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a game by Creative Assembly International Limited
Platform: PC
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The Best Thing that"s come out about Sliogun 2: Total War hasn"t got anything khổng lồ do with ninja, koku, daimyo or those sorts of things. It"s the boats and the fact they"ll be like floating sheds. That might sound lượt thích a stupid thing to lớn be excited about, but just think of the possibilities. Two big canoes crash inkhổng lồ each other, dozens of samurai spilling onkhổng lồ each dechồng, hacking each other to bits with their razor-sharp swords. And those are just the smaller ones - there are also castles-on-water, which sound too awesome to lớn be true.There"s more khổng lồ this sequel to lớn the beloved and now-ancient Shogun than floating boxes. The essentials will be pretty much the same - take control of one of eight factions vying for control of the Lvà of the Rising Sun, build up your armies & economy until none can st& in your way.

In Japan the Emperor holds ultimate power, except he can be easily manipulated by his nominated warlord, the titular Shogun. It"s your job to lớn be deemed worthy of that role and to lớn control the Emperor like a puppet, much lượt thích the medieval Papacy was the lapdog of any number of medieval European kings.

"It"s basically the game we wanted to make right at the beginning," says Shogun 2"s lead game designer Kamie Russell. "I think we"re just pushing as hard as we possibly can lớn capture the entire feel và look of feudal nhật bản, while creating something that"s vivid và beautiful. That"s reflected all the way through the game, in terms of wood blocks and prints that appear on various screens how the actual way the battlefields themselves work & look, và the chiến dịch maps."

Far Eastern art is very different to lớn what we"re used to in the West & Shogun 2 is going khổng lồ really go lớn town on representing this exotic feel throughout the game.

"One example would be the passing of the seasons," Russell says, "because we have sầu four seasons in a chiến dịch year. So you actually get the changing environments và the way those environments work.

"We"re going very much for the archetype of what people would see if they were in nhật bản. So, for example, in spring you have the cherry blossoms, và you can see petals blowing away from the trees. In the winter, you obviously have the snow-covered buildings và the entire battlefield is Trắng."

nhật bản is also different in a more obvious way to lớn what"s come before. Since the original Total War maps have sầu been getting bigger, culminating in Empire"s globe-spanning effort. Japan"s geographically small, but that doesn"t mean Creative sầu Assembly are thinking that way."It"s still going to be a game of epic scale," says Kieran Brigden, the company"s communications manager. "The campaign maps will still have sầu that epic feel, but what we want to bởi vì is try lớn immerse the player in the mind of a 16th century Japanese feudal lord, who saw Japan as the universe.

"Empire obviously had a huge geographic scope that reflected the colonial outreaching of Europe across the globe at the time. That was appropriate for the period. For medieval Japan, we"ll portray that as an epic environment. We are going lớn make sure that the player feels that the far reaches of the country are a long way away, they"re unknown, & they aren"t necessarily familiar with all the kingdoms và fiefs that are out there."

There"ll be eight different factions in the main game including the Date, Hojo, Takeda & Uesugi, with a ninth playable in the tutorial. In the original Shogun, the factions were all pretty much the same, give sầu or take starting positions and colours. This isn"t going to lớn be the case in the new game.

"We have approximately 30 units of different types on the battlefield,"Russell declares. "There"s a wide variety there. If you think about Empire, an average faction only had between 12 và 15 units specific khổng lồ it. What we"ve sầu tried lớn bởi is make each faction different in terms of how they play, & what their strengths & weaknesses are with different units."

"I think what we bởi vì want to lớn bởi vì is make sure that each faction plays differently, và that"s true both on the campaign maps and on the battlefield," says Brigden. "We"re also wanting khổng lồ make sure that those factions play differently on the chiến dịch bản đồ. You might find that your position gives you specific advantages, specific resources that you hold that others don"t. We want lớn make sure that each faction has a specific trait that makes it play differently. Not just on the chiến dịch maps, but also on the battlefield."

Hero Samurai

One thing that might differentiate each faction even more is the controversial addition of hero characters. Already the forums are questioning this, with conspiracy theories flying saying it means the Total War series is heading into lớn the realms of fantasy RTS. Not so, says Russell.

""We"re looking at something that"s historical," he says. "What we"re actually creating is the feeling of the battlefields at the time, where you"d have men who were famous for a particular style of fighting or just for their bravery, & the effect that has on the troops around them, và the people who were confronting them. They would basically go around with a group of followers và size part of a larger unit. They wouldn"t go into lớn battle by themselves, it"d be suicide."

Hero characters in most RTS games tkết thúc to be comically oversized one-man armies, which goes against the ethos of the Total War series (unless you count Medieval"s Berserkers who could defeat entire peasant armies on their own).

"We"re going for a Total War version of what a nhân vật is," reiterates Russell. "Somebody toàn thân who"s excellent at what they do, often a very formidable fighter, but not superhumans. You can find ways khổng lồ defeat them. They can"t just walk onlớn the battlefield alone và hold off 2,000 men by themselves. They actually do have lớn have sầu some backup và tư vấn."

The second prong of Total War"s battle fork are the aforementioned floating sheds - naval combat. Even though Japan was an island nation & was thus heavily reliant on the sea lớn keep its population alive, ship-to-ship combat was never as important as it was in the West.

