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Monday, October 30, 2006

Masters of the Past : Shogun : Total War

Chris enters the room.

"It's back, it's back!"
"What's back?"
"It's back!"

Chris exits the room.

This recent confusion was sparked off by a shared, long-treasured memory of Shogun : Total War, awakened once more by PC Gamer's demo of the upcoming Medieval 2 : Total War. My confusion rapidly dissipated, to be replaced with astonished delight, upon discovering what much loved and oft-mourned feature from Shogun returns to the Total War series on November 10th. I think you will know of what delight I speak, but I'll leave the unsure to keep guessing because it's more fun that way.

Shogun : Total War remains a masterful example of game design. Uncomplicated by the additional challenges posed by its younger siblings, Shogun casts Feudal Japan as the context for refined battlefield tactics and meaningful economic decision making. The game operates on two stylistically separate but intrinsically linked layers; the first of which is the Strategic Map, (where armies are produced and moved between provinces, and all Japan can be seen) with the other being the Battle Map (in which your forces engage an enemy). Both are enthralling, simple to use and difficult to master. Pumping out troops and charging head-on at the bad men will get you killed, fast.

The lessons of Sun Tsu are at the heart of Shogun's ethos. Patience and a shrewd cunning will bring your faction closer to victory than strength of numbers or a fortress-full of cash. Will you invade and annex a fertile but poorly defended province this year, or bolster your army with Warrior Monks (the sight of whom can often cause your opponent's Buddhist units to scarper) and wait until the enemy leader leaves himself vulnerable? Of cause, killing the enemy without incurring a single loss is always fun, and developers The Creative Assembly know this, which is why they included assasins and the Geishas (they are to die for).

Graphically dated, but able to hold its own against modern games; you can grab Shogun along with Medieval and Rome, plus all of their expansion packs including Alexander for a very reasonable 33 pound right here.

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