Juuust a quick one today. Recently picked up Total War: Shogun 2 from steam (half off!), and have been playing through a nice little co-op campaign with a friend of mine. But, since we haven’t actually beaten a campaign yet, I’m going to hold off on really diving into the game and instead going over with a list of first-impressions and thoughts so far. Prepare for a bizarre look at a recent game, and get ready for an abysmally bad player’s thoughts. Don’t try running, you can’t escape now. Resistance is feudal.

augh that even hurt to type.

Easy Mode:

First and foremost, I want to point out that I love easy mode in this game. I do not play any Real-Time Strategy outside the MOBA League of Legends. I don’t look up or anticipate new RTS titles. My friend does like RTS, but has only really been able to play League and Civilization 5 recently, and has professed past dislike of the Total War franchise. So, both of us are starting as newbies in this game series, and only one of us has any real experience with Real-Time Strategy. That said, easy mode in Shogun 2 really does take it easy at the beginning. You can get started knowing only the basics given by the tutorials and do decently against the A.I.

The A.I. will also steamroll you if you are not careful. Our first campaign ended in failure when we just didn’t take the game seriously, creating mass food shortages and waging war on everyone we saw. Flash forward a few turns, I somehow have better rebels enemy units than I’m even willing to train and my base is largely undefended since I was trying to recapture the one extra territory I had been holding. My friend moved her entire army to crush the rebel uprising for me… and promptly lost everything as the AI that had been waiting just outside our vision rolled in and took her capital and last province without any trouble. We knew he was there, we knew Takeda had been streamrolling the entire north of Japan, we just kept underestimating him. And it was beautiful.

Too often, ‘Easy’ just means ‘Make minimal effort and win’ in games. It hardly teaches anything and worst of all doesn’t challenge the new player it’s meant for. Early game, the Shogun 2 A.I. can be challenging if you assault before stacking up an army. It encourages you to learn, to look for tricks to help your army. I’ve seen my friend on Castle defense with 600 soldiers to an invading army of 900 plus and hold out because of positioning and strategy, denying an easy victory. That’s a good thing! Both of us went into that battle expecting her to lose, but she pulled through, and we both recall it as one of the most tense fights of the game, and a more tense moment than any I’ve had in the smattering of classic RTS games I’ve played. Easy Mode teaches you to be clever, to adapt. It doesn’t give out free wins, it makes you work for them.

We’re in our second campaign, and a war of intrigue and power-struggles are raging across Japan. And this time, our forces are competing for a spot at the top.

Historical Accuracy:

This is a dual sided one. On the one hand, a lot of work has gone in to making the game feel like war is raging in feudal Japan. The game requires taking the Capital and a few nearby providences,  but otherwise leaves the player to explore Japan and see what is around. The weakened Shogunate is still around, fighting for the capital, and the province of Ise is a place of ‘Holy Ground’ that allows players a bonus to certain units. Why is it Ise that has such a boon? Well, there is a reason for that. Even the armies you build reflect the changing of the old guard, as peasant armies grow more common instead of small but powerful Samurai armies. It feels like Feudal Japan is what I’m getting at.

But on the other hand, it feels decidedly lacking in some aspects. As far as I can tell, there are three religions you can back. Shinto-Buddhist, Buddhist, and Christianity. Shinto is never given an option to express, even though it was, and still is, the primary religion of Japan. Shinto-Buddhist reflects history perfectly, when Buddhism arrived in Japan, it spread like wild-fire, and started to infect the local religion of Shinto. A lot of people where afraid Buddhism would replace Shinto and fought hard to keep it separate. Even today there are sects of Shinto that try to keep to the ways before Buddhism was introduced. Now as some of you do know, Shinto was never replaced, it fused with Buddhism in an amazing way. Today it’ incredibly hard to tell where Shinto stops and Buddhism begins in places, but never are you given the option to back Shinto as the primary religion of your campaign.  It falls to the wayside if you push Buddhism further, and drops entirely if you take Christianity. A pity, I would have preferred more or less role-playing a hard-line traditionalist clan in the war for Japan’s future.

Utterly Screwing Over Japan’s History:

Yeah, this one kind of speaks for itself. It is amusing in a very bad way watching your clan’s namesake family being wiped out and having the clan go on. Sorry Oda, you’re out of the war. Good thing your general doesn’t mind not renaming the clan!

At least we lost that one and restarted. We’re doing better this time. Kind of.
At least our Clan family hasn’t died yet.

Yet.