While galleons were sailing across the oceans khổng lồ the New World, the Japanese were floating about in oared vessels, conducting pseudo-l& battles in their coastal waters. Because they use of oars, it"ll be easier to lớn get a grip on how ships move sầu. They aren"t in constant motion, so your ships can be told lớn go lớn a position, và they"ll row off & sit in one place.

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"We want to make naval combat an important part of this project," says Russell. "Japan"s an isl& nation, so the sea is never far away. Naval combat is different in this period. We think we can make the naval battles a lot of fun.

"I think one of the key differences is the European naval battles we did in Empire were very much about who has got the biggest ship with the most guns. Whereas we"re able lớn bring it much more into play between different types of ships with different advantages against different kinds of enemies.

"The biggest new addition is that we"re putting land inkhổng lồ the naval battles, which adds a huge amount of tactical variety, improves the battlefield"s look, helps orient the player và makes battles a completely new experience."

Separate Wars

"We"re looking inkhổng lồ mechanics whereby you can launch assaults from the sea, but those really will be a chiến dịch feature," says Brigden. "In battles you"re really fighting on the land, even though the sea may be there in the battlefield. We"re going lớn have l& battles and we"re going khổng lồ have naval battles, but they"re going khổng lồ be separate. There may be sea in the l& battles và there may be l& in the naval battles, but we are strictly separating the concepts."

All these things are well & good, but if the troops don"t have sầu thebackbone of solid artificial intelligence behind them, everything"s going lớn fall apart quicker than Englvà during an Ashes kiểm tra match. AI has been a thorny issue throughout Total War"s existence, continually rearing its head every time a new iteration has come out. Now Creative Assembly have sầu had enough of the complaining.

"We"re putting as much effort as possible inkhổng lồ making sure that AI will never be a subject that has lớn be discussed again," bellows Russell. It"s a bold clayên, one that, if honesty is the policy lớn be stuck to lớn, has been uttered before and hasn"t always tallied with what"s happened in the games. It will definitely, positively, completely be different this time around.

"To give sầu you an idea of what focus that gets on development," Brigden continues, in a less bellowing fashion, "We have sầu what we hotline a number of hygiene factors, which are the absolute critical must-get-rights for this game khổng lồ go out the door, and the AI has been added to that menu with an extremely high precedent. So exactly as Jamie said, we won"t get lớn a situation where we are having AI criticised in any capacity, & it is our intention to lớn prove sầu that before release."

New Brains

If the AI is solid - or solid enough to lớn prsự kiện all but the most obsessive getting irate - Creative Assembly can concentrate on pushing the atmosphere of the game, the feel of being in a distant, foreign lvà, a place that"s so different to what we"re used to lớn, it"s lượt thích a new world.

The graphics engine won"t be a vast leap forward from Empire"s, lượt thích the move sầu from Medieval lớn Rome was, but the battlefields will feel và look far more detailed than in previous games, & because of the lack of familiarity the vast majority will have sầu with medieval nhật bản, the developers are eager khổng lồ really go lớn town on a more vivid, colourful world & are also trying lớn bring a true feel of what it means to be a daimyo in Sengoku-period nhật bản.

"One of the things that"s very important khổng lồ this project is that we really want lớn delve deeply into the feeling of the time," Brigden concurs. "What that means is a real importance for your daimyo, for your family members, & we really want khổng lồ make character và story a much more significant part of the feel of the game than it has been in the past, & we"re doing a number of different things to lớn achieve sầu that.

"On the chiến dịch maps we"re adding some features that help the player get to lớn grips with understanding the stories that they"re creating as they"re playing the game, because each Total War campaign is really a player writing their own history."In terms of the characters, we"re wanting to make sure that the players have sầu some real choices in how they develop their abilities. For example the generals, the new agents that we"ve sầu got, all of those types of characters, we"re making sure we"re going khổng lồ give sầu the player the choice khổng lồ develop them in the way they want lớn develop them.

"Where in the past it was purely about the trait system which gave these characters their particular skills as a result of certain actions, we are now wanting lớn make those choices much more explicit. Basically, get the player much more invested in all the characters that they are playing with."

There"s one more question that needs asking - why go for Shogun 2 rather than Rome 2, the latter being by far the more obvious choice? It"s basically because, as was said earlier, this is the game Creative sầu Assembly have sầu been itching lớn make for years, lớn put right what they thought went wrong with the first game, either due to errors, misjudgments or just a plain lachồng of resources khổng lồ achieve sầu what they wanted first time out.

"It"s something we"ve always wanted lớn bởi vì. There were loads of things we weren"t able to bởi the first time arowid and we wanted to lớn bring it to lớn a who new audience. There are loads of people who never played the original game và we wanted to lớn give sầu them something special và spectacular," Russell states."I think the period is so evocative sầu, there is so much that just makes it absolutely perfect for a Total War game," Brigden concludes. "It"s been so long since the original Shogun was released, we haven"t portrayed the huge battles between samurai armies ever before in a full 3D engine."

This is also a game which promises i a mixture of visceral hand-to-h& combat played out in a chất lượng, colourful & exotic world that has never been seen before in this light.

Shogun: Total War was an extremely ambitious project way bachồng in 2000, when Creative Assembly were known for producing poor cricket games. Now they"re a big fish và they can choose to lớn vì chưng what they want, they have done so. Shogun 2 is an unexpected choice, but if everything goes to lớn plan, it"s going khổng lồ be an excellent one.