Posts Tagged ‘Shogun:-Total-War’

The Best And Worst Total War Games

At its best, the Total War series casts a spell over you. Your empire rises from nothing, surrounded by enemies who are poised to trample it into the dust. Each decision on the strategic level is a gamble on the immediate future, where “one more turn” isn’t just a stepping-stone to a new upgrade, but a perilous step onto thin ice. Each time you take to the battlefield is another do-or-die moment, a possible Hastings or Austerlitz that can open the road to conquest or plunge you into a desperate fight for survival.

But the Total War series has also been defined by massive, abrupt swings in quality. While the series has been on a linear trajectory in terms of graphics, the quality of the games underlying those vivid battlefield vistas has varied wildly. Total War at its best is interactive Kurosawa and Kubrick. At its worst, it’s a middle-school history textbook as told by Drunk History and filmed by the cast and crew of The Patriot.

So before the series (temporarily) leaves history behind for the grimdark faux-history of Warhammer fantasy, let’s put into order the times that Total War was at its best… and why sometimes its lows were so very low. We’ll save the worst for last, because if there’s one thing that every Total War fan loves, it’s an argument over which games were the biggest disappointments.

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Hat Map: Shogun 2’s Backstory Explained

Bow to the strange hat! - Never!
I can explain Shogun’s backstory, too, right. See, as in most conflicts throughout history, there are these warlords and they have a disagreement about their kind of hats that should be worn in Japan. To settle the dispute they decide to gather all their mates, dress them in the hats of choice, give them sharp, pointy sticks, and then see who wins in a big fight. Turns out the guy with the biggest hat won and ruled for 100 years, but you get to contest the actual history in the game. Something like that. I am basing my history of feudal Japan on a cursory reading of the Headgear Of Japan Wikipedia entry. For more details you can check out the official trailer, which I have embedded below.
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The Making of: Shogun: Total War

[Another postmortem from the vaults. I’ve actually got a lot of these – about twenty. For a couple of years on PC Format, I did one a month for them. The idea was simply to chat to a developer about one of their previous games for a couple of pages, in kind of a more casual, laid back version of the sort of thing Gamasutra do so well. I’ll be sticking them up here, one every Friday, until I run out. With the announcement of Empire: Total War, I thought it a good idea to start with Mike Simpson of Creative Assembly looking back at Shogun. This was a fun one – Simpson was completely self deprecating at all times, even in the face of the most ludicrous flattery.]


Shogun was an epic game that changed everything, rejuvenating the real-time strategy game at a time when it seemed that it was just going to be a tank rushing eternally down a game-design cul-de-sac. With its unique, atmospheric setting and its groundbreaking marriage of mass-scale battle scenes and high-level Risk-style strategic management, you presume that it was always destined for greatness. After all, this sort of thing couldn’t just happen without a plan. And you’d be wrong.

“It actually started when I joined the company,” reveals Creative Assembly’s Creative Director Mike Simpson, “Then there were five people, doing a sports game. A rugby game. We were looking at setting up a second team, and wanted to find something which was relatively safe and not very challenging, unsurprisingly. At that point, Command and Conquer clones had come out. Things like Kill Krush and Destroy. We looked at them and thought “These are easy to do!”. It’s fairly formulaic and you can’t really go wrong. And they’re selling bucketloads.”

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