Shogun: Total War

aka: Shogun, Taisho: Total War
Moby ID: 1692

Critic Reviews add missing review

Average score: 84% (based on 29 ratings)

Player Reviews

Average score: 3.9 out of 5 (based on 43 ratings with 7 reviews)

The definitive game of samurai warfare...or tactical medieval warfare in general.

The Good
I feel the need to warn any reader of this review. This tactical/strategy game does its best to capture the feel of the Sengoku period of Japan, in particular, its battles. Had it a deeper diplomatic and role-playing aspect, I would be banned from commenting on it since it would have been a game made specifically for me.

Shogun began its life as a simulator of tactical combat in medieval Japan. On this end, it does its job splendidly. Using a combination of 3-D terrain and 2-D sprites for the troopers, Creative Assembly managed to bring thousands of troops into rolling battlefields complete with rivers, valleys, villages, mountains, and temples. Varying weather elements, everything from typhoon like rains to dense fog, make you thoroughly aware of a third potential opponent on the field: nature itself.

At first, the tiny sprites are hard to make out, but soon you'll be learning to identify them with ease, especially when running at higher resolutions. Archers, spearmen, calvary, and warrior monks help comprise one of the most authentic orders of battle scene in a samurai game. Each functions correctly and the shrewd general learns how to maximize the benefits of each type...and how to deal with their lackings as well. No fabricated units or articifical enhancements. These units function like the real thing, down to the last man.

Between the sights and sounds of the 3-D real time battle element, any fan of historical battles or of such grand cinema engagements as in Braveheart or Ran will enjoy this part of the game. Peering to the fog, hoping to hear or catch sight of your opponents armies, crashing down a valley with your cavalry onto unsuspecting archers, seeing the smoke rise from a volley of gunfire. or watching a desperate battle for a bridge across a major river are all waiting.

This part of the game, the true meat of the program, is nearly perfect and is not just single-player. Up to six armies can meet on a battlefield, either allied three to a side or in a free-for-all. Play can happen over a LAN, or through EA's online service. Although the only aspect isn't as robust as one would hope (no campaign mode..or even a better way to keep track of where your opponent is in the rankings from the game itself), even the exceptional AI of Shogun pales compared to the ingenious plotting of some online opponents.

Surrounding the real time tactical game is a turn based strategy game. You play one of seven historically accurate clan daimyo in your bid to unify Japan from the shattered empire it is in 1530 and place yourself as its head (hence the game's name). Through an interface that looks like an old map with tokens from a board game (very reminscient of MB's Samurai Swords board game...originally called Shogun), you move your armies about, send diplomats or ninja to perform their functions, and build up the provinces under your control. Pieces slide across the map with an perfect wooden sound and if there was a daimyo with perfectly sculpted images of his troops, one would feel as if you were sitting in a strategy room...even the sides of the map are worn.

Perhaps my favorite aspect of the game is that it is very historically accurate. Aside from the sizes of armies (still a limitation of computers to depict efficiently), most other aspects of the game are highly accurate. Stephen Turnbull, one of the western world's most well known experts on the period, was brought in as a consultant and it was not wasted. From the names of the generals (any fan of the time period will recognize most of the familiar faces among his leaders), to the visual display of troops, their banners, and the throne rooms (Takeda's throne room even has Shingen Takeda's famous battle motto), everything feels right. There's even an option to turn all the spoken dialogue (short of the intro/end videos and one small glitch) to Japanese for that last bit of authentic flavor. Often ignored by less serious games, Creative Assembly made a big deal about the incursion of Europeans into Japan during this period; the guns they brought, and the ramifications of the Catholic missionaries...which further divided Japan between the Christians and the traditional Buddhists. The only time authenticity comes to question is when the programmers needed to make a gameplay compromise...but even then, they often sided with making the game work towards the historical viewpoint.

