Total War: Shogun 2 – Learning While Bleeding.

I’ve slowly immersed myself into the world of the Samurai as of late. Steam, once again, had my number and that number was $7.50, the great sales price for Total War: Shogun 2 [TWS2]. The Total War series involves large map, turn based, micromanagement of settlements/city states and beautifully detailed real-time game play of large scale battles involving hundreds, if not thousands, of units at once. Like most of the Total War games, developed by The Creative Assembly and published by SEGA, it is full of information pertaining to the period it is set in. TWS2 is played out during Japan’s feudal period (1185 – 1868) and it contains enough Samurai swords and deaths to satisfy the blood lust of any future Matsudaira Naritsugu.

During the three or four hours it took me to play through the tutorial campaign I spent just as much time, if not more, reading about all the different clans from this period, than actually controlling them. The micromanaging aspects of games has always come easy to me but when it comes to the real-time battles, I think a common peasant from feudal Japan could out play me, with one hand planting rice. I am like General Custer, who gets wiped out at Little Big Horn, except the odds are actually in my favor. Thankfully, the Total War games provide you with an auto-resolve option when facing a real-time battle and in TWS2 I use it regularly. About the only time I don’t choose the auto-resolve option is when the numerical and technological odds are so stack in my favor that even I, General Incompetent, can squeak out a victory.

One of the most entertaining and rewarding game play aspects of TWS2, for me, has been the use of special agents that can move around the map and perform special tasks. A Monk, or Missionary, unit can put a newly “acquired” population at ease or insight rebellion, a Meske can bribe opposing generals and manage settlements and a Geisha can spy in enemy territory and assassinate important individuals. My favorite agent, however, is the Ninja. Perhaps I’ve watched The Last Samurai to often and consider the Ninja the Samurai’s nemesis (which is not true but fun to fantasize about) and I use them against opposing Samurai armies as frequently as possible. The Ninja’s ability to assassinate and sabotage make him a very useful ally in the quest to conquer a new territory. What better way to prepare for a castle assault then ordering your ninja to open the gate?

TWS2 brings the eastern version of Medieval Europe into my hands and makes it available to play with. Feudal Japan was a time of bloodshed but also a time of philosophical advancement, literature and honor. Thanks to TWS2 I am able to enjoy war gaming in safety, open my mind to the copious amounts of knowledge and broaden my appreciation for the additions this far eastern culture provided – as long as no one sends a ninja to assassinate me.