Hands On With Total War: Shogun 2

It’s true, I’ve been playing a build of Shogun 2. That build includes the extensive tutorials – covering a slice of the campaign map, naval battles – and a historical manfight, the Battle Of Sekigahara. Find out how I got on below.

First impressions… what a lovely menu screen! I do like the blossoms.

From there we head out into the tutorials. The campaign tutorial delivers a slice of the main campaign map, starting you out on the south coast of Shikoku island, far from the Imperial capital of Kyoto, but just a stone’s throw from enemy provinces. What’s immediately rather fetching about this is the way that the territory is revealed from the “parchment” map of the distance. Moving your units about lifts the undulating hills and valleys from the fog of war, although the beautiful calligraphic area names remain. It’s really lovely, although not exactly a huge leap onward from Empire’s campaign map – it has much the same tech running things – yet the look and feel is considerably improved by little touches like the terrain reveal and the Medieval Japanese presentation. I like that the UI elements hide themselves away when not needed, or deselected. It’s at the same time information-packed and minimal. It really is a pretty thing. But that’s to be expected.

As in the other games, the campaign map is a work of multi-pronged management. Each province has a capital, which can be buffed up into various tiers of fortress, while the outlying land has farmlands (rice paddies) that can be improved with farming infrastructure, roads, and so on. The interface feels a little more artful than the one we had for Empire, and that’s not just because one of the core tech-tree things is, well, The Arts. This is like a talent tree in an MMO or something, allowing you to unlock progressively more complicated specialisations as time passes. Remembering to come back to that over time looks like it might be annoying on the first pass, but it’s an interesting element for customising your clan’s development.

The other stuff that the tutorial gave a quick pass to is the tax system – pretty much as you’d expect it, but with a nice slider/map combo that shows exactly how cross people will be if you levy the underpants from their nether-regions. Then there’s the management of the various individual generals, who can be commissioned to work on diffeent areas of your governance. Commission a chap for development and he gets bonuses in that area, related to where he is positioned, commission one for warfare and, well, he’ll provide bonuses to stabbing people in the eye. There are also ships – which come out of your ports, obviously, and coastal trade points across the various islands, which bring in extra cash if you put non-combatant vessels in there. All familiar stuff.

I played out the little tutorial story as instructed, but rather rushed into the final battle. Unwilling to wait to build a large army, I sped across the island to assault the enemy capital. It was a siege, and I had thought that I’d sabotaged the gates of the fortress with my ninja (yes, the first agent you are given is the ninja, and he can both set back armies and sabotage fortresses, a potent bloke). Clearly I’d done it too early, however, because the gates were repaired when I conducted my attack. I am not sure what it is about sieges and Total War, but they just cannot run smoothly. While I did manage to burn down the gates on my second or third try, there was nevertheless the now-familiar jiggling of bodies under heavy missile fire before it really worked out. With access to the fortress forced, I rushed in and got stomped. I had about half the spear-dudes and Samurai that I actually needed to take the enemies down. Sigh.

I spent some time raising more armies and testing the straight battles vs the auto-resolves. The auto-resolves do seem to fall slightly against your favour, so folks who can’t be arsed playing all the battles (that’s me!) will probably scrape by without too much fuss.

From here I decided it might be a good idea to take a look at the naval battles. This is immediately breathtaking – the coastal detail is even more impressive that the battles maps that I’ve seen, and the first thing in the tutorial is a lavish, burning ship, on fire in the bay. Being oar-driven means the ships are far more straightfoward to deploy and use than the sailships of Empire – it’s as if Creative Assembly approach the ship problem the wrong way round, because this kind of naval warfare makes far more sense, given the constraints of a strategy interface.

The tutorial plays out a brief engagement between a bow ship and another vessel, and then sees you rescue and repair an allied ship. This is then followed by a large engagement which seems the deployment of bunes – larger vessels that have enough soldiers to board and engage enemy ships at close range. This is all very impressive. More impressive, perhaps, than the traditional battle maps I’ve seen so far. I’m definitely going to enjoy Shogun 2’s naval combat in a way that I did not with Empire’s sea ships.

So let’s look at the battle map a bit more closely, and we can do that via the Battle of Sekigahara. This historical happening, which you can read about here (and is also more awesomely know as the Battle For The Sundered Realm) is one of the major military events of the period. At the start of the battle my forces were spread out across a valley, with a group of allies in the middle. The AI immediately engaged my far flank, and the results were pretty chaotic. It feels like Shogun 2’s battles will be relatively fast paced, because the samurai vs cavalry conflict that ensued was brutal and swift, with bodies flying from the impact of charging horses against standing humans. I backed this group up as much as possible, but with my allies refusing to engage (a scripted event) they were forced to fight to the death.

