Total War: Shogun 2 – Fall of the Samurai Review
Japan at a crossroad…
After the Warring States period, Japan is finally at peace, the Emperor sits comfortably on his throne fulfilling his largely ceremonial position, while the Tokugawa Shogunate rules Japan with an iron fist with no one to dispute its rule. All this changes when western ships land in Japan in an attempt to establish trade relations with the region. The concessions made to the westerner powers anger the Japanese people, and the Emperor rises against the Shogun in an attempt take back Japan from its feudal overlords. This breaks Japan in two, and starts the Boshin War, between the Shogun and his allies who want to advance Japan through relationships with the West, and the Emperor and his allies who want to re-establish Imperial rule and advance Japan independently of western powers. This is where you come in.
At the start of the game, you choose whose side you want to be on. Out of the six factions to choose from, three are Imperial factions and the other three are Shogunate factions. For the first time in a Total War game, you are given a “higher purpose” to fight for, and that is one the reasons that make Fall of The Samurai (FoTS) great. While previous Total War games always had you become the supreme ruler of Rome/Europe/The New World, etc, this time around, the fight is much bigger than you. You are fighting for the Emperor/Shogun and determining the future of Japan, a great change of pace from the usual ‘world domination’ campaigns. With the allegiance system, alliances play a much bigger role this time around. Although alliances and wars are technically independent from faction allegiances, the allegiances (whether to the Emperor or Shogun) play a very big part in who you fight and who you make peace with.
FoTS features the latest chronological setting in any Total War game so far. It is set 200 years after Shogun 2, which means that you will see huge differences in the game’s units and technology. This is not the feudal Japan we saw in Shogun 2. Instead we have a Japan that is at a crossroads between tradition and modernity, and the game reflects that wonderfully. Units now greet you with an enthusiastic “Your orders, Sir!” instead of a stoic “Dono”; samurai are no longer supreme leaders of the battlefield, but are rivaled by gunpowder units. The western powers also play key roles in your campaign, and establishing good relations with them gives you access to new technologies, units and trade. However, appease the western powers too much and you risk angering your people.
While some of the traditional Japanese units for Shogun 2 carry over, gun powder units go through an almost complete overhaul, from matchlock infantry to sharpshooters to US Marines to the almighty gattling gun. The technology also goes through a complete change, picking up exactly where Shogun 2 left of, and reflecting the transition of Japan from a feudal era to a modern militarized super power. Navy gameplay is also updated. In addition to their usual functions, ships can bombard enemy bases and armies if they are close enough to shore, and can even provide devastating fire support in real time battles.
However, my biggest gripe with the game is the lack of difference between the factions. The cover art of the game gives the impression war between traditional Japan and a modernized one. Sadly this wasn’t the case. Both the Imperial and Shogunate factions have access to the same units, technologies and even western relations. The differences between the factions are minimal, giving no real weight to your choice of allegiance. Another complaint I have is the graphics. After the colorful and varied landscape of Shogun 2, I was genuinely surprised by the washed out, bland looking campaign map of FoTS.
But those shortcoming are overcome by the game’s achievements. While expansion packs usually mean adding a few units/maps/features here and there, this is an expansion that plays much like a standalone game, and kudos to Creative Assembly for exploring new areas with their game. For plays new to Total War, I would recommend starting with Shogun 2. But for hardened Total War fans, this is indeed an important part of the series. It introduces a plethora of new units, tactics and gameplay elements, and does represent a significant evolution in the Total War series.