Preview: Total War: Shogun 2

Steve Butts | 7 Dec 2010 16:00
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I felt good about my strategy, but my previous victory had made me a little ambitious and Rob a little cautious. I pressed forward even more aggressively, and while Rob sent his forces out to meet me on the wings, he held a sizable force in reserve. Once I made my way across the river and saw he had saved a third of his army, I began to suspect things were going to go badly for me. While his troops engaged my forces and kept me occupied, he waited to see which side needed reinforcements. (A small picture window at the top of the screen shows key events around the battle, which helps generals keep track of the most important areas of the field.) Things on the left seemed balanced, so Rob moved most of his reserves in to smash my right, while sending a small force off to the left to keep things stable. My army began to fall apart before my eyes, with units fleeing the battle in all directions.

After this defeat, we declined a tie-breaker match in order to spend some time playing some siege battles in single-player. Previous Total War games have been heavily focused on sieges, and relied on a single breach and rush to the center as the main objective. The castles in Shogun 2 are much more complex. These castles are defended in stages and have multiple capture points. I found myself defending a massive structure, with multiple levels, numerous gates and plenty of approaches for the enemy. My first plan was to position all my archers along the outside walls and keep my infantry and cavalry forces just inside the gates where the enemies were most likely to force an entry. This strategy worked to blunt the initial assault, but it left me no opportunity to reinforce weak spots, or to withdraw under the protection of covering units. As a result, the enemy (aided by rocket-launching Teppo samurai) was soon able to smash through my outer defenses and found themselves largely unopposed in their march to gain control of the castle.

For round two, I decided to pre-plan for a phased withdrawal, taking some units from the outer defenses and placing them on the inner walls. I'm happy to say things went better this time, but while I was able to inflict many more casualties and keep the enemy engaged all the way to the bitter end, I still wasn't able to keep my castle from falling.

These preview events sometimes overstay their welcome, giving you more time than you actually need to play and understand the basics of a particular game. I'm glad to say Shogun 2 isn't like that. Part of me was secretly hoping that we'd be snowed in and given a chance to spend another day playing the game. For now, I'll just have to wait until the game is released next March. I'm hoping Rob can clear his calendar for our tie-breaker.

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