Shogun: Total War

  • Developer: Creative Assembly Ltd.
  • Genre: Strategy/Wargame
  • Originally on: Windows (2000)
  • Works on: PC, Windows
  • Editor Rating:
    Shogun: Total War Rating
  • User Rating: 8.0/10 - 2 votes
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Game Overview

An epic real-time wargame, Shogun: Total War is based on the period of Japanese history known as Sengoku Jidai, which loosely translates as 'Age of the Country at War'.

During this time, rival factions led by feudal warlords, known as Daimyo, battled for military supremacy. Ultimately, one Daimyo united the country beneath his sword and became Shogun, aka The Daddy. The game operates on two separate but seamlessly integrated levels. The strategic level features economics, politics, military development and tactical deployment of forces. When two armies meet, the perspective cuts to the real-time 3D battlefield, where players will view everything from the eyes of a scout, general or samurai, controlling as many as 5,000 individual warriors in battle. There will also be the option to play a quick, mission-based game, as well as a wide range of networked multiplayer options.

The history of PC strategy gaming is littered with milestones, some towering monoliths, others simply unobtrusive waypoints. Some games have refined existing ideas to perfection and buffed them to a shine. Others have broken the mould completely and delivered something totally new and refreshing. But, up until now, very few have managed to do the double: be both original and sophisticated. Usually, whether it's the 3D camera, or a lack of imagination, something gets messed up along the way. With real-time strategy games especially, innovative games have become something of a dying breed - innovative games that work well even more so. You could probably trace a line from Command & Conquer to Age of Empires II, and for all the latter's finely-tuned balance of play and thousand-year history, there is not one major aspect of gameplay that hasn't been done before. Basically, it all comes down to vision, or more specifically a lack of it. Shogun: Total War, you will be pleased to know, lacks none.

For sure, if you've bought every strategy game known to man, you'll recognise a huge cut-and-paste job from games gone past; specifically great clods of Warhammer: Dark Omen, the board game set-up of War Of The Worlds and more recently Theocracy, but nowhere else has each element been dragged and dropped so simply and effectively, and with such dramatic results.

Whether you have followed developments on the game from the beginning, dabbled with the demo that was on last month's cover disc, or just happen to be flicking through the mag and been dazzled by the pretty pictures, what you can't fail to have noticed is the sense of scale that Shogun succeeds in recreating on-screen. Unlike any other real-time strategy game, Shogun has managed to cram thousands of tiny soldiers on screen, all at the same time, and push them across beautiful rolling 3D terrain.

For me, not since the likes of Lords Of Midnight on the humble Spectrum has a strategy game made me feel like the general of a massed army, perched on top of a hill, waiting in the buffeting wind for the ranks of enemy troops to come marching through the mist in the valley below.

Love Is A Battlefield

Whether you choose to engage in one of the preset historical battles, customise a single or multiplayer battle of your own where you set up each of your armies, or run headfirst into the full single-player campaign game, the first aspect you have to come to grips with is that for each 30 battle, there is an attacker and a defender and each player must place their forces before the battle kicks off. As the attacker, you'll have the option to wait, depending on the weather forecast for the day ahead: snow will slow down your troops, heavy rain will piss them off and render hand-cannons useless, wind will blow your arrows off course and fog could cause all sorts of obvious problems. For the defender, choosing what weather to defend in is obviously not an option. However, being more familiar with the territory in dispute means you can place your armies pretty much wherever you like in order to take advantage of terrain and cover.

As soon as the battle starts, from the point until the enemy force is spotted by your forward units until they engage in hand-to-hand combat, each moment is spent shuffling the units of warriors around in one epic round of paper, scissors, stone. Archers and musketeers need a clear field of view, preferably on high ground, out of the way of warrior monks and cavalry. Spearmen need to be in a position to hold cavalry at bay and slow-moving attacking units need to be able to engage the enemy without being felled in a hail of bullets and arrows. Moving your units is a ridiculously simple affair, thanks to the fact that each unit is moved en masse as a troop of up to 120 men.

Using either the right mouse button or a few keyboard shortcuts, you can switch formations, depending on the unit type or whether they are set to attack or defend. To make full use of ranged units they must be strung along a wide front, no more than two ranks deep, either close in, or loose, if you expect to come under missile attack. Samurai or monks, on the other hand, are more effective in a deeper formation, or in a wedge to drive a hole in the enemy front line. The way your units face is also important: archers firing on a unit of spearmen can easily be routed if outflanked. It's a tricky job to keep all your units in the right place, especially in tight areas where troops can become bogged down by terrain or mixed up if moving through each other, but the effort yields results, even if it means the wholesale slaughter of your troops, as the battles look simply stunning.