Across the field, the bulk of my army was engaged by a smaller force, initially, and cavalry charge from my general and other horse units broke it. I then reformed further up the nearby hill. Tactics familiar throughout the Total War series immediately unfolded: my missile troops on high ground were able to decimate the approaching samurai, while my cavalry flanked. The AI tried to spread out to compensate for the fact that it was going to be surrounded, but it was too late – not least because the bulk of the units that came from the fight on the other side of the valley were exhausted. My footsoldiers held their ground on the hill, and the cavalry crashed into the enemy ranks. As Total War battles go, this was rocket-fuelled. Battle AI better? Hmm. INCONCLUSIVE EVIDENCE. I need to investigate further. Not obviously worse, anyway.

So, what do I think? Well, thank God it’s medieval Japan. We’re back to swords and arrows, which makes more sense to both my brain, and to the AI brain within the Total War games, than anything in Empire did. It does seem pacey on the battle map, but I suppose that this is what these games were built for and, despite my siege wobbles, the solidity of the overall process of fighting is clear. I’m not going to make any deeper judgements, of course, because problems are going to emerge on further scrutiny – they always do with a game this complex – but I’m feeling optimistic, quuietly excited. Shogun 2 is looking like a genuinely strong offering from one of the most interesting strategy studios in the world. I can’t wait to get stuck into a grand campaign and see some of that much-vaunted multiplayer presentation in action. There’s a lot more we need to see, but this taster has been delicious.


  1. Premium User Badge

    Joshua says:

    In before people denouncing CA for obscure reasons.

    • mwoody says:

      Since when is “their goddamn games don’t work for shit” obscure?

    • Hypocee says:

      ‘Game about boats ruling the world does not use boats ever’: The opposite of obscure.

    • utharda says:

      at least we know their first post ai works -)

  2. Dlarit says:

    Stop doing this to me RPS i need these games!!!!!!

    Mind you saying that i was looking forward to reading “The AI has been massivly overhauled, fixing all the previous problems and bugs from the earlier versions”

  3. Handsome Dead says:

    Worst game ever nine paragraphs on how I don’t trust Creative Assembly since empire total war came and ate my children like buffet

  4. 7rigger says:

    Looks great :)

    Glad for it to return to the Shogun/Medieval era. Napoleon is far too complex for my tastes.

    • Premium User Badge

      Joshua says:

      I think the complexity is what choked Empire. It’s good to see CA going back to the basics. Hopefully it will be as good as the original or the Medieval 2 kingdoms expansion.

    • Bhazor says:

      I thought the land battles were pretty good in Napoleon all things considered. The main problem for me being with the era itself in that at the time European armies were pretty much identical and tactics were of secondary importance to drilling and logistics. Generally whoever could reload faster or deploy the most cannons won.

      The naval battles on the other hand were incredibly fiddly and over reliant on luck when you tried to board a ship. Grape shot was also pretty much useless with a full broadside killing about three people.

    • Blaq says:

      Not to mention that swords and arrows are far more mysterious and intriguing than guns and cannons, even if they are old crappy guns and cannons. The warfare technology of Napoleonic era feels a lot closer to us than that of medieval japan, which is seemingly a part of Shogun 2 alure. Much like the first Shogun game and Rome: Total War in comparison with the later Total War games.

    • Zenicetus says:

      Yeah, I like this style of combat much better. Glad to see them returning to the up-close-and-personal engagements with pointy sticks and arrows.

      It’s a better fit for the naval battles too, since the oared ships won’t care about wind direction. In Empire, you could sail a square-rigger directly upwind. That meant you basically threw out all the historical tactics of combat under sail, and drove your ships around like slow motorboats. Here, that won’t look so silly.

    • Zephro says:

      Am I genuinely the only person who’d prefer to be re-fighting Trafalgar and Waterloo to some silly medieval battles?

    • anduin1 says:

      yea you pretty much are the only one >.>, but seriously, the whole guns system of the last two games wasn’t bad. It was just such a departure for the series that its understandable why some hated it. I’m glad its back to swords/cavalry but I’m still reticent to be really excited about this game. I worry it’ll just be full of bugs and problems that may get fixed 6 months down the line.

    • Archonsod says:

      “Am I genuinely the only person who’d prefer to be re-fighting Trafalgar and Waterloo to some silly medieval battles?”

      Nope. I foresee this suffering the same problem as the original; tactics basically boiling down to who has the most men on horses.

    • Commisar says:

      Well, I would like to see what CE could do with a modern day or 20th century setting

    • Tatourmi says:

      Yes, modern setting, bomb the area till there is no one left and send three squads to clean the dropzone. Would work if our wars were still infantry war.

      Empire had only one problem as far as I’m concerned: Not the setting, not the battle mechanics, but the laziness concerning the world. I did the french revolution thingy. The french revolution consisted in… Taking a fort to take paris? What? And when I attacked Paris or defended it before a fort was built it was something like 7 houses put together. Re-what? I loved the sieges in Medieval II, really, because of the details and the huges, beautiful cities. Empire was extremely lazy concerning that. Well, it was just not a finished game.

