Preview: Total War: Shogun 2

Steve Butts | 7 Dec 2010 16:00
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Of course, all this isn't worth much without the battles themselves. Thankfully, Shogun 2 seems to deliver on this score as well. I settled in for a few matches with Rob, a colleague and friend from another website. We began by selecting an existing general profile, already loaded up with special abilities and veterans. We each chose to build balanced armies, comprised of a core of veterans supplemented by ranks of new troops. For myself, I tried to make as balanced a force as possible, picking katana samurai and spearmen as my primary infantry troops, and a handful of archers and cavalry as well. To round out the army (and spice things up), I added just two gunpowder units.

Figuring that I wanted to do as much damage as possible to Rob before we actually came to blows, I picked my retainers to enhance the accuracy of my archery units and to reduce the speed of Rob's cavalry. Unfortunately, he had the same idea and picked almost the same set of retainers, so our advantages cancelled each other out.

When the battle began, we found ourselves facing off on two hills sloping down to a broad river. Down the river to my left was an archery building. When captured, it would give a bonus to my troops. This was on my side of the river, so I positioned half of my forces to take it right away. The other half, I positioned on the right side of the map, ready to take a farm on the other side of the river. If I could grab the farm, I could increase the stamina of my soldiers. The middle of the river contained a small island with a building that could increase the effectiveness of my infantry, but I considered that a secondary objective. The banks of the river on Rob's side were very steep and covered by trees, so I knew I'd want to move my attacks along the flanks. I had my forces ready and the battle began.

Things went according to plan right away. I rushed the two objectives on the wings and, as Rob had spread his line evenly across the field, I was able to dominate on the wings. My archers held off Rob's river crossing on the left as I took the archery building, while a cavalry rush followed by spearmen and archers on the right gave me the edge in capturing the farm. Once it was taken, my troops were able to fight on a bit longer than Rob's. As the battle turned in my favor, I moved two units of katana samurai to take out the archers in the woods overlooking the small island in the middle of the river. With them gone, I was free to take the island. By this point, Rob had moved more forces over to try to force a river crossing on my left, but that left his general open in the rear. I quickly took my cavalry through on the right and charged his bodyguards and cut him down. With their general dead, his forces routed and the field was mine.

After that, we had a chance to see the unit stats, hand out promotions and improve the skills of our units before the next battle. For this second round, we wouldn't be able to use the forces that had been damaged in the fight, so we'd be fighting almost entirely with new, unbloodied soldiers. Once again, we each picked balanced forces and similar retainers.

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