Ten years ago, a little RTS that could was released to extreme critical acclaim and valiantly went up against heavy hitters like Red Alert and Warcraft to carve its own little niche for itself. That game was Shogun: Total War, and after spawning an entire series spanning various time periods and conflicts throughout human history, the series is returning to its roots with Shogun 2: Total War. We were fortunate enough to get a one on one demonstration of the game behind closed doors at Sega's booth.
The first thing that is noticeable about the game is how striking the visuals are. The Total War series has always been about tactical large scale battles, and this installment has got the large scale down pat. Every single soldier within larger designated units is individually rendered, complete with unique faces, pieces of armor and weapons. As armies clash, each soldier will take on an individual enemy, and those not engaged will actively scan around for an enemy to fight. Corpses stay on the ground when killed, death animations are varied, and even horses will run off when their riders are killed. Naval battles will features fully animated crews of rowers on their decks. All the battle animations are motion captured by the British Kendo Association.
Despite all the action and detail on screen, we were promised that there will be various graphical settings to ensure that the game will run on PCs of all horsepower.
Beyond the models are the gorgeous environments, which feature some impressive particle and weather effects. The game takes place year round in feudal Japan, so depending on the season, you will get various levels of wind, fog, rain, sunshine, snow, and even cherry blossoms blowing across the battlefield. Buildings and structures burn down and collapse realistically as well.
The tactics on the battlefield are completely authentic to the time period, and the AI patterns are directly modeled after Sun Tzu's The Art of War. To succeed in Shogun 2, you must successfully use the battlefield to your advantage, using tactics like flanking and ambushing through forests. Sea battles and land battles can also take place in the same level, giving arm chair generals all the action they can handle. Even soldier morale plays a part in how efficiently your soldiers will fight.
At the very heart of the game is a simple rock paper scissors mechanic. For example, Archers will generally decimate infantry from a distance, but cavalry will run down archers like grass. Conversely, a well prepared infantry can fortify itself with spears and take out running horses.
If this all sounds daunting, Sega is promising extensive tutorials and various difficulty levels so that RTS newbies aren't lost in the shuffle.
Shogun total war is tentatively being readied for a 2011 release, exclusively on the PC platform.