  5. a.nye.123 says:

    Did it feel as buggy as the original Empire release? Ambition seemed to take priority over stability.

    Also, such teeny images! Links to bigger versions, pretty please?

  6. Duffin says:

    If they manage to improve the AI then this could be an amazingly good game. But the AI has been at exactly the same level since Rome II so I won’t hold my breath just yet.

    EDIT: I mean just Rome: TW, I blame this on inverting the name, it confuses me.

    • Grygus says:

      The AI’s been the same since Rome II? That is a shame. Hey do you have flying cars yet where you came from?

  7. trooperdx3117 says:

    Huh Jim you seem awfully down on Empire considering you did give it a 94 in PCG, and for the record I really liked Empire as well, not as much as Rome or anything but it was still brilliant

    • battles_atlas says:

      I was going to raise this, but from a different perspective. As a big fan of Jim and his canon, his 94% review of Empires does kind of stick out like a stinking turd demanding explanation. I’d be genuinely interested to hear what his thoughts are on that score now. Does he stand by it? Was the review rushed by deadlines? Was the whole thing an evil conspiracy hatched by CA and Majestic 12? Give us your retrospective Wot I Think, oh wise one.

    • Jim Rossignol says:

      Do I stand by the score? Yeah, sure.* But then I also started a website without scores, and have regularly argued how meaningless and distracting they are in discussion of anything as complex as a major strategy game. I can’t express how glad I am that I no longer have to give scores to anything.

      Anyway, Empire was a great game, that is much better now that CA have got closer to finishing it. Reviewing it pre-release was awesome, but it was also time-limited by a magazine deadline, and in hindsight that is always the worst way to do these things. Another reason I love RPS is being able to give due time to large games.

      Empire was an awkward game, and I think its difficulties are reflected in CA’s retreat into Shogun.

      See link above for a slightly longer articulation of my feelings toward Empire.

      *I can’t stand by some of what was written, however, because it’s now a different game in many ways.

    • battles_atlas says:

      Thanks for the link bookwormat, I’d missed that first time around. And appreciate hearing your thoughts Jim, particularly on the ridiculousness of scoring games (percentage scores being the maddest of all). Despite being critical of PCG’s methods for a long time, I’m not sure it actually occurred to me until you said that RPS doesn’t offer any numerical judgment.

      My own feelings towards Empires are rather perverse, reflected in the fact that with hindsight I have few fond memories of the game, yet according to Steam I racked up well over 100hrs on it. I feel like it was something of an abusive relationship, in that CA promised so much and delivered very little, at least successfully. The disappointment seemed to dripfeed over an inordinate amount of time too, with endless bugs, flaws slowly coming to light, and failed patches. In that sense the sheer size of the game was not only a cause of the problems, but an amplifier of their impact.

      With Shogun they certainly seem to be moving in the right direction, ie less surface, more feeling. I think for many of us though, CA’s chance of returning to our bosoms simply comes down to whether they can deliver an impressive AI at last. Oh and it not being utterly broken of course.

    • Jim Rossignol says:

      I don’t know if I’ve ever talked about it explicitly, but the reason I wanted there to be no scores on RPS was precisely to *avoid discussion of scores*. It’s so unbelievably tedious to read a comment thread where people are grasping at qualifications of a 7/10, or why something should be a 9/10, because it just should.

      And then you have comment threads where people discuss what was said. I mean I am taking the piss out of grape a bit, because he pretty annoying, but I would rather have people saying I should work harder on describing the AI and so than wittering on about what 76% *actually means*.

    • Bhazor says:

      I don’t think the main issue is the number. I think a bigger issue is saying things like:

      “The harder AI has been an absolute bastard to take on toe-to-toe. Enemy generals work to split your ranks, or to funnel you into the firing line of cannons, or to avoid your flanking tactics. They’ll drive through your lines and then fan back around, attempting to split and isolate your troops. When they’re heavily entrenched, firing from the windows of buildings and harrying your troops with veteran skirmishers, it starts to feel like a more mature game. “

    • Grape Flavor says:

      Wait, is Jim dissing me personally or is that some weird British figure of speech up there? Google search shows nothing.

      I mean I am pretty annoying, yeah, but I don’t even comment on Total War! I am confuse.

    • jalf says:

      If you check the other comments, there’s a ‘grape’ who made some, well, “critical” comments further down. Jim is just saying he prefers that over bickering about what a specific score in a review means.

    • Grape Flavor says:

      So I see, thanks.
      Yes! Not guilty for once!

  8. El_MUERkO says:

    If you’re playing it again can you order some troops/cavalry to go from Point A to Point B where the most direct route to point B involves them walking onto large pointy sticks?

    • Zenicetus says:

      Also…. can you tell us if the enemy general can maintain his infantry units in a cohesive battle line for more than 30 seconds, after contact with your forces? Or does his army break apart quickly into independent units running around and “thinking” for themselves, never reforming a battle line? That’s been a problem with the TW battle engine ever since Rome.

