A nation of war
Japan has had a turbulent history, with civil wars, scrambles for power and fragmented relations between factions dominating much of its existence. But by far the most turbulent time to live in Japan was in the mid-to-late 19th century, during the Bakumatsu era of the Edo period. It’s this backdrop of the influence of western powers, civil war and the end of the shogunate that Total War: Shogun 2 - Fall of the Samurai focuses on.
A stand-alone expansion to last year’s successful Total War: Shogun 2, Fall of the Samurai treads new ground for the series, being by far the closest to the modern day Creative Assembly’s flagship series has got. As such, the game has undergone a lot of modernization and had a lot of changes applied to make sure the transition is as smooth as possible. However, is Fall of the Samurai worth your hard-earned cash?
Total War never changes
It is clear from the outset that Fall of the Samurai isn’t simply a expansion, but essentially a full game. Set 400 years after the original campaign, Japan has almost unrecognisably changed from the world we experienced in Shogun 2. With a modernizing and industrializing country, the nation and its populace are undergoing serious changes. With growing resentment to foreign influence after the end of the isolationist foreign policy Japan had pursued for centuries, war and hatred rises up once more. It’s into this cauldron of tension that the campaign begins.
Starting in 1864, the campaign allows you to play as one of 6 all-new factions- 3 loyal to the Shogunate and 3 loyal to the Emperor. With each of the factions having different specialities and bonuses, as is par for the course in the Total War series, it’s important to pick the right one to suit your style. As you set out, the goal is simple- expand your grip over Japan through military or diplomatic means, and get your chosen leader on the throne. This can be achieved through simple military expansionism, promotion of political allies or a mixture of the two. One thing’s for certain, however- the technological changes the country is going through will be key to victory, and provide the most interesting challenge in a Total War game to date.
How the East was won
The most obvious way this is true is in the larger amount and variety of units you have at your disposal. Whichever faction you select alters the type of weaponry you receive access to at first, but eventually you follow the same development paths, which for some removes the impact of choosing a side, but it’s not a done thing. Either way, guns make an appearance in Fall of the Samurai, and change everything. From the basic Line Infantry and Matchlock Katchi units to the advanced Gatling guns (that you can now control in a third-person view, as you can with artillery) and elite United States Marines, the influence of gunpowder can change entire battles.
Striking the balance between the old ways of the Samurai and the new ways of the West is a tough decision, and one you have to consider in Fall of The Samurai. The clash of civilizations is an exciting one, and breaks new ground for the series, but the familiar style of battle is still ever-present. Rather than leaving it as it was, however, Creative Assembly have implemented some changes.
The biggest of these changes is the ability to command even larger armies than before. Whilst in previous titles, there was the ability for reinforcements to aid your armies in battle, but never on such a grand scale as there is now. If you have two armies in the vicinity of a battle, you can fully control both- that’s up to 40 units at your disposal. The series has always prided itself on waging war on a grand scale, and it has certainly got grander this time around. This sense of scale has also been increased by the ability to utilize nearby naval units in the battle. No, they don’t sail on the land, but instead provide artillery support from afar, unleashing barrages at your command. The level of destruction in Fall of the Samurai is unprecedented in the series’ history, and it’s all the better for it.
Naval power has changed as well, with various tweaks and introductions meaning that taking to the sea has never been so turbulent or destructive. Alongside the introduction of newer units, including heavily-armed steam-powered warships and foreign ironclad vessels, there have also been changes in the way the ships interact with the land
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.