TW: Shogun 2 - Fall of the Samurai Review
A great expansion that largely fixes the few problems Shogun 2 had while adding some interesting new elements
The main competitive multiplayer mode from Shogun 2, dubbed Avatar Conquest, has returned here largely unchanged in structure. You will still take over provinces on a map by winning battles against human opponents in order to unlock new units and gain bonuses for your armies. This mode now includes a more robust tutorial however, with the first few battles being against AI opponents, which makes easing into this mode significantly less daunting. The units have changed to match the time period, leading to battles that are slower paced and more focused on out-maneuvering your opponent. You also have the option to enable large-scale battles which allow each player to field a remarkable 40 units each, resulting in some of the biggest battles ever seen in a Total War game. The ability to play through the campaign cooperatively remains as well, which is arguably the most enjoyable way to go through it.
While Shogun 2 was already one of the best looking strategy games on the market when it came out last year, Creative Assembly have really outdone themselves here. Direct X 11 enhancements made to the engine in a patch to Shogun 2 last year have been included, as well as many enhancements to smoke and particle effects that make the gun battles absolutely spectacular. Clouds of smoke will rise above firing lines and blow away with the wind. Ships will take damage and sway in the waves when hit with cannon fire, while men jump overboard when they catch fire. The engine also supports anti-aliasing and tessellation, which makes everything from ropes on a ships mast to distant hills during battles look very smooth. Even more impressive is how well the game runs with the settings turned up, with all but the largest of battles running very smoothly. The artistic GUI from Shogun 2 has returned, and given that it is incredibly functional and visually appealing there is no reason for an overhaul here.
The audio in Shogun 2 is almost as impressive as the visuals. Gunfire sounds sharp, marching troops thunderous, and ships crackle and splinter as they take damage. Many of the same tracks form Shogun 2 return, but there are a good number of new ones that feature stringed instruments that are really quite beautiful and set the tone during the campaign. The one component of the audio that seems like a small step backwards is the voice acting during battles; the heavily accented yet characterful battle narrator of Shogun 2 has been replaced by American and British accented individuals who will dryly inform you of goings on in skirmishes. The voice acting is far from bad, but lacks the charm of Shogun 2's.
If you enjoyed last year's Shogun 2 and like the idea of new units, clans and strategic options that revolve around the same gameplay mechanics, Fall of the Samurai is a great buy. You will want to play through the campaign at least twice to experience all the game has to offer, and each campaign will take from 10 to 30 hours depending on if you choose a short or long campaign and how often you take manual control of battles. Paired with the robust multiplayer component, you get more than your monies worth with the thirty dollar price tag as Fall of the Samurai essentially contains everything Shogun 2 did at launch. If you haven't picked up Shogun 2 but are interested in the series, which game you get should be determined by which time period you find more interesting as the engine and gameplay fixes applied in Fall of the Samurai have been added to Shogun 2 in a patch. Despite the need for some of the new elements to be tweaked, Fall of the Samurai is an excellent expansion to one of the finest strategy games of the last few years.
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