      And yes, I know that historically, Japanese armies often used looser formations and infantry tactics compared to Ancient World and Western medieval armies. But this is still a huge problem because it allows a player exploit. You can easily tease apart the enemy battle line with cavalry or skirmisher feints, breaking it into vulnerable individual units that are easy to take out. I win too many battles too easily in TW games, just because the enemy doesn’t know how to keep its army together as a main force. That’s the #1 thing I’d like to know about this new one, before buying it… have they fixed this yet?

  9. Grygus says:

    A big part of the appeal of the original Total War game, at least for me, was the commitment to atmosphere. Every time I took slight offense because a white trader turned his back to me in my throne room, I had to marvel at the little details. I’m glad to see that they seem to be embracing this kind of immersion again.

    People are mad at CA? That’s crazy talk. Like some others here, I found the setting for Empire and Napoleon much less appealing than the other games, so I’m also glad to see a return to a time and place that I am interested in, and I do think CA made some mistakes with the last two games (Napoleon was the first one I did not purchase), but it’s really good to see them taking risks and iterating and trying to move the series forward. It seems safe to say that Total War won’t be stagnating anytime soon. Sure, they could pump out Rome: Total War 2011 (and I’d probably squee), but I think their approach is superior in the long run.

    • MadMatty says:

      yeah i prefer the medieval period also, its “gamier” (manlier?) somehow, just like WW2 Aeroplanes with guns are more gamey than modern jet fighters with long range radars and fire-and-forget missiles.

  10. Zephro says:

    Well if the AI is improved I will be happy.

    I am sad though as the setting of Empire appeals to me a million more times than Samurai. Every moment of it should have felt like Hornblower or Sharpe or Oson Welles and Christopher Plummmer ducking it out over some field in Belgium.

    The naval battles will be a sore loss. I wanted the glory of Trafalgar! Not some damp melee on boats medieval style, there’s a reason they don’t set naval adventure books in the medieval period.

    I hope they revisit it eventually with lessons learnt.

    Kind of a different point. What’s the point of naval combat if it’s MORE like land combat? Surely you should only add naval combat if it’s different to land combat, like yknow ships having momentum and broadsides.

    • MadMatty says:

      I think they wanted a bit of weight on historical accuracy, rather than finding something less correct but more fun.

  11. nuh uh no way says:

    what on earth is going on with the draw distance? is that the game or your settings, Jim?

    • Jim Rossignol says:

      Not sure what you mean? Which image are you talking about?

    • Gormongous says:

      I think he’s referring to the “parchment map” effect of unexplored lands in the fourth and fifth screenshots. That’s intentional, dude.

    • Brumisator says:

      I think he means the world map’s terrain disappearing and being replaced by beige map-countries in the distance.
      EDIT: beaten to the punch.

    • nuh uh no way says:

      to all: No. I read the article and like the idea of the parchment replacing fog of war.

      to all plus Jim: I’m talking about the poor draw distance. Look at shot 8 (numbered 7 in its url, oddly) to better see what I’m talking about, but it’s happening across all the shots. I guess it’s the weird haze effect. Like there’s smog or something.

  12. Teronfel says:


  13. Teddy Leach says:

    Desperate. Your turn.

  14. Novotny says:

    The problem with CA’s games since Medieval 2 is that it takes a while to realise that there is nothing there beneath the lovely interfaces. They’re supremely talented at making the shinys, and with no evidence whatsoever but my own playing experiences to go by, I’d say their marketing department dwarfs their actual game making department by a factor of about 70 billion.

    I hope this is good, as I’ve hoped with all CA releases for the best part of the last decade, and if it is good, I’ll certainly buy it. But I’ve learnt through bitter experience to not trust games reviews when it comes to these titles – even those reviewers whom I would usually trust, like say Rossignol. And it’s not that they take the dollar for their reviews – it simply takes quite a bit of time to see around the smoke and mirrors, by which time if course you’ve honestly reviewed it as quite good.

    It makes sense to me. Do you invest money in making a good game, or do you invest far less in making a game that superficially seems good, and will therefore sell just as much but make you more money? CA always seem to favour the latter option. Would be really nice if they broke from this behaviour for Shogun 2.

    • Zephro says:

      ” is that it takes a while to realise that there is nothing there beneath the lovely interfaces”

      Same can be said of Civ 5, Hearts of Iron, Victoria 2 etc. All the grand strategy games seem to suffer from this these days.

      Well less hyperbole about the whole thing. But they all turn out to have deep flaws especially with AI only after you’ve wrestled with it for hours.

    • Novotny says:

      It could be argued that Civ 4 did not suffer from this – but then they had Soren Johnson.

    • Zephro says:

      I’d say the same about Civ 4. But not many other Grand Strategy games of late, I think it’s probably because Civ has always been more gamey and less simulation.

