t see why they’d need some kind of god-like AI. They need an AI that does the job, and doesn’t cripple itself. Anything beyond that is a bonus, but not *necessary*. They need an AI that makes the game fun to play. What it “deeply understands” just doesn’t matter.

    • Mad Doc MacRae says:

      +1 jalf. Rome is where the problems started, at least compared to M:TW (full disclosure, I never played the original Shoggy).

      I also don’t want an AI that will beat me every time hands down (I suspect that’s impossible). I want a battle AI that keeps a coherent line and maybe tries to flank me once in a while. MTW did that pretty reliably. Rome and M2 didn’t. From what I hear E & N didn’t manage either. As for campaign AI, all I want is reasonable army composition (not 1 peasant and 11 catapults, something MTW was even guilty of on occasion) and no black night / always betrayal diplomacy.

  23. Po0py says:

    Yes. Good write up. Just what I wanted to hear!

  24. Joe Duck says:

    Sorry, CA lost too much credit with Empire. I won’t buy it…

  25. Daniel Rivas says:

    I really liked all of Empire.


  26. jalf says:

    Grrr, rage, hate! I’ll never forgive anyone for anything whatsoever, and even though we’ve done the exact same thing with the last 3 TW games, I’ll still rage and scream and foam at the mouth when yelling insults at CA pre-release.

    Then I’ll buy the game anyway, and rage some more over the flawed AI.

    Why are so many TW fans so predictable?

    You know, I found quite a few things to enjoy in every TW game so far. True, I preferred the older ones, but even Empire has provided me with a lot of entertainment value.

    And if they position Shogun 2 as a “back to basics” kind of TW game, then I’m not going to accuse them of “dumbing down” or anything like that. I’m going to assume it means “take a look at what made the old games so brilliant, and try to recapture that”. Which sounds good, if they can pull it off.

  27. Durns says:

    Tee-hee – Its behind you! What, the enemy? No, the moooooooooooon!

  28. Lucas says:

    I liked the original Shogun quite a bit, and its the only TW game I’ve played, mostly because it was like playing Myth with 1000s of soldiers. All the strategy-map-mode complexity added to the sequels has disinterested me, largely because I see it as slowing the game down and making the waits between battles longer. I’m hoping Sword of the Stars 2 gets that balance right, because late game SOTS galaxy map management got pretty slow and bored me out of finishing my 100 star campaign.

  29. Mad Doc MacRae says:

    I’m now cautiously pessimistic.

  30. a.nye.123 says:

    Aaaww, is that the final box art?

    I preferred this to this.

  31. manveruppd says:

    Also big in Japan: link to

  32. Taillefer says:

    Needs about 20% less Zen. I just …kind of know.

  33. Tim Ward says:

    FYI, I did the big in japan joke before you.

    On tw center.