In terms of Al, Shogun is immediately distinct. For example, there you are, your forces centred in a valley with trees on either side draped across the slopes. You would expect, if you have at least an ounce of tactical savoir-faire, that the defenders would have someone hiding in the bushes, and sure enough (though not always), they'll appear to outflank your attack unless you are well prepared. Another example of good design is if you have numerical advantage and you've successfully made use of the terrain by outflanking your enemy on higher ground, they'll retreat and let you take the territory. They may have killed dozens of your samurai by raining arrows on them, but get too I close with the right troops and their leader will know that I getting stuck in is the wrong M thing to do. These leaders W have read all the right books - specifically Sun Tzu's The Art Of War. Coded into their virtual brains are hundreds of the man's teachings and they'll know that it's better to live to fight another day if they have a better chance of winning.

Turning Japanese

But there's more to Shogun than point-and-click real-time strategy. Just as important if you want to get ahead in the campaign game, is the Risk-style, simultaneous turn-based sequence that frames each 30 battle.

Set in 16th Century feudal Japan, the map which you must eventually seek to control is split into 60 regions. Your aim, as the warlord - or daimyo - of one of seven clans, is to become the Shogun by controlling each territory on the map. This isn't just a simple case of moving your armies from territory to territory either, with the game switching to a 3D tactical view whenever you come across the opposition. The strategic side is almost a game unto itself, reminiscent of the now hard-to-come-by Shogun board game. How you split up your armies, employ spies, diplomats and assassins is central to success. Then there is the simple resource management side of the game, where each region yields a yearly crop and depending on how hard you tax your subjects, brings in revenue for you to maintain and expand your armies.

Another important aspect that comes into play is how loyal each region is to their leader. The longer a region stays under your control, the higher the loyalty rating. Anything above 100 per cent and you're safe. Invest in the region or post an army there and the peasants love you even more. Let your loyalty rating slip however, perhaps by raising taxes too high, and you could have a rebellion on your hands that may spread into neighbouring territories.

Starting off in 1530, each year is split into four turns, or seasons, during which you can move armies and other strategic units (ninjas, spies, etc), recruit troops or build the structures that allow you access to more experienced and better equipped armies. While each region provides a certain amount of koku (the unit of currency used at the time, one koku being the amount of rice needed to feed a man for a year), some 'special' regions allow you to build mines to bring in more money, or ports to bring in a trade income in coastal areas. Highland regions, as you would expect, are poor earners, but easier to defend. Inland plains are the most fertile and more difficult to keep hold of if you're attacked in great numbers. If a river runs through the region there are even more strategies to consider. Then there are castles to worry about...

Do Jo Rising

Castles aren't just defensive fortifications, but act as a base from which you can expand the production of your units. Able to garrison just four armies, the first type of castle you build is essentially just a basic stockade, but from that you are able to build your first level dojo, or training centre. A spear dojo allows you to create yari ashigaru (peasants with sharp sticks) and yari samurai (trained warriors with spears), both of these are cheap to produce. More effective, and for which you'll need to build an archery dojo, are light samurai; trained archers with limited ammunition that on high ground can effect a retreat of poorly defended troops before they even get near you. Before too long though, you'll need to expand your castle so you can recruit cavalry, monks and, once Westerners arrive with their Christian ideas and guns, musketeers. If you've settled in one of the many special regions, you'll also be able to erect buildings that create improved weapons or superior armour, specific only to troops recruited in that region. For example, one region in particular, produces exceptional cavalry. Another, Taga, is the source of Japan's most ifearsome warrior monks. Such regions are y obviously important m to hold on to.

As well as providing a base from which you can recruit massed units, castles are necessary for you to train specialists that, although not used in the 3D battles, can affect the outcome them beforehand. One such unit is the ninja - the most experienced of which can easily eliminate an enemy general and leave his army confused for the next turn. Emissaries on the other hand are required if you want to strike up an alliance with one of the other leaders. Shinobi are effective when it comes to spying on enemy territory, they're able to tell you enemy troop strengths before you move in to attack. If you manage to build the required buildings later on in the games, you can train geishas, masterful in the arts of diplomacy, spying and assassination and pretty much safe from harm from all but the most well-trained ninja.