    • mcol says:

      Zeprho: huh? Agreed Civ5 is all mouth and no trousers, but Victoria and HoI are absolutely renowned for the almost impenetrable game mechanics and deeply complex gameplay and not shiny visuals.
      Quite the reverse of Something:Totalwar
      AI shortcomings is something else entirely though.

    • Zenicetus says:

      Another problem with reviewing games that strive for at least some degree of historical accuracy, is that many general-purpose game reviewers don’t have the specialized knowledge to spot big, gaping holes in the game.

      For example, how many reviews of Empire mentioned that the devs intentionally dumbed down the sailing model for naval battles, because they thought the average player couldn’t handle real sailing tactics? Even Sid Meier’s cartoon-like “Pirates!” game wouldn’t let you sail directly upwind, but you can do that in Empire. You have to actually know something about combat under sail, to know how broken and unrealistic it was.

    • Novotny says:

      The fact that the AI couldn’t use boats at all in the campaign of Empire was much more of a fundamental problem for a game about using boats in a campaign – to my mind at any rate.

    • Edgar the Peaceful says:

      Loved Medieval I and The Vikings (great atmosphere and music). I’ve been disappointed ever since. Even that sacred cow Rome:Total War was poor. Go back to the boardgame strat map and take a note from Crusader Kings.

    • Panzeh says:

      Making an actually good game is not an easy or sure process that you can just ‘choose’ to do. A lot of games with a lot of good craft end up not being good games for various reasons. The idea that CA sold out to make games that seem good on first plays is kind of laughable, but even if they did, you aren’t going to continue to play a game unless it seems good on the first few plays.

      As for my verdict on it, Empire was way too over-broad for the system they had. I liked a lot of the ideas they had, but it had too much scope, it should’ve focused on being a game about war outside Europe or inside Europe, but not really both. Most of the faults of the strategic AI come down to the fact that it can’t cross the theaters, everything else is stuff that’s been there since Rome, and some of it’s improved. As for the battle AI, it got better in Napoleon, but it still can’t handle the deeper, more finicky tactical combat of the gunpowder titles. Whereas with Medieval you can get a passable AI that just slams troops into yours for a satisfying battle.

    • Zephro says:

      No I think that Victoria and the HoI series are deeply flawed and far simpler than they appear but only once you play them for hundreds of hours do you realise it. I still enjoy them but they’ve not really revolutionised anything and the AI still barely keeps up.

      The diplomacy in both of those, E:TW and Civ5 are all lamentable as well.

      Also in my copy of HoI3 with Semper Fi the enemy can’t use boats either. Coincidence?

      Also the japanese are so tied to the historical events they declared war on nationalist china but never sent a single soldier to attack as the historical event didn’t affect the little country along the border Yanxi? or Shangzu I forget.

    • jalf says:

      Loved Medieval I and The Vikings (great atmosphere and music). I’ve been disappointed ever since. Even that sacred cow Rome:Total War was poor. Go back to the boardgame strat map and take a note from Crusader Kings.

      Amen to that.

      @Novotny: No, Civ4 worked on a gameplay level. It (obviously) wasn’t about historical accuracy, but Civ4 was *a good game*. Civ5 (currently) is not, even though it looks prettier, and on the surface, seems much cleverer (hexes, woo)

      Another problem with reviewing games that strive for at least some degree of historical accuracy, is that many general-purpose game reviewers don’t have the specialized knowledge to spot big, gaping holes in the game.

      No. The problem is that some people think *game* reviewers shouldn’t review games, but rather talk about arbitrary things like “how historically accurate is it”. When I buy a game, I want to know if it is a good game. And whether or not the game sells itself on being historically accurate, I want someone who knows about gameplay, not history, to review it. Because I can get history from any old book. When I buy games, I expect gameplay.

    • Zephro says:

      There will always be a market for simulation games. Otherwise all racing games would be Need For Speed, Armed Assault wouldn’t exist and neither would IL2.

    • Novotny says:

      Zephro – the Americans are using boats just fine in my HOI3, 2.04d version. Try it out :)

  15. Novotny says:

    HOI3 is, I think, a victim of it’s own complexity and small dev team. Funnily enough, I’m running it atm, trying out that latest patch. Fingers crossed, as ever. Reply fail on my part, should be appended to above.

  16. Collic says:

    Empire scored so highly in reviews because the flaws don’t become apparent until you’ve spent more time playing it than (I would assume) the average reviewer. Up until then CA had a pretty solid track record, so at the time I imagine there was little reason to dig deeper.

    EDIT: that was supposed to be a reply to trooper.

    • anduin1 says:

      agreed, you don’t notice the glaring problems with the game until your like 30 turns in. Also there was a lot of that post game hype in the review, having been so excited to get the game, played it and really only looked at the good points to score it that high.

  17. Fumarole says:

    Those units cards for the generals really impress me.

  18. ukpanik says:

    Whatever bad things you say about CA, they do produce the most innovative bugs.

  19. anduin1 says:

    On the strategy map, are the sub buildings still scattered across the map like in Empire? That annoyed me to no end having the enemy take 1 unit and run through like 3 resource points in a single turn.

