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Shogun: Warlords Edition Review
developer: Creative Assembly
P233, 64MB RAM, 650MB HDD, 8MB 3D accelerator
|ESRB rating: T
release date: Aug 13, 01 (released)
|» All About Shogun: Warlords Edition on ActionTrip|
When it came out in 99' Shogun: Total War truly managed to refresh the already stale strategy gaming market, and innovate with its appealing visuals, and massive battles which brought to life the world of feudalistic Japan and their mighty warlords - Daimyo. The game presented a blend of turn-based strategy with management elements, and of course impressive real-time battles, which featured literally thousands of units per battle.
As the story usually goes, EA and Creative Assembly decided to milk the success of the original, and treat their fans with Shogun Total War: Warlords Edition. This stand-alone package (includes the original game and the Mongol Invasion expansion) is dealing with the "fictional invasion" of the Japan by the Mongol horde, led by their ferocious leader Kublai Khan. Along with the main campaign, Mongol Invasion also features three new Japanese campaigns. You'll be able to match the achievements of Oda Nobunaga, Tokugawa Ieyasu and Toyotomi Hideyoshi, the three pivotal figures that brought an end to the sengoku jidai and imposed their will upon Japan.
As history would have it, it was Korea that was to make Kublai Khan look at the possibility of conquering Japan. Japanese pirates had always raided Korean shipping and the coast, but these raids had stopped when the Mongols took control - no one was foolish enough to provoke the Great Khan. This wasn't enough for Kublai Khan and he sent embassies to Japan in 1266 and 1268 demanding that the Japanese recognize him as their overlord. The reaction in Japan was one of surprise; after all, they had their own divine Emperor and didn't need a foreign one.
Kublai Khan indeed sent his army to conquer Japan, but because of the unfavorable weather his troops never managed to reach its shores. The game deals with a fictional scenario of what would have happened if the Mongol horde had better seafaring conditions, and they actually managed to reach Japan in full strength.
Players find themselves in the boots of Khan's generals (or the Japanese defender), as they try their luck at conquering / defending the land of the rising sun. The Mongol campaign doesn't feature any management elements, as most of your troops will be arriving by sea as reinforcements sent by the great Khan. All you need to do is use the potential of your famous cavalry troops, backed up by the Korean foot soldiers, and win another land for your leader. Mongols are considered by many to be the finest horseback riders in the world. Their agile and deadly cavalry struck fear in the hearts of their foes, so I don't have to tell you what your main strengths are in this game.
There are two types of Mongol cavalry units: light and heavy cavalry units. Each of these is deadly in its own right; light cavalry compensates lack of armor and heavier weapons with agility and their versatility, while it is the other way around with the heavy cavalry. Light cavalry units can double as archers and warriors, and heavy cavalry is virtually unstoppable, unless they run into a wall of long spears, or get surrounded by Yari cavalry. Heavily armed with spears and well protected by armor and shields, they'll make your enemy wish they never went to war that day. Also available to you in this game are your Korean allies: Spearmen and Guardsmen, Skirmishers and pyrotechnic Thunder-Bombers. Whatever your personal preferences regarding the units are though, always bank on the strength and speed of your cavalry. The trick in this game is to keep moving and breaking apart enemy formations with your awesome cavalry. Stick to that tactic, and you'll win the day.
Make no mistake though that the Japanese have a few aces up their sleeve as well: most notably, their legendary Kensai warriors who can kill up to 40-50 units in a single battle, No Dachi Samurai, Ninjas and so on... All of these units will come in handy when you play as one of the legendary Daimyo. The trick with the Japanese is to use the terrain to your advantage and try to slow down the enemy cavalry, or flank them if possible. Also remember to shield your archer / musketeer troops.
The Warlords Edition is undoubtedly more challenging than the original game, but I'm afraid that some of the problems that were making my life miserable in Total War are again present in the expansion pack. The Warlords Edition is a well-conceived expansion pack, which offers plenty of new single-player excitement, as well as some decent new multi-player maps (read: respectable amount of playing time), but the fact remains that I still had troubles positioning my troops exactly how I wanted to, and making them generally do what they're supposed to. Grouping the units and sending them in one direction will often result in total formational chaos, as they'll start moving in all directions except the one you initially had in mind for them. Further more, the enemy AI has been somewhat improved, but it still seems to me that the computer will allow you to easily break apart its troops, and pick them off one by one.
Bottom line: you'll have a lot of fun playing the Warlords Edition, especially if you liked the original game. After all, this is an expansion pack, and not a sequel. Better interface, AI, and eye-candy, is something we should rightfully expect from Creative Assembly in Shogun 2. For now, this I guess a good enough stand-alone pack to part with your hard-earned cash.
8.2 Very Good
Plenty of goodies for an expansion pack: new units, more campaigns;
Some important gameplay issues haven't been addressed.
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