Yes, Your Honour

Experience - or in Shoguits case, honour - will play a large part in the game. Ninjas who manage to assassinate a number of low-ranking generals have a greater chance of taking out higherranking ones later on. On the battlefield, units that kill ever-increasing numbers of the enemy also increase in skill, eventually to the point where they reach legendary status and you can build 'Master' and 'Lengendary' dojos, which can churn out higher quality troops. Generals also gain honour by defending or capturing territory, which in turn affects the troops under them in the battles to come. Even the daimyo himself will earn honour from the success of his generals and, if put on the battlefield, can have a massive effect on the troops around him. Lose him to a stray arrow, however, and not only could your game be over, but there's a good chance that your entire army will run from the field of battle. It goes without saying that high-honour generals are way up there on an enemy ninja's contract list.

Die Katana

So far then, you should know that Shogun is pretty much alone in what it does as a strategy game. Closest to it in terms of scope would probably be Braveheart, last year's freeform 3D real-timer from Red Lemon Studios. In that, the aim was much like it is in Shogun, except whereas in Braveheart the only real way of winning was to unite waning factions, Shogun is won when you decimate them. Bravehearfs major problem was that it tried to do too much - had too many good ideas, and consequently all of them appeared watered down and rushed along, as if the developer had gone too far to turn back. With Shogun, there are no such problems, the strategic section of the game is streamlined and simple, the tactical 3D just as much so and together you have a game that is both easy to learn and hard to master, which is just how a good game should be.

What Brave heart did have that Shogun doesn't, is 3D polygon-based units, day and night time battles and traditional castle sieges. Shogun doesn't have these features because if it had 3D soldiers running around, you would only be able to get a couple of hundred on the screen rather than thousands. Consequently, each man is a scaleable bitmap, reduced down to the point that you can easily distinguish between your armies. You may not be able to see heads being severed, or arrows piercing eye sockets, but what you get to see are the most epic battles ever seen on a PC, with hundreds and thousands of samurai, archers, cavalry and spearmen, wheeling around, charging and routing in every corner of the screen.

Of course, night battles would have added an intriguing twist to the game, so too would cannon fire that reduced castle walls to rubble, but as Europeans we forget that cannons never really took off in Japan as they did here.

If there was anything bad to say about Shogun, it would be that next to less realistic games such as Age Of Empires, some may find the lack of depth in its range of units a bit lame, to which we say, go back to playing Total Annihilation. Graphically, the bitmap soldiers can look rough and the textures on the maps sometimes have that painted on look. Howevr berating Shogun for its graphics is like slating Half-Life for using the old Quake engine. Shogun, as you should have gathered by now, is not about fancy 3D graphics. As hinted at in the title, it is about total war-a subject that it covers wit consummate ease.

You may be wondering ^ whether, as a disillusioned realtime strategy fan, stung by the likes of Tiberian Sun, Shogun will appeal to you. The answer is that it most definitely will. If you like turn-based games, you'll find more than enough to ponder over. Even people who have an inherent loathing for strategy games will enjoy Shogun because its rules are just so damned simple. You don't have to wade through a manual to find out how much damage your archers will do to a castle because they won't do any. They may have made a few tweaks for the sake of gameplay, but the developers have made one of the most authentic strategy games you could ever hope to play - a game as much for military historians as it is for Quake fans.

If you want realism, historical accuracy, atmosphere and replayability, Shogun stands head and shoulders above everything else. It also breathes new life into a stale genre. Like Championship Managers to football, and Half-Life is to first-person action, so Shogun is to real-time strategy. The fact that it slaps traditional wargaming across the face by being totally absorbing, realistic and fun is simply a bonus.

King Of The Castle

Although the 3D combat section of the game can be skipped in the campaign game, with the battles worked out purely on numbers, to miss them would be a heinous crime. As well as the open battles, with up to 16,000 troops running around the map, if a territory has a castle, you can lay siege to it.

To get to the castle however, you first have to defeat the defending army, who, if they know what's good for them, will retreat to the safety of its walls when overwhelmed. At this point, the territory becomes in dispute, with neither side able to earn any income from it Then you can either lay siege to it, which depending on its size, will hold out for up to four seasons (one year), or you can attempt to capture It directly. More often than not, laying siege is a simple case of waiting until the occupants try to break out before disease and lack of food kill them off completely.

Although significantly different from the open-field battles, castle attacks are simply a case of attacking in numbers. The defenders have both the advantage of cover and height, able to reign down masses of arrows into the ranks of troops moving slowly uphill, and because there is no way to destroy walls, the only way into the castle is through the front gate. Ail the defender has to do is keep the entrance covered, hopefully holding out until he can liberate the compound next season.