  20. cpeninja says:

    Am I the only one who enjoyed the ship combat in Empire? I guess I’m the only one who likes the tall ships genre as well? That sucks… I guess I’ll never get a good tall ships game again.

    • Oak says:

      You’re not alone. I loved them; they were beautiful and thrilling, especially in Napoleon, and entirely worth getting over the fiddly Harryhausen controls and general arcadiness. Hell to play online, though.

      Empire did pretty well for itself in all areas of the naval department, if you don’t count the transport thing.

    • Zephro says:

      I enjoyed them, I did wish they were more simulation though.

      The Shogun naval battles sound rubbish, I’d much prefer a game with the Age of Sail where you couldn’t sail into the wind and had to bring your guns around like an expert shipman.

  21. ShedMonkey says:

    Bit disappointed by your comments about the siege battles, Jim. I’ve played every TW game (and will no doubt play this one) but all too often the sieges – which surely have the potential to be fantastically exciting – end up being an exercise in frustration because of some pathfinding quirk or glitch. CA don’t seem to be getting much better at it either as in Empire the more advanced the forts became the more difficulty my men seemed to have deploying in and moving around them. I seem to remember that CA promised a new approach to sieges in Shogun 2 and it would be a great shame if they can’t carry it off.

    • Jim Rossignol says:

      Yeah, it doesn’t seem promising, but this is definitely not the final game build. So we shall see.

    • Zephro says:

      Did they at least manage to not get lost when navigating over the walls? Every single TW has had a couple guys get stuck in a corner somewhere.

  22. Reapy says:

    Can you finally tell which general is which when you enter battle? I remember when I had say 3 generals in battle and I couldn’t really tell which was which except for the main leader, the other guys would just come up as general’s bodyguard.

    But glad to see they are going back to the melee centric setting, it just fits their engine more… though I really would like to see them finally start to push the gameplay elements more so than the graphics. Just allow more scenarios/settings and equipment on the field. Once you’ve done one land battle in a total war series, they all sort of blur together, more variation would be good.

    Still, I’ll probably be out getting this game asap, nobody else even attempts to explore large scale ancient warfare like the CA guys do.

    • Jim Rossignol says:

      Actually I think the generals are less clear now.

    • RegisteredUser says:

      I am still wondering about a Warband like “go in yourself now” option for the TW series..like back in Dungeon Keeper for example.

  23. Grape says:

    I would like to personally thank Jim Rossignol for mentioning the AI with all of 3 sentences. Exactly what all of us fans were hoping for!

    • Jim Rossignol says:

      This isn’t a review. It’s a preview based on some time with a limited version of the game. I should base my judgements about the most contentious issue on that?


    • Grape says:

      You could at least bloody try. For example, you pointed out that when you first tried to assault a castle, your army was not strong enough, and you were beaten. That’s all well and good, but you didn’t tell us how you were beaten. Did the AI outmaneuver you with its superior units, or did it simply send an unending stream of bodies into your guys until they all died? Or did he simply outlast you, since he was in a castle? You also said you fought several land battles that weren’t autoresolved. Surely you could have taken at least some individual notes from each?

    • Jim Rossignol says:

      That’s me told. I better go get a job in sales.

    • stahlwerk says:

      Yes Jim, you better learn how to write enthusiastic previews that get people’s hopes up, leading to increased preorders and inevitable disappointment upon release.

      Like Quintin.


      Edit: I kid, I kid, less-than-three you all!

    • Grape says:

      I don’t want you to get my hopes up, I want you to tell me how the AI is, no matter if it’s crap or not. You wrote more about how the menu screen had pretty flowers, the graphics were shiny and boats didn’t use sails, than you ever mentioned the state of the AI. That’s just not right.

      Also, another thing: You said that the battles were “fast and brutal”? How fast, exactly? I remember playing Rome: Total War, and the battles between units were over in seconds – so fast that I never had time to watch any of the (for its time) cool animations and whatnot before it was all over, sort of making them pointless to begin with.

    • DiamondDog says:

      Maybe wait for the review?

    • Panzeh says:

      I’m not sure how you’re supposed to get an intelligent opinion about the AI after a few plays. People these days.. They’ll play a game for hours and hours and then talk about how ripped off they were.

    • jalf says:

      You could at least bloody try

      If you read the actual article, you might have noticed the “INCONCLUSIVE EVIDENCE” part.

      Remember how Empire was reviewed? Everyone liked it because no one noticed that the AI didn’t use ships. Because everyone rushed to determine the qualify of the AI on day 1. It always seems good *until you notice the flaws*. Jim didn’t have time to notice the flaws, so he could never really say anything other than “it seems good”, and that’s as useless as it was when people said it about Empire.

      is that the kind of review you want? What do we gain by Jim trying to make absolute statements about the AI based on next to no data?

      I think it’s more honest to say in big loud caps “I don’t know yet”, as he did.

