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    dkirschner's Total War: Shogun 2 (PC)

    [September 16, 2012 03:52:18 AM]
    I booted up Total War: Shogun 2 yesterday afternoon to check out this deep strategy game. It has been sitting installed and dormant on this computer since the summer sometime. A bit about my large-scale strategy game history: I've never played a Total War game. When I was younger, like probably in my teens, I spent time with one of the Civilization games (maybe #2) and Age of Empires. I always liked Civilization a lot, but Age of Empires was borderline. I enjoy building cities. I enjoy making alliances and trading. I enjoy getting rich.

    RTSes are generally a good fit for me IF they are not too heavy on the military aspect. Oddly, I can do fantasy just fine. Starcraft and Dawn of War games I absolutely adore. Company of Heroes and other more militarily realistic games I just go over my head. It's all the units and the strong-against-this/weak-against-that, cover, tons of formations and abilities, gun types, ammo types, tank types, all this military jargon. I don't understand it. I don't have much interest in playing real Army. Squad-based shooters go the same way. Something about the realism and the tactics I don't like. Again, somehow I can do fantasy just fine.

    So Total War unfortunately for me falls under the 'too militaristic' side. It's set in feudal Japan in like 1545 or something when a bunch of clans were warring over supremacy. Cool idea. But there's no story. Just: become shogunate. Bad idea. I wasn't compelled by any narrative. The game does give you context-specific objectives, like if the citizens in one of your towns are becoming unruly, an objective may appear that says to garrison the city by building a couple units. And there are a shit ton of units and things to build. Each city, as far as I got, can be upgraded with 3 additional buildings, which can all be upgraded several times, plus you can upgrade roads, farms, markets, and all kinds of other stuff. All of the upgrading serves one purpose or another, bringing in more money, making this or that kind of unit have some melee resistance, and a hundred other possibilities. So I was trying to learn what was the importance of each type of unit. There are a bunch of different types of archers, spearmen, cavalry, gunmen, bomb-tossing men, siege weapons, ships, swordsman, and on and on, then special units like ninjas and monks. And they all use the Japanese names, and I just wasn't memorizing them all.

    I guess my biggest problem with the game was information overload. Right from the beginning, during the 2-hour tutorial campaign, I was just overwhelmed. The adviser ('help' NPC who explains menus and functions to you) basically talked at me the entire time. Then when I started a regular campaign map, she just started talking at me again, everything I clicked on. It was like "Here is a ton of information! Here is some more information! Here, have even more information! I hope you're remembering all this -- oh look, more information!"

    I sucked at the battles, so I was happy when I could autoresolve them all, which seems to be more or less a numbers game. In the battles, you control squads of like 100 or so units of whatever types you have on a giant battlefield. They move real slow, and you're supposed to be able to plan tactics to flank with cavalry, send your spearmen in front of your archers to protect them and stab enemy cavalry charges, bombard with catapults, etc. etc. It's neat for sure, but I just hated playing the battles.

    On the contrary, the special units were quite fun to play with. See, I always liked Civilization because I think there was less emphasis on fighting and more on culture or diplomacy or other methods of doing things (if I remember correctly). So if you build the proper building, you can recruit a ninja. Ninjas sneak around the map and you can have them attempt assassinations against enemy generals to weaken an army's morale, or have them open city gates before you charge in with your army so it's easier to take. Monks can be sent to cities to convert the population to Buddhism. I played some of one campaign before giving up in frustration. The #1 problem I had was that I discovered a European trade route, and from that point on Christianity spread though my cities like a damn plague. Since I was Buddhist and didn't want to convert, my citizens got all uppity and kept revolting. I tried to quell them with troops and new castles and pubs, and eventually tried to send monks around to bring them back to the Way, but their splinter religious rebel armies ended up sacking a bunch of my towns. I never even got off my little starting island in the campaign. Which was set on 'easy' by the way.

    Shogun 2 also has massive technology and skill trees that you start learning at the beginning of the game for your clan and for individual generals and special units as they gain rank through battle and use. That was also overwhelming. I could see trying to pick on strategy, like "I will be very strong with melee fighters and have a strong economy to back up mass production," and having that focus my play some, but this time it was just hectic. There is also a diplomacy menu where you can make alliances, declare war, trade hostages, and so on. It's a lot of stuff.

    I wish I hadn't uninstalled the game already because I would copy all my recent activity to show how much I was getting my butt kicked. It was something like this each turn by the end:
    "Citizens revolting in X City"
    "Christians feel oppressed and revolting in Y City"
    "Trade route is being attacked!"
    "Trade route is being attacked!"
    "Citizens revolting in H City"
    "The enemy has destroyed your supply lines in D City!"
    "Christian rebel forces defect to enemy army!"
    "Tagashi clan has declared war on you!"
    "Murakami clan has broken your peace treaty and declared war on you!"

    And for the record, I never lost. I QUIT!

    Seriously though, it really is a neat game especially if this kind of strategy game is your thing. It's obvious that a ton of research into historical Japan went into this, and the militaries, cultures, music, visuals, etc. are really well done. But this type of strategy game isn't my thing, and now I know to avoid the Total War series!
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    dkirschner's Total War: Shogun 2 (PC)

    Current Status: Stopped playing - Got frustrated

    GameLog started on: Saturday 15 September, 2012

    GameLog closed on: Sunday 16 September, 2012

    dkirschner's opinion and rating for this game

    Neat stuff going on, but I didn't enjoy it overall.

    Rating (out of 5):starstarstar

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