Strategy Guide

The combination of tum-based strategy on a Risk-style map and the real-time tactics in massive battles make Shogun: Total War a really challenging and rewarding experience. On the following pages we show you some tips and neat little tricks on how to succeed at both, as well as detailing the best troops tor your battles.

The Turn-Based Strategy Imap

Alliances are essential at certain points in the game. You're never going to get anywhere if your territory is surrounded by enemies, so you need to get some of them on your side. This also makes it easier to wear down the stronger regions by presenting a united front. Don't try to expand in every possible direction: your resources will be sucked dry and your army decimated before you' know it. Remember, that even though honour is a central to the life of medieval Japan there are some clans that can't be trusted, especially the Takeda clan. If you're forced into an alliance with them due to circumstances beyond your control make sure you keep an eye on them at all times. And keep in mind that you're expected to act honourably, or you'll suffer the consequences.

The honour of your generals plays a vital role in successful battles. Always place the ones with the highest honour at the head of your troops as they transmit a bonus to all your soldiers. Because they are so valuable, make sure you protect them at all costs. Conversely, taking out your opponents' generals with high honour can often make a serious dent in the morale of their troops.

Concentrate your energies on conquering the territories whose characteristics will aid your campaign. So, for example, if you're short of cash, try and get hold of a wealthy region, such as Musashi. If you're not having much luck with your ninjas try and get hold of Iga, where the finest stealthy assassins are trained.

The ninja bonus is not the only one. Many regions have training bonuses specific to the clans that control them. Which clan you decide to play with will largely dictate the kind of game you'll play and the kind of troops you'll use. But don't go training mad, your resources will be needed elsewhere.

If your regions have access to the sea or rivers always build ports. These allow you to move your troops more quickly from one territory to another. They also have the added advantage of boosting your trade.

Try to balance how you spend your resources both internally and externally. It's no use having the greatest army in the world if you haven't got some shinobis to protect your generals.

Be clever in your tax settings, you don't want to provoke a revolution by sucking your own people dry. Set the taxes to normal for a few years and drop them as you expand and become richer.

When one of your samurais has proven himself repeatedly in battle and reaches a high level of honour you get the chance to build a Sword Dojo (providing you already have a large castle). Build the Dojo immediately - it enables you to create No-Dachi units.

The Real-Time Battles

Before the battle starts be sure to study the map closely, zooming around the hills and beyond valleys to get a clear picture of the advantages and disadvantages of different approaches. This way you can also familiarise yourself with all the enemy units and their positions. Remember that you can pause the game at any time and still issue commands, so there's no excuse for not thinking things through before acting.

It's absolutely essential to have the right balance of units in your army. You need gunners and archers so you can position them at a distance (ideally on high ground), cavalry units to trample down enemy archers and spearmen to hold strong defensive positions. So don't send thousands of mad monks or samurais on their own or they'll get slaughtered in no time.

Forests make a perfect cover for ambushes. Position a heavy number of troops in the woods and send a small unit to attract the enemy. When they go past you can rush them unexpectedly. Forests also provide great cover from arrows and their cavalry won't be able to follow you in.

Don't let the enemy get away when they've capitulated and you've won the battle. The best thing is to be completely ruthless and wipe out even the smallest dregs of their army. If you don't, they will regroup and join the rest of their forces ready for their next attack. The best way to do this is to use your cavalry. They are by far the fastest and easily cut down soldiers who are running away from you.

One of the best ways to break down the enemy troops' morale (and thus have them scattering away in surrender) is to find their general and mow him down. You can recognise him by the special standard he carries round, as opposed to the army's flag.

As you can imagine, the formation you keep your units in is all-important. If you want to break down a strong defensive barrier choose the wedge formations, but keep in mind that you'll suffer heavy casualties. If, on the other hand, you're defending, the obvious choices are the close formations, which keep all your troops tightly knit but don't allow you much scope for attack.

Another basic but powerful tactic is to use the weather to your advantage. Choose a rainy day for battle if you want to neutralise the enemy guns, as the gunpowder gets dampened, and a snowy day if you particularly fear their cavalry, as they are slowed down a lot.

Sun Tzu's Art Of War

Written more than 2,000 years ago, Art Of War is a fascinating book on the theory of war that laid down the basics of military strategy as well as the more complex tactics of Japanese warfare. Shogun developer Creative Assembly clearly had a good read of this tome while creating the game and recommends all players to do the same. Here are few choice extracts, losing the haiku structure for lack of space.

