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The Next Level In Gaming

Shogun 2 Preview

Together with Sid Meier, The Creative assembly are responsible for the iron grip that strategy games have had on me for the past 11 years. I first played Shogun in 2003 and haven’t looked back since. The seamless mix of turn based and real time strategy with beautiful 3D environments and weather effects had me chomping at the bit for more.  I devoured every single game in the series and now, with Shogun 2 announced I can barely sleep for excitement.

The total war games have changed the face of strategy gaming, even going so far as to be the main feature on Time Commanders, the only computer game to have a show totally devoted to showing off a new engine. Now we finally get to see Shogun in a whole new light with the latest technology to remind us just how awesome the original was.

We are, of course, back in feudal Japan during the 16th century where various clans fought for dominance of the island and their own survival.  Choosing one of 9 clan leaders scattered throughout Japan, you’ll have to combine your political, military and your leader’s personal influence to get ahead of your enemies. And, if all else fails, you can always call in a ninja…

Shogun TW’s strength was how you utilise the limited number of troop types into an effective fighting force with each soldier suited to a particular task. For example, the cheap but poorly trained farmers that make up the Ashigaru class of spearmen can be used as a meat shield while your better trained more expensive troops get into position, flank or make a clean getaway. A great new feature of S2 is that you can upgrade your troops as teh game progresses giving you even more flexibility in how you fight your battles.

What’s most exciting is going to be the real time battle visuals, seeing the rain, mist, fog and wind shake the tree, plans and mountains are your forces struggle not just to fight the enemy but the terrain. As well as your normal troop types there will also be the addition of hero type units to bolster your army, whether it be holding a bridge, boosting moral of floundering troops, or making a b-line for the enemy general to break the back of an army before it even begins. Of course you can counter these with your own hero units to make them engage in a duel…or simply fill them full of arrows before they can take you apart. But wait! It gets better! General speeches are back! Originally a feature of Rome Total war but dropped in Empire, when starting a real time battle the general would adress his troops and give essentail tacticle titbits to the player. Whats more, they even call out other generals and heros in opposing armies, which could lead to a duel to decide teh battle! Awesome!

Thanks to the smaller world map, you’ll be having a more intimate relationship with your faction and the way it evolves and engages with your rivals. So you’ll be nurturing family members like in RomeTW to be great governors, generals and politicians. Finding and keeping a great general will make much more of a difference in battles than in previous incarnations.

One of the weakest areas of the earlier Shogun was the crassness of the siege battles. The gates would be open, the walls only really offered cover from arrows and it was pretty much a foregone conclusion one way or another. Now that the Creative assembly have the experience from Rome and Medieval 2, we can expect some great multilayered assaults and defences to really do justice to the way.

The AI is also promised to be as radical now as it was when the original was in 2000. Programmed to utilise Sun Tzu’s art of war in how the enemy utilises its forces and responds to your tactics, as long as you haven’t broken them before they have the chance to do so. There’s also the inclusion of sea warfare which will be interesting to see how well they integrate it into fighting in and around an island with limited units.

These are just a few of the things that Shogun has to offer at this early stage. It has a lot of potential and I for one cannot wait to get the finished version on my PC.

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That Bloke In The Beanie On June - 24 - 2010

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