      And in a battle where you’re badly outnumbered, it’s generally pretty hard to judge the AI properly. It isn’t really given much chance to excel, and you can’t push it hard enough to make it break.

      But no, Grape, I’m sure it’s a conspiracy. Jim was paid to not talk about the AI, and right now, he’s getting drunk on Bahamas, laughing at YOU.

  24. Grape says:

    The point of a hands-on is still to give you information. And I think he could have given significantly more on the AI than this. Sure, it’s only a limited build of the game, that may or may not have changed upon release, but it’s something. More information than we have now, at least.

    People these days.. They’ll play a game for hours and hours and then talk about how ripped off they were.


    @ Jalf: Just… go away. Please.

    • Panzeh says:

      I believe a previous poster talked about how much Empire sucked after he played it over 100 hours. One has to question, why do you spend 100 hours on a game that you didn’t like? This wasn’t directed at you in particular.

    • Jim Rossignol says:

      I hear you, Grape. We’ll be talking a lot more about Shogun 2, so hopefully I’ll remember to talk about that AI stuff at some point.

    • Bhazor says:

      @ Panzeh

      In a similar vein my friend phoned up Dominos to complain about an undercooked pizza. After he’d eaten three quarters of it. Clearly he didn’t notice how disgusting until he had managed to force six and a half slices.

      They still gave him a refund and a free pizza mind.

    • Grape says:

      I believe a previous poster talked about how much Empire sucked after he played it over 100 hours. One has to question, why do you spend 100 hours on a game that you didn’t like?

      Okay? Sure, that does sound insane.

      …so hopefully I’ll remember to talk about that AI stuff at some point.

      Uhh… yeah. hopefully you will.

    • Jeremy says:

      In all fairness, Jim was only able to play the tutorial bits, which I’m sure have quite a bit of scripting and whatnot in them. Clearly not a great place to make a judgment call on the AI. Just keep your britches on until the AI can actually be put to the test

      Also: Don’t be that guy.

  25. Freud says:

    I’ve been playing a bit of Medieval 2 with mods lately. From what I can understand this (as Empire was) is not as modifiable. I think it is a huge mistake. Basically mods were needed to ‘fix’ every Total War game. Unfixed, they aren’t very good. In fact, the whole Empire debacle lost them a lot of goodwill.

    For me, this game is in the wait and see pile.

    • SirKicksalot says:

      Empire has the great Darthmod, which makes it a truly awesome game.

  26. Dontdrop says:

    Nice write up, the game looks fantastic. Hoping it improves on Empire’s AI, etc.

  27. shyguy badman says:

    Well I have played Shogun, Med 1 & 2 & Viking, Empire and Napoleon. They are all great but they all have their little niggles. Games of this complexity shall always suffer this problem especially when people pour such large amount of time into playing them. If you use anything once you’ll come away with an impression of it……. Once having used that same thing 1000 times you are going to have a very different impression of it.

    Personally I really enjoyed Empire and Napoleon. The gameplay suffers less from the rock-paper-scissors effect that used to annoy me a little (i.e. this unit beats this unit…and so on and so on). I think a lot of people don’t like them because you cannot fight in the same way as you used to in the old games which concentrated much more on melee and people generally want a new game to be the same game with more bells and whistles.

    I only wish you could play Empire with the same interface as Napoleon because it is much more efficient and intuitive. The main problem with Empire was that it was too ambitious. They should have released Empire as separate theatres that you could combine or play standalone… Europe, N America, S America, India, China/Asia, Africa. They could have released one at a time with each one being able to combine with any other allowing you to truely create a world empire. Maybe they shall do this in the future.

    I don’t get all the moaning about the naval battles, they are brilliant fun, even if suffering from a lack of naval accuracy. (It would have been good to have the option to play with upgraded naval physics if it is true what one poster has said about them dumbing it down!)

    I will agree about sieges though. They really need to sort out positioning of men along narrow castle walls and in and around obstacles in general. No-one in real life would end up with their soldiers spread out like they end up on the game. Some on the ramp, some on the cannons, some just sitting around doing naff all. This worries me with Shogun 2 because I see that sieges have had more emphasis placed on them… or at least sieges are set to be more complicated affairs with multiple tiered levels etc…

    Lastly AI. If you don’t like playing against AI find some humans to play against because that will be a completely different kettle of fish. The computer is easy to beat, even on hardest because you can force it to do things a human player would just never do. If you don’t like the AI that controls your own side during the battle then go and play another game cos it isn’t gonna change anytime soon, no matter how much you rant on about it. Whatever game you play you are always playing against the game developers and designers. If you think you are actually controlling thousands of men in a field get real! All programs have their limits.

    All I say is enjoy, enjoy and enjoy… and if you don’t enjoy, go and find another game or something else to do… Why not try and raise an army and take over your town…then county…then up the stakes a little and march on the capitol. Let’s see if AI is easier to control than real people…

    • Zephro says:

      While I agree with that. On the multiplayer front…. NO!