When deploying troops and observing the enemy you should take into account the following points: when we can't defeat the enemy we should always take up a defensive disposition.When we can defeat the enemy we should engage battle. One takes up a defensive position because one lacks the strength necessary for victory. One engages in battle because one has more than enough strength to do so.

An army that's adept at defending doesn't let the enemy gain even the smallest insight as to its actual situation (as if it were hidden underground). An army adept at attacking strikes as if it were descending from the heavens (not giving the enemy an opportunity to defend). A general who can do this can defend without worry of loss and can attack with the assurance of victory.

When crossing mountains quickly, follow the valley floors. When stationing troops, look for high ground. Look for places suitable to attack as well as defend. If the enemy is first to gain the high ground do not commence a frontal attack. These are the rules of combat in mountainous areas.

When crossing mountains quickly, follow the valley floors. When stationing troops, look for high ground. Look for places suitable to attack as well as defend. If the enemy is first to gain the high ground do not commence a frontal attack. These are the rules of combat in mountainous areas.

When fording a river, cross quickly and distance yourself from it, lest the enemy take advantage of the situation. If the enemy crosses a river in the course of their attack, do not go to the water to engage them. Wait until they are halfway across and half on the water and then engage them. If anticipating engagement with the enemy do not engage from a riverbank. Rather, ready your forces on high ground facing the water. Even more important, do not take up a position downriver from the enemy.

When waging war on a plain, deploy your troops on level ground. Have your back or right flank toward high ground. You want the high ground behind you and the low before you.

When the enemy is near but calm, he is depending on the hazards of the terrain. When the enemy charges while still far away, he Is enticing me to advance. When the enemy takes up a position on open level ground, there is surely some benefit for him there.

The shaking of trees indicates that the enemy is advancing. Many birds taking wing indicate that the enemy is lying hidden in ambush.

Whether you want to attack a certain place, lay siege to a city or assassinate an enemy general, you must first have a spy find out the name and the character of the commander in charge.

Make the enemy focus on domestic affairs by inciting internal dissent.

According to the principles and tactics of warfare, do not expect the enemy not to come. Instead, be in complete military readiness. Do not expect the enemy not to attack. Instead, assure yourself that the enemy would not be successful in the event of an attack.

Shogun: Total Wans one of the best games we've ever played. Yet, for all its glory upon release, it was always haunted by poor performances in its online multiplayer side. Months after it blazed a trail across the gaming world, we took the opportunity to revisit Shogun and try out the latest patch (1.12) to see what had changed.

First impressions were favourable - the atrocious chat and games screens are now improved with the ability to sort games and players. But, despite this, they're still cramped into an obscenely small area of the screen mainly taken up by superfluous background graphics. The end result is still a cramped window, but now with more going on in it. After finally finding someone willing to stop throwing around accusations of cheating for their League position and play a game, we progressed smoothly and quickly through the selection screens and into the load sequence - again all nice and smooth. Once in the game, however, things deteriorated badly. To say that the game was fast, would be as accurate as saying that the Dome was a great financial success.

In three games with different players, albeit with a latency of 250-250ms, we found ourselves competing against an enemy that literally moved like lightning. By the time we'd selected a unit and formation, a veritable horde was in among our ranks slaughtering us wholesale.

It would have been a glorious sight even then, except that the my 'lowly' Voodoo 3 was only putting out about one frame-per-second at this point and I simply missed most of the action. There was some smoke; a lot of people running away and the game was over. Fantastic. Shogun has always behaved like a pig on a hot summer's day in its online format - and, despite the best efforts of EA and developers Creative Assembly, they just can't seem to improve the performance to a good enough standard. Perhaps that is why there are so many empty chat rooms and so few players.

As to the leagues, well, accusations of cheating are still rife and bugs and multiplayer cheats are apparently rampant. For us this isn't really a concern, as the game is not worth playing in its current state in any case. A bit harsh? Maybe, but unless you've got ADSL and a ninja PC don't bother competing.

But don't let that put you off buying it, as a singleplayer game Shogun is one of this year's best.

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System Requirements

Processor: PC compatible, SystemP-100

OS: Win9xWindows 9x, Windows 2000 WinXPWindows XP, Vista, Win 7, Win 8, Win 10.

Game Features:Shogun: Total War supports single modeSingle game mode

Shogun: Total War Screenshots

Windows Screenshots

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