In joy, that is. As part of my wake-up ritual, I was slogging through the Internet when I bumbled onto a piece of news so exciting it caused me to call my wife into the room. The conversation went something like this:
COURTNEY (from the bathroom): What?
JASON: Oh my God, Oh my God…come in here!
COURTNEY enters the living room with a make up brush in hand: What.
JASON: Look at this! They’re making Shogun 2: Total War and you know how I love the Total War Games and this is a sequel to the original and it’s going to be awesome look at that artwork and I need to get Windows 7 finally so I can use DirectX 11! HAHAHAWHEEEeeee!
COURTNEY: Wow. She reenters the bathroom.
I played Creative Assembly’s Medieval 2: Total War for at least 200 hours. I spent the winter of 2008 fighting crusades, being excommunicated by the Pope, and assassinating my enemies’ royalty (and yes, even the princesses). It was my perfect game: turn-based strategy with city building and politics and a host of other options combined with a separate mini-game of RTS combat free of construction or twitch gaming (more appropriately labelled as “Real Time Tactics,” or RTT). The game enveloped me like the original Civilization did before, keeping me up obscenely late and forcing its way into my thoughts while at work, driving, or at dinner.
I am also a veteran of CA’s earlier efforts like Rome: Total War and the game that launched the franchise in 2000, Shogun: Total War. They, too, were incredible games for the time and I lost many productive hours to them. Even so, I somehow missed Creative Assembly’s announcement last June: Shogun 2: Total War is coming to my PC some time next year.
But I am not a fanboy. I tried the recent Empire: Total War and didn’t particularly care for it. I don’t want rifles in my Total War Games; I want cavalry, spear, swords, trebuchets, katanas, and the like. Furthermore, the artificial intelligence was atrocious, and the game was bloated with superficially pretty but ill-implemented and shallow features like naval combat, a technology tree, and resources. I ignored the subsequent Napoleon: Total War for similar reasons.
But this…ah, I will be the Prodigal Son for you, Creative Assembly. I’m coming home.
According to PC Gamer’s preview article, Mike Simpson, creative director of CA, promises his studio will use its ten years of experience in the franchise to realize S2TW‘s potential. We’ve heard this before, of course, in relation to the decidedly mediocre ETW, but I read a few reasons to become inappropriately excited.
First, he admitted CA’s past struggles with AI had has promised to fix them. Again, we’ve heard this before, but Mr. Simpson comes across as earnest and angry with their past failures with AI . It was nauseatingly bad in ETW, both on the campaign map and during battle. At best, it made poor decisions. At its worst, it did nothing. It was worse, in fact, than its predecessor, M2TW.
As a cynic and a recovering misanthrope, I am skeptical but impossibly hopeful. Anyone who knows me at all knows that’s worth something. ETW seemed designed with ranged combat and the pretty-pretty naval warfare in mind, with everything else relegated to tertiary importance. This time around, he claims his team has made AI one of their top priorities and, most significantly, they’ve “had enough” of hearing about their flaccid computer-controlled opponents.
Second, they’re revisiting naval combat with the lessons learned from ETW. Empire‘s naval engagements were beautifully rendered but otherwise unimpressive. The clumsy interface, the lack of a navigational point of reference, and the need to endlessly micromanage each ship certainly made the battles more fun to watch than to play. It seemed as though they struggled with and never completely solved the problem of how to make it work.
Mr. Simpson promises improvements: naval terrain (shoals, shores, and the like), rowing ships that respond more like army units than the sailing vessels of ETW, and more clearly-designated roles for each unit. Ships won’t simply endlessly sail around one another on a featureless sea; they will blockade coastlines, hide behind islands, and land troops.
Third, the theme is just cool. I’d much, much rather control Japanese factions warring in the 16th century with samurai, naginata, warrior monks, and yari ashigaru than 18th century men in funny hats with primitive guns warring over trading rights. The factions in Shogun cannot fight the emperor as he is their god, but they can war against each other for the title of Shogun, protector of the land. Sexy.
There’s some other details, like the beauty of the artwork, the customization of one’s generals, and an ambitious overhaul of the multiplayer, but I think I’ve embarrassed myself enough by contributing to the much-dreaded hype machine. In short, I’m fairly convinced CA has at least tried to learn from their lamentable mistakes and choices in Empire, and I’m hopeful this game will allow me to forgive them for what they did to my franchise.
I need to change my pants, anyway.
Check out the gameplay trailer for Shogun 2: Total War at http://blogs.sega.com/europe/2010/07/29/shogun-2-gameplay-trailer-i/
Email the author of this post at firstname.lastname@example.org.
That conversation sounds a lot like me getting excited about a game and sharing with my partner.
That effin’ guy always reminded me of this effin’ guy. I’m pretty sure he was a reference for that picture.
Anyway, I remember playing the original Shogun: Total War demo aaages ago and enjoying it, but for some reason never really got into it; I think multitasking in strategy games just turns my brain to mush. Lewis played it a lot more than me and I’ve heard many people recall tales of getting totally sucked into the whole Total War series, particularly Rome: Total War.
I do agree though, feudal Japan has a certain allure that gun powder, rifles and tea cosy hats doesn’t.
