I had really hoped Shogun 2 would just be an updated version of Shogun, with true 3D graphics.

What I got instead was an extremely annoying, wonky title where battles were very little fun, units on both sides moved and died way too fast, and lost morale too quickly. The multi-tiered castle-villages were back and it seemed really cool at first, but Shogun 2 actively prevents you from playing the game the way you want to play it, a problem which unfortunately found it’s way into Rome 2 as well.

You play as one of the Shogun’s daimyo’s, in charge of whatever samurai clan you choose. Everything is cool at first except that the game is very deliberately intended to restrict your expansion and options, using ridiculous arbitrary limits i.e food limits. If you expand too fast, your people starve and you can’t afford to build any new units, despite the fact that you may literally control half of the entire country of Japan. At this point, the Emperor will order your death and EVERY clan remaining on the map will instantly attack you. Every clan will march their armies, within 1 turn, even if they came from the opposite end of Japan, straight into your capital. Even if you win legendary, epic victories against them, defending your castle village from hordes of elite units using some crappy ashagaru spearmen, the game will cheapen those victories as it tosses multiple factions worth of fresh 20 stack armies at you until you lose because you have literally 8 men.

Without mods, this game is an abject failure to recapture what made the original good. Even the little things like the cutscenes when you send ninja’s out to kill someone lose their meaning, as they always fail. Many annoying things about the game have since been patched and tweaked, but still this game and it’s endless army of DLC is a blight on the franchise.

If you don’t own the game and are looking for a Shogun Total War type of experience, you would do much better to buy the standalone expansion Fall of the Samurai. It’s basically like The Last Samurai the game. It takes place during the Bakumatsu era i.e the beginning of the Meiji restoration, during which the Satsuma Rebellion happened (the inspiration for that movie).

It features most of the same gameplay and units, without the moronic food limit, and with far better single player and multiplayer mechanics, like being able to transport armies by train to the front lines, become a protector of a client state, and fight battles where you can use your otherwise useless fleets of battleships to provide artillery support once you’ve cleaned up the sea and can bring them to bay. And you don’t need the main game to play it. Still, Shogun 2 is worth giving a couple of tries, if you prefer the stagnant plodding required to gain power “just fast enough.”