The Bad
Although I am not so annoyed with it as others, the manual (at least, the North American release) is lacking. A tiny booklet with large fonts, it almost feels like some console system manual. Unfortunately, it tells even less. Many people complain about the lack of details about the units and land. I personally feel that's part of the fun of playing. But, the American manual doesn't even give you all the keyboard commands necessary to efficiently control your troops, nor does it tell you how to perform certain actions on the strategic map. Most of these are learned through trial and error and I was enjoying myself too much to really notice it, but it is a major issue.

The strategic part of the game was developed later to support the tactical end and it suffers from such. Anyone buying this game for the tactical battles won't mind too much, but anyone hoping for an updated Nobunaga's Ambition or a good strategy game based on 16th century Japan may want to consider this. Diplomacy is simply a matter of making allies who serve too benefits: 1) usually (though not always) buys one time to work on another opponent and 2) potentially will give you their land if they are left daimyo-less and you're their ally. There is no penalty for breaking alliances, and the computer will do so with even more regularity than a Civilization or Alpha Centauri faction. There are no joint ventures, no kinds of deals outside of near-meaningless alliances. The rest of this section is similarly simple. Generals are automatically assigned and reassigned as your troops are shuffled (occassionally causing you to lose a good general, or, worse, an heir). There is no way to abdicate your throne to a specific (or any) heir and you must hope that your current daimyo is not demoralizing your troops with his incompetence (the best you can do is having him killed off in battle or hope he dies of old age/assassination). You can only join troops if the sum of their numbers is less than the max allowed...no picking a few out to supplement a slightly wounded group. The strategy element is not bad, just easily the lesser of the two elements.

I put the following under 'didn't like' even though I personally liked it. Why? Because I wanted to emphasize this as being bad to anyone who may pick this game up for the wrong reason. The real time tactical battle part of the game is NOT a Warcraft/Starcraft clone. You control whole units, not individual men, and these units act on their own. Those filled with hubris may advance on an enemy though you told them to halt and those running for their lives may just ignore you completely. Battles are not won with 'tank rushes' or carefully manipulation of units in the midst of a hectic battle. Troops don't just agree to your commands. Those in pitched battle won't just turn their backs on those hacking them and walk away. This is something to keep in mind. Poorly laid out battle plans result in a jumbled mass of killing and dying flesh and you'll find yourself frustrated by the lack of control. Part of the battle is organizing correctly before the first drop of blood is drawn. Another is in positioning yourself in good position. And the third is not just releasing your troops with abandon. The battle part of this game models medieval combat VERY accurately. If you yearn for something more realistic than Warcraft, this is the place. But WC/SC fans, remember this is a whole different battlefield. It's much close to Sid Meier's Gettysburg (with a bit clumsier interface and a different pace because of the historical differences). Again, I really enjoyed this aspect, but not everyone will.

The current online gaming aspect needs some improvements. It's had to judge who you're up against (as far as how good they are from records) unless you switch out to your web browser and look them up). Often people just get together for battles with little knowing of who or what they face. The lack of any intelligence about the enemy is frustrating as you don't have a clue as to even the general makeup of his forces. It would've been nice had some automated intelligence gathering was done while people select their troops, providing the opposition with only partially adequate information. Also, the ranking system is awry and needs to be examined thoroughly. It's also too easy for people losing to drop from games and not get penalized.

The Bottom Line
One, if not THE, best games about the Sengoku period of Japanese history. Take the role of a clan leader who is historically accurate and lead him to ultimate victory as Shogun on Japan. Use simple diplomacy and subterfuge to buy yourself time and create havoc, then engage in one of the most realistic simulation of medieval warfare.

The battle part will remind you of the battles of Braveheart, or many of Kurosawa epics. Watch as your cavalry thunders down the hillside, your arquebusiers fire, creating a wall of smoke, your samurai valiantly climbing a hill, or your small group of sohei standing up to an impressive amount of horsemen and winning.

If you are the type that enjoys a good, realistic look at battle, and can stand a simple strategy shell and an incomplete manual, then this is a game for you.

Windows · by Ray Soderlund (3501) · 2000

Truly a wonderfull surprise!

