Those already familiar with the Total War series will know we’re very much in historic, top-down strategy territory. Plotlines and backdrops meander through the ages to deliver hugely authentic set pieces, with the focus always on conquering richly detailed worlds. Mac fans will have already enjoyed iterations charting Napoleon, Rome and latterly Alexander the Great, with this strand sequel proving much more generic in narrative.
Set in the ‘Warring States’ period of 16th-Century Japan, Shogun 2 opts not to follow one legendary figure but instead assigns you a feudal clan eager to divide and rule. Buy the Collection version bundling seven DLC add-ons and you’ll enjoy more exotic choices here, but either way the game is packed with options. Novices to this genre of play could be overwhelmed in fact but Shogun 2’s interface does an admirable job of throwing you in adequately equipped. Progress toggles between a sumptuous and seasonal map of Japan’s islands where you begin managing your clan’s strategies and daily routines. Often providing the fleeting moments of most calm, here you will arguably make bigger political truces between neighbouring clans and instigate more covert ninja assassinations.
Battles run in real-time rather than the turn-based campaign map, which keeps things more fluid and fairly frantic. It has been said that Shogun 2 marked a return to form for the Total War series by simplifying operation just enough to distil what players love. That benefit is felt as you clash clans on dry land but equally when things move to the water and downing enemy vessels. Wherever you take the fight however, you can’t help but be amazed by Shogun 2’s scale and detail.
Sadly the AI quirks blighting Total War previously can occasionally peep through, as dwindling units seem to fall over themselves rather than avoiding attacks. But glitches are rare and if you opt for the Mac-to-Mac multiplayer or Avatar Conquest modes on Steam, the sophistication of challenge is less robotic. However the game remains difficult in all the right ways and you will need to plumb every strategic depth to conquer the course. Couple this to the awe-inspiring period art style and Shogun 2 provides an instalment of enduring appeal. 4/5