Previews// Shogun 2: Fall of the Samurai

Posted 5 Feb 2012 17:36 by
Can a strategy series that focuses on ancient and historical wars get too close to modern events? Total War has always been consistent in its refined gameplay and accurate simulation of battles that took place many centuries ago, but with Fall of the Samurai, the upcoming standalone expansion pack for Shogun 2, Creative Assembly is inches away from flirting with modern warfare.

The brand new campaign is set in 1860s Japan and centres on the Boshin War. It?s the latest war period that Total War has ever covered, focusing on the collapse of the country?s feudal regime as the Shogun and Emperor butt heads over the future of their homeland. A civil war breaks out as a result of Western influences and the concerns surrounding Japan?s modernisation.

On paper, it might seem that Creative Assembly has run out of ideas for wars to simulate, but when playing the expansion pack the exact opposite is true. There?s something incredibly fascinating about experiencing the precise events that lead to a country?s cultural and technological transformation.

The campaign kicks off as tensions begin to flare up between two major factions - the industry-embracing Imperials and the feudal-faithful Shogunates - with you issuing commands as the ruler of a lowly district in the far corner of Japan. At this point, your soldiers are still playing by the feudal rulebook, but as you progress and take advantage of Foreign Agents, you can train your troops in the use of modern weapons, and your tactics begin to transform too.

As time goes on, the result of the Western influences from countries like the US, France and Britain will allow new mass-produced weapons to come into play, with an emphasis on automatic artillery rather than swords. While you can still create Samurai dojos and train troops in the feudal manner, their usefulness and roles will become diminished as you tackle opponents who have embraced change at a quicker pace.

To help you in your quest for peace-through-warfare, you can employ battle tactics that focus on sabotage and circumvention instead of direct conflict. Establishing trade connections will benefit your artillery and allow you to gain the upper hand over other districts, while ship combat is much more explosive and can be a means to bombard production lines and ports within enemy territory. Railways and trains feature for the first time in a Total War game too, and these can be controlled to strangle your enemy?s industrial trade supply.

There are 40 units in Fall of the Samurai, ranging from spear squads to riflemen and horseback warriors. Combat difficulty has been increase to provide a challenge, but also to be historically accurate - if you charged a number of sword-wielding warriors in front of a gatling gun, you?re going to get stuck fast. The gatling gun, as it happens, doesn?t really appear until the end of the campaign, but it?s a powerful bit of kit and truly has a hard-hitting impact on your experience of the world around you.

Adding to this is the new first person mode, which Creative Assembly has said is more of a novelty rather than a forced feature. Pressing the ?H? key can give you a direct viewpoint of particular units, which by the time you face the gatling gun means you can have your own bespoke version of The Last Samurai?s final sequence running on your PC monitor. I wasn?t told if there would be any cherry blossoms in the battlefield though.

Creative Assembly has also been hard at work on general improvements to the core mechanics, in terms of graphical enhancements and battle features. You can now have 40 versus 40 battles, with the option of letting the computer AI handle some of the troops so you?re not constantly having to micromanage. To co-ordinate nicely with this, there?s better AI pathfinding and decision making during combat too.

While many standalone expansion packs don?t really try to veer too far away from the core game?s sources, Fall of the Samurai is just bold enough to offer a completely remixed battling experience, but all within the confines and realms of history and its Shogun roots. And it?s packed with content to boot - making this a meaty add-on that could definitely satisfy die-hard Total War fans.

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