The Good
I remember the days of KOEI games and highs of PTO and the lows of Operation Europe. KOEI also make several horrible asian games that would try your patience. So when I first saw this title in stores I overlooked it. When I saw it in the used game section with a hint book for 15$ I gave it a chance. (only because there was nothing else to choose from) When I got home and first saw the intro I was totaly hooked. Just the campain alone was enough for me but then I tried to command the soldiers directly. WOW!! I loved the background and the easy controls. I took me a while but when I became the undesputed shogun WOW!! again. The ending movie was great. Now time to take my armies ON-LINE.

The Bad
Overall the problems of this game in no way detract from the game. They are only just possible ways the game could have been even better.
1.better use of diplomacy 2.more options on throne room 3.A way to elimate poor talent generals

The Bottom Line
This is a great stratigy game. If you loved the age of empires series then give this a try.

Windows · by William Shawn McDonie (1131) · 2001

A fine 3D tactical simulation with strategic gameplay.

The Good
"Shogun: Total War" is a beautiful game. Visually, it's a feast for the eyes from the menu screens to the blood-soaked fields of battle. The Japaneseness of the game is pretty and immersive. The battles themselves are a feast for the eyes - soldiers march, fight, and die on remarkably well-rendered battlefields. Arrows fly through the air and horses balk in fear. The voice acting is excellent.

The tactical battles are simply outstanding; you can play them for hours. They're substantially better than the tactical battles in any other historical game of this type. The game is much helped by a pretty decent set of tutorial missions.

The Bad
Despite the fine tactical simulator, the game is very shallow. Strategic play is boring and largely devoid of depth; to be honest, a linear set of battles to play wouldn't have been any worse. That's unfortunate, because with a really good strategic system like "Europa Universalis" or the old Koei games, "Shogun" might have been a true masterpeice.

The Bottom Line
Pretty good, but not much long-term interest.

Windows · by Rick Jones (96) · 2001

One of the most addicting strategy games of its kind.

The Good
Being interested in this particular genre, I literally ran to the mall to buy this game. After the first few minutes of game play however I realized I was expecting something a little different, instead of jumping straight into a Samurai style battle, I found myself staring at a map of Japan, reminiscent of table top games such as Risk. However, within five minutes of game play I was hooked. Collecting provinces and fortifying my cities, by the end of my first campaign was opting for the computer to resolve battles, simply so I could continue with the strategic portion of the game, that being said, for those of you out there who just wanna fight, there are options for skirmishes (single player battles without the strategy component). And the whole process is well covered and the manual. For those of you who just can’t wait to challenge other players, Shogun comes complete with an online component. Though I and a few other people I know had a little trouble getting our accounts started.

The Bad
On the downside however, signing up online took quite a few tries. But this in no way subtracts from the games wonderful game play.

The Bottom Line
In short, this game has something for everybody, wether your looking for a strategy game to while away the hours, or just a quick fight against the forces of an apposing Daimyo. With multiple clans to select from, the game offers virtually unlimited replay value. My advice to you, buy this game ( through Moby Games of course:) and install it right away, you won’t regret it.

Windows · by Ivan Grant (3) · 2001

Miniatures wargaming nirvana! A work of art

The Good
This is the game that every droopy-eyed grognard has spent years of his life slaving over basement battlefields trying to create. Shogun: Total War is, to put it bluntly, miniatures wargaming heaven. If you like pushing toy soldiers around miniature battlefields but could do without the pushing part, this is the game for you. Plus, if you happen to like full-blown campaigns and strategy on a grander scale, Shogun comes with an exceptionally fine Risk-like wrapper as well, guaranteed to suck you into the world of 16th century Japan and its clan-based conflicts like never before.

Beyond that, the game is beautiful (in an authentically Japanese way--the birds flying around the battlefield are origami birds!), and the music and other audio within it are excellent as well. In fact, everything about this game breathes quality and attention to detail--even the official web site, which is an impressive creation in and of itself. If you want to see a game done right, you must check out Shogun.

