Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Review - Total War: Shogun 2

Total War: Shogun 2 (PC)

Gameplay: 23/25
Art: 18/25
Story: 18/25
Ho. Value: 23/25
Overall Score: 82/100

Shogun 2 is the sixth title of the Total War franchise. It has been published in March of 2011 and it features a return of the setting that started the series: the civil wars of feudal japan during the 16th century. I am a big fan of the franchise since Rome: Total War and bought the game at release. But unfortunately I never had the time or will to play Shogun 2 until recently. Maybe I was just burned by the utter failure called Empire: Total War or maybe I wasn't in the right mood for a strategy game. Ultimately, I don't know: I'm just glad I gave Shogun 2 a try since it's the best title in the series. A true return to form for the guys at Creative Assembly.

Gameplay: TW:S2's gameplay is not revolutionary. If you ever played a title in the franchise, you already know the drill. Turn based strategy, real time tactics, factions, units, economy and a never ending series of merciless land grabs. Creative Assemby hasn't done anything new with Shogun 2: there are little changes and add-ons, but the nature of the experience is almost intact. Most of the work has been put in to polish and as a result the game show his true potential. Everything work as intended, game balance has improoved substantially and the stupid and passive AI of the previous titles has been replaced with a smarter and aggressive one. The new AI is a masterpiece and you have to play the game on hard with Oda or Tokugawa to get what I mean. It's like seeing Homer Simpson turning into Albert Einstein. 

So, if the gameplay is that good, why I'm not giving the game a perfect score? Well economy is a little bit stale and there is only one and true winning strategy which is conquering trade nodes. Agents are overpowered. The real time part of the game could use somme innovation in order to became more intuitive and friendly: there were times when I felt like I was fighting the control scheme and not the enemy AI and that's especially true when you have supporting armies in the field (it will happen a lot in the mid-late game). Sea battles and sieges are still a chore (I always used auto-resolve in those instances). Diplomacy is not consistent and feels too limited in term of options. The late game is not as enjoyable as its early-mid counterpart. Don't get me wrong: the gameplay is as good as it can be. It just needs some innovation and tweaks here and there to reach perfection.

Art: It's hard to judge the art of a strategy game since it's not a relevant asset. And it pains me to see the overall score I've given to the game dumbed down because of it. Still, games are a visual media and Creative Assembly have still a lot of room for improvements on that field. I mean, there are no excuses for the quality of the ingame trailers and videos. I'm not talking of graphics: I mean lack of style and artistry. I would have liked better some cartoon in the vein of japanese 16th century's art than those boring and pointless 3D videos. Such an immersion breaker... For the rest, the game looks quite good (especially the turn based map) and there is a lot of attention to the little details. The view of your army deployed in the battle field is breath taking at times.

Story: Before you start to complain: I know that strategy games do not use traditional storytelling. Still, every game worth playing have to tell some kind of story, otherwise it turns into a dry exercise in min-maxing and number crunching. Strategy game does not mix well with story-driven narratives but they are great to experience some kind of emergent storytelling. So, what's the deal with Shogun 2? TW:S2 recount the rise to power of a sengoku jidai era's japanese clan, from humble and precarious origins to the Shogun's seat itself. It's a wonderful story of friendship, betrayal and revenge. Does the game do a good job at storytelling? It's not perfect but it's the best game to date in the series under that aspect. There is a rhythm to your journey in feudal japan and the RPG elements introduced in the character department with levelling and personality traits are a great addition to the series. Sadly, it all comes down to nothing the moment you occupy the shogunate. The late game looses momentum and the whole experience became flat and even a little boring at times. It's a shame that Creative Assembly could not put anything together to keep the experience as lively as it is during the early and mid game. 

Ho. Value: TW:S2 is a well designed game. Every feature helps the other in a positive loop. I think that the only gameplay feature that needs a serious overhaul in holistic sense is the technology tree. In the early game the tech tree fits the strategic and historical feel of the game really well, but down the line it became less interesting and not poignant, which sadly is a tendency of the whole game experience. 

Final Words: If you are a Total War's fan then you'd probably already own the game. If you like strategic games or if you're open minded and would like to give the genre a try, you won't find a better game than TW:S2. Just go and get it.

0 commenti:

Post a Comment