      I want a grand strategy game with a campaign map I can play when I like. While I would love to get a campaign game of Napoleon in it has never been a practical consideration. So the AI is still a must.

    • Grape says:

      Lastly AI. If you don’t like playing against AI find some humans to play against because that will be a completely different kettle of fish. The computer is easy to beat, even on hardest because you can force it to do things a human player would just never do. If you don’t like the AI that controls your own side during the battle then go and play another game cos it isn’t gonna change anytime soon, no matter how much you rant on about it. Whatever game you play you are always playing against the game developers and designers. If you think you are actually controlling thousands of men in a field get real! All programs have their limits.

      Bullshit. Complete and utter, horrendous bullshit from one end to the other. No-one’s expecting an AI that is as smart as a human, we’re just asking for an AI that’s not a completely broken, bugged piece of shit from start to finish, and you fucking know it.

  28. shyguy badman says:

    Oh yeah…. I really wanna play Shogun… Roll on release date….

  29. Kong says:

    If Shogun 2 AI Armies on the campaign map do not take a holiday for several years far away from their capitol while their country is being conquered by the enemy – Shogun 2 will be the first of the TW series after Medieval that I will really love to play over and over again.
    I swore an oath to not buy any TW game at full price again until they mastered the single player campaign AI.
    I can live with a stupid battle AI because I love the mayhem of TW battles.
    Smoke, drink, pretend to be King Haardraada, fall at Stamford Bridge.
    Cry havoc

  30. MadMatty says:

    Maybe baby.
    It might be clever to progrAm the AI to stay in formation and regroup, as one guy mentioned above, as i do remember it splitting up uneccesarily in all the total war games.

  31. Theory says:

    Intro video is on Steam, featuring the old guy with the sissy knife and ping-pong bat.

  32. DrGonzo says:

    Will Creative Assembly ever make a sequel to Viking? I really, really enjoyed that game. I may be the only one though to be honest.

  33. dheinecke says:

    I’m looking for something less “gamey”. Maybe if they would implement a simultaneous movement system where you give all your armies orders and then sit back and watch them maneuver with the enemies in real-time. I always thought the turn-based, one army at a time movement was incredibly hooky.

    • Jeremy says:

      Well, this is definitely not turn based… right?

    • RegisteredUser says:

      Remind me which of the TW series was NOT strategically (map mode) turn based?

    • littlewilly91 says:

      But would we all be writing on this forum as Creative Assembly bring out there 8th ‘hit people with historical spears’ game, if they hadn’t had the hook? Frozen synapse is one of the first I’ve heard of with that sort of approach, dheinecke. Maybe more strategy games will take inspiration from it. It seems like a beautiful system. Armies would intercept my invading Paris force after all, not just “ambush”, or come and fight once I’m already besieging it with like 5 guys. Always thought that.
      Won’t happen in the Total War series though, too different. And maybe there are other problems like the scale of the map and the number of things happening all at once being too much to keep track of? Could workaround those problems though. & it could be no one’s really attempted the simultaneous turn based thing with a Civ style game yet. Could always try and stir up some programmers into a mod.

  34. mbp says:

    Previous total war games had famously dodgy tutorials. It was almost impossible for a new player to complete the tutorials without breaking the script.

    Does Shogun 2 confine in this frustrating tradition?

  35. dtgreen says:

    Jim, do you think we’ll see a MTW3 based on the game engines we’ve seen in Empire, and now Shogun 2?

  36. Dreamhacker says:


  37. phenom_x8 says:

    According to Eurogamer PC gamer already gave it 92! You’re late Jim, but still gonna wait your WIT because I love RPS! :)

  38. RegisteredUser says:

    “We’re back to swords and arrows, which makes more sense to both my brain, and to the AI brain within the Total War games, than anything in Empire did.”

    I second this notion.

  39. RegisteredUser says:

    ..they could also do a lot of RPGing stuff with this era. Sucky generals after a battle lost suddenly comitting sepukku to remove themselves from the staff pool, samurai bodyguards that depending on their training and stats do better in defending your life, and, perhaps, during a diplomatic visit to an enemy’s castle help you fight your way out or enable you to secretly do a night raid and kill the local daimyo, or..

    Okay, I guess half that is there in a more abstract form. I also guess that it’s just the kind of cool asian/eastern flaire of that era that easily leads into getting carried away. Still, there is so much there in that whole honor/representative system..
    I’m curious to see how the tech / skill? tree ends up looking and working.

    • littlewilly91 says:


      Abstract form is rarely good enough! I was pretty damn good at levering in personality to my family tree and everything, but in total war battles I generally just see little 3D models and AI, not people. I’m sure there’s a way designers could leave more to the imagination. I can’t enjoy playing with toys anymore, but if they are there in the midst of a tight game I do like to pick them up occasionally and imagine them getting away from the scene of a bank robbery. If that makes any sense.