Friday, March 11, 2011

Total War Series: What I Think

This is an attempt to express why you should be excited for Total War: Shogun 2, which is coming out March 15th.

While I have not played nearly all of the Total War games I think I have a general overview of the series.

The Total War series is really the only source for tactical control of large armies; Which is really what Total War is all about. You control a moderate number of units, with each unit being made up of up to hundreds of men each. You control where they go and what they attack, but their is the constant threat of fatigue and demoralization. You cannot have any single unit fight too long or run too far or it will get tired and become less effective, and you also cannot allow your units to go into too dangerous a situation or suffer other demoralizing events or they will loose moral and eventually just run away. This tactical combat is complemented with the Risk like game world, were you create units and move them around, fortifying borders or entering into combat.

Shogun: Total War the first, and my favourite, game in the series is a no nonsense take on this formula. You simply create units on the over-world and move them to your borders and use very basic diplomacy with your neighbours. The units are comprised of cavalry, melee, and archers. The archers are good against the slow moving melee units, especially the pike-men, and simply amazing on top of big hills and inside of castles (while protected by melee units). The melee are mostly used to defend locations and in the case of the pike-men to defeat the cavalry. And finally the cavalry are great at taking out enemy archers and, because of their speed, flanking.

The next game in the series I played was Medieval: Total War. This really opened up the Risk like over-world: adding more units (without changing the general categories), more complex diplomacy, more map, and more control and customization over your armies and lands. Overall a lot of interesting features were added, but in some senses it simply distracted from the important part, the battle. Overall it was an improvement, except in the endgame were I found, on the brink of winning, all my provinces would start revolting.

The last few games in the series, Empire and Napoleon, brought the series closer to present day; And because of this, I think, the gameplay was lessened considerably. It is the age of gunpowder, so every unit uses a gun and is simply too similar to encourage interesting and diverse strategies.

But now with Total War: Shogun 2 it looks like the series might be going back to what made it so great to begin with, at least that is what I am hoping for.


  1. Admittedly I too am excited. The Total War series has been a firm favourite ever since the original Shogun, though my favourite offering so far has been Medieval II. Actually, I think you've done it. I'm installing it again!

  2. You really should, mind. Then again, it's quite possible that Shogun 2 will be the better game.