Published on February 2nd, 2011 | by Richard Motokovsky0
Shogun 2: Total War Preview
The last time we checked in on Shogun 2, we talked exclusively about the campaign map which transforms the traditionally dreary UI into an atmospheric landscape much more fitting for an aspiring Japanese ruler. Seeing as that revelation was only two months ago, we expected our latest visit to Creative Assembly to be a more predictable affair with the same tried and tested battle formula which has won the hearts of RTS gamers many times before, but it seems as though this sequel seeks to revolutionize the game in all areas especially one consistently neglected component: multiplayer.
Total War has always been a very fragmented experience, with some only playing on their own, and others thrusting themselves fully into competitive online combat. Shogun 2 is set to change all that with a dedicated online hub, league structure and tweaked game modes. Before entering into the online realm, players must create a General which has his own skill tree, customizable armor and elite bodyguard regiment. This unit has its own skill-tree and can be guarded down four different skill paths – physical, bow, close combat and leadership. Choosing from these 27 traits will determine not only tactics, but also your online persona’s descriptor which betrays tactics from your previous 30 matches, as well as titles concerning your behaviors. For instance, disconnect during battle multiple times and you’ll earn the ‘Dishonorable Coward’ accolade in your traits column.
This creation aspect feeds directly into the flat 2D-based multiplayer hub, which offers persistent battle rewards. If you initiate a battle for one of the regions and win, you’ll own that particular portion of the map and a special piece of kit to outfit your General with. These hubs will be populated by 30 other players, matched on your skill level, and should result in region ownership constantly changing. Clans will also be facilitated in this area and leaders will be able to order their brethren around, instructing which area to invade next and reward those obeying with Clan Tokens, which can be used to unlock kit or respected Generals.
When it came to the gameplay, battles were even more atmospheric than before with an improved UI which communicates the strength of units, and visuals that encapsulate the period perfectly. There are plenty of tweaks, and all-new units such as explosive packing archers, but the excellent Total War formula is still in abundance.
All this additional functionality flanks a lengthy campaign mode – now facilitating two player co-ops with Generals able fight battles together – offering limitless hours of play.
The strategy genre and online competition are natural bedfellows as StarCraft has proven, and it’ll be interesting to see if Total War can emulate that title’s multiplayer success. With a system as well thought out as this and a battle system which is even more unpredictable than before, we have extremely high hopes.