The Bad
I don't like the fact that you can't play the campaign game multiplayer--it's single player only. You can, of course, play any of the individual battles against other people, but the sense of continuity and roleplaying goes out the window in that case. Other than that, there's just not much to dislike about Shogun. Sure, the diplomacy's a little weak, and some units seem too limited in their abilities (shinobi, ninja), but that's not nearly enough to sink this game.

The Bottom Line
If you are even slightly interested in realistic battlefield tactics, particularly formation warfare, this is the game to get. There is no other. Overall, it is, in my opinion, the second best computer strategy game ever made (after Imperialism II), but that's only because I tend to favor strategic-level games over those that emphasize tactical-level conflict. In reality, if anyone wanted to claim that Shogun is, in fact, the best computer strategy-cum-wargame game ever, all I could really do is shrug and say, "Yep, you may be right!"

Windows · by Jim Newland (56) · 2001

Classic warfare in feudal Japan.

The Good
It captures the feel of the board game "Shogun" by Hasbro (currently renamed Samurai Swords) very well. The visuals are stunning and the mood is decent. I loved the look of the strategic map, which looked like a rice paper map of Japan with the provinces outlined and army markers deployed.

The Bad
After playing three games, I've come to the conclusion that you always start the campaign mode with exactly the same setup. This just KILLS! replay value. It's virtually the same game every time. If they put out a patch to fix this it will truly be a great game. I haven't tried multiplayer yet, but it looked like from reading the manual that there is no strategic game, just one tactical battle, but i could be wrong.

The Bottom Line
If you played the similiar board-game by Hasbro and enjoyed it this game is worth picking up. It's only $20 bucks now too.

Windows · by Jeff Watts (18) · 2001

Take Risk, add some RTS, a dash of AOE, and stir. Enjoy!

The Good
Shogun combines it's strategic and tactical elements almost perfectly. Compared to another similar-in-concept game such as Star Wars: Rebellion, Shogun is infinitely better in both.

The tactical battles are fun, and the fact that they're 3D makes it even better. Rebellion let you scroll around in 3D, but the graphics in Shogun are far superior. When Rebellion came out, it's graphics were dated, but Shogun gives us beautiful landscapes and weather effects that are the best I've seen in any game.

The music is excellent, and the Japanese-accented voice acting is perfect. The strategic board reminds me so much of that board game Risk, and the sounds of the pieces really sound like some old game/chess board.

I also like that even though you can be hopelessly outnumbered, you can still win battles if your forces are superior to the enemy. I think that the way they make it so that battle-hardened veterans are better than green soldiers (through the honor system) is so rewarding. Some other games, like AOE2, don't feature this.

The variety of units is perfect. Because each unit has certain strengths and weaknesses, tactical battles become almost a chess match (or rock-paper-scissors): Ashigaru/Samurai beat Cavalry, No-Dachi samurai and Warrior Monks beat Ashigaru/Samurai, Cavalry beat No-Dachi and Archers, etc. (Of course, these are generalizations and not necessarily always true) :)

The Ninjas/Geisha are fun to use. It's always exciting to watch the animations to see if your ninjas will succeed, and to hope that your generals will be able to sense enemy ninjas when they come for them.

I learned more about medieval Japan from this game than from any other place.

The Bad
They need to add on to the diplomatic part of the game. Alliances are basically useless unless your ally dies and you get some of his land.

The amount of buildings and upgrades you can make to provinces and other buildings are impressive, but it can get a little unmanageable when you conquer about 10-15 provinces. You should be able to queue up more units and buildings. Why did they limit it to only 6?

There's really not much to complain about.

The Bottom Line
Shogun is a great game. The excellent graphics and sound are backed-up by great gameplay and exciting battles. It's definitely worth the price!

Windows · by Raphael (1245) · 2001

Contributors to this Entry

Critic reviews added by Jeanne, Patrick Bregger, Klaster_1, CalaisianMindthief, Cavalary, Apogee IV, PCGamer77, vedder, chirinea, Link Ramza, Wizo, Tim Janssen, Cantillon, Foxhack, yenruoj_tsegnol_eht (!!ihsoy), ti00rki, Samuel Smith, Xoleras, Big John WV.