When cut across the neck, a sound like wailing winter winds is heard, they say. I’d always hoped to cut someone like that someday, to hear that sound. But to have it happen to my own neck is ridiculous.
* ahem * Oh, excuse me. Nice article, Jason.
For someone who’s never ventured forth into the world of Total War, which game would you recommend as a good entry point?
Rome has a nice mix of strategy and politics without being overly complex.
Though Sakey refuses to play anything BUT Rome Total War so he can tell me how historically inaccurate it is but how he loves it anyway (he has a degree in it, I believe), he’s giving good advice.
That said, I would go with either Rome: Total War or Medieval 2: Total War. M2TW might have a few more features, but it doesn’t have the feature bloat of Empire: Total War. Both M2TW and RTW have tutorials and advisors to teach you the game. They also have complete manuals for proper reference.
M2TW is prettier by far (RTW’s soldiers all look alike, M2TW’s have different crests and other details), but it also has more stringent system requirements. They’re not ridiculous, but lower-end machines might have some issues. I bought my computer four years ago (with Sakey’s help) with some minor upgrades and it runs like butter.
Price isn’t really a factor. You can get RTW and both expansions for ten bucks on Steam, or get M2TW on Steam for $20, minus expansions. Expansions aren’t really necessary; I had a blast with M2 without them.
Subject matter: In Rome, you’re playing one of three Roman families vying for total control of the empire. In Medieval, you’re playing one of many factions for European (or Arabian) superiority, fighting crusades, and trying not to piss off the Pope too much by warring on other Catholic factions (though I always did) or assassinating members of his clergy (I MAY have done that. Maybe).
Wow–I’m just going on and on now, aren’t I? Anyway, definitely get one of them–you get 4x turn-based campaigns with city and unit building and diplomacy AND an awesome RTT combat engine. There’s no thrill quite like seeing your cavalry charge into an line of archers and sending bodies flying or watching trebuchets obliterate enemy fortifications.
Damn you Dobry. Damn you. Your passion is infectious and now I want one of them. Are you aware how many games I’ve got to play already and how little time I have?
Seriously though, I may very well have to check one of these out. Just one though. Harumph.
Well, Greg, these games are deep. Damn deep. As with any “4x” game, it’s not really possible to “get into” them if you only play in one hour sittings. Once you start having fun, though…well, I didn’t play anything but Medieval for an entire winter, and I only played two campaigns.
Any good strategy game takes a fair while to get into simply because the mechanics take time to understand and fully appreciate. My biggest problem with any RTS (or RTT) is handling so many things at once. My brother is great at it, but me? Unless the interface is really tight and units have some sort of logical autonomy I find it very difficult to assess and take control of a situation.
I played Age of Mythology for er, ages, and finished it on quite a high difficulty setting but when I asked Lewis if he fancied a few quick skirmishes on it he chose the fastest race (the Egyptians) and totally annihilated me each and every time. I couldn’t keep up with him and I was seething. That was when I realised that maybe I should stick to TBS against other players!
I agree with you about preferring slower paced TBS games over the frenetic pace of most RTSs. Or rather, I don’t mind the pace, but I want to focus either on combat or on base building, not both and not at the same time.
RTSs usually only feature very simple combat mechancis, which is why World in Conflict (RTT, not RTS) was so very, very fine. I didn’t need to micromanage resources or building anything–reinforcements were simply called in and slowly replenished. In combat, the facing of tanks mattered (better armor in front) and infantry used cover. Oh, and you could blow the crap out of most buildings.
The Total War series caters to both the TB junkie and the real-time tactical junkie in me. The campaign map is entire turn-based, filled with choices, and moves at your own pace. The combat is just that-combat-with no need to worry being out-built or out-harvested. Sure, you’ll need to worry about terrain, flanking, morale, ammo, and a host of other things, but it makes for a deep and rewarding combat experience. It’s ONLY combat and position, and you can even pause the action (in single player) and refresh yourself on unit statistics.
Before every battle, I need to ask a host of questions: what are my best units? Do I put them in the center or on a flank? Does my enemy have cavalry? Am I prepared to counter that cavalry with spear or cavalry of my own? Do they have artillery? Which side is better trained? Which units are most likely to rout? How do I get them to rout? Do they have archers? Which formation should I use…?
It might sound daunting, but given that you have all the time in the world before beginning each engagement to place your units, it’s amazing. There’s simply no way to even consider these things in the RTSs I’ve played, and they usually don’t matter anyway.
That said, Relic’s Company of Heroes did a reasonable job of incorporating some elements of RTTs, though I didn’t finish the game because I did, in fact, grow tired of the base management and even the simplified resource collection.
It really sounds worth checking out. Just like GalCiv and Sins of a Solar Empire did! And I’ve played maybe a combined 3 hours of those games.
Strategy is such a juicy genre but requires so much devotion. Devotion that I lack by 7 in the evening after a day in the office.
Total War sounds like my sort of strategy game Jason. TBS and RTT? And pausable? Excellent. I’ll have to see how my time expenditure goes because like xtal, I do own a fair few strategy games already but I’ll be damned if I can find the time to commit to them! It’s depressing really.