Explosive espionage (cntd)
Alongside the aforementioned naval bombardments, which also work on the campaign map for bombarding units and cities, vessels for the first time find themselves at risk from land-based gun emplacements. If ships stray too close to the coast of an enemy, during a siege of a port or simply passing by, coastal gun emplacements will damage your ships until you take over the region. This adds a layer of difficulty to the already difficult task of invasion by sea, and is a welcome addition.
To round off the trio of unit types, the Agent classes have too seen changes, with 3 new units available for recruitment. Foreign Veterans can aid the recruitment of units, harass enemy armies and challenge generals to duels, whilst the Ishin Shishi promote Imperialism and the Shisengumi promotes pro-Shogunate sentiment. With the previous units of Ninjas and Geisha gaining improved skilltrees, Fall of the Samurai makes this often overlooked area of warfare more important than before, and is to be commended for it.
Things aren’t all good
However, the more things change, the more they stay the same. Nowhere is this more of a case than in certain scenarios of Fall of the Samurai. Alongside the long loading times before battles, which are a regular occurrence in the series by now, there are certain war scenarios which irritate as much as they excite. Naval battles, a slow and irritating affair since they were introduced in Empire: Total War, once again prove to be boring and cumbersome, even with the improved firepower and better ships. The sense of annoyance I feel when waiting for my ship to manoeuvre into the right position to fire hasn’t been eradicated by the technological advancements.
There have been some changes to the AI of your soldiers and your enemies, but these again do little to eradicate long-standing issues with the series. Many a curse word was shouted at the screen as my soldiers once again failed to get into the position I wanted them to and just stood idly by, with fire at will mode on, as they were eradicated by the enemy. In a similar vein, the enemy factions have a weird habit of grouping together the most menial of units, and simply leaving their elite units in tiny and easily conquered armies. Whilst the latter could easily be attributed to problems with finance or luck on my part, the AI in Fall of the Samurai is still imperfect.
Cartography and the West
The dynamic of the Campaign Map has changed since Shogun 2 as well, but the effect that has is limited by several factors. Although there is the ability for increased infrastructure as you develop, including the introduction of the 19th Century’s greatest achievement the Railway, it often feels like you’re shoehorned into expanding into certain areas. This is partly due to the cramped Japanese lands, meaning that although there have been additions such as the Island of Ezo to the north, you’ll most likely never see it unless your faction is based right next to it. The fact that there are a lot of clans in such a confined space mean that your imperialism often feels forced, and very localized.
The influence of the new foreign powers helps alleviate that feeling of localisation though. With the British, Americans and French all playing key roles in the outcome of your campaigns. If you have cordial relations with them, you’ll gain access to more money through trade and better units and buildings. If you don’t, you’ll find a tougher challenge on your hands. It’s up to you, through the handling of key events and simple diplomatic affairs, to decide which path to tread.
Alongside the campaign, the other modes from Shogun 2 have returned with some serious changes. If you enjoy skirmishes and historical battles, there’s a whole host of additional ones for you to play through, with the new units and armies. The new units also make the jump to the multiplayer sphere, with the online campaign mode adapting to allow you to wage a modernized war. If you don’t have to time to commit to that, however, there is always the option of the Avatar Conquest mode, with additional units and unlocks, to keep you busy.
To put it simply, Creative Assembly have brought to the table the best Total War experience since Rome: Total War changed things up. With the various additions to the already stellar Shogun 2 experience, both veterans and newcomers will find something to appreciate about the Fall of the Samurai, even with residual issues still remaining from previous titles.
The best Total War title since Rome. The clash of civilizations is excellent, the campaign is challenging and long and the new units are excellent. More than worthy of being a full game by itself.
Naval battles are still boring. AI is still occasionally ridiculous. Loading Times are long.