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Total War: Shogun 2 - Fall Of The Samurai Review

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Adam Barnes

Creative Assembly adds The Last Samurai to Total War: Shogun 2, but is this standalone expansion pack worth getting? Find out in our review.

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Published on Mar 30, 2012

Creative Assembly has long been the go-to developer for historical strategy games with its Total War series, though admittedly it's not exactly a crowded genre.

As a standalone expansion pack to Total War: Shogun 2, Fall Of The Samurai doesn't set out to mix up the template drastically, yet many of the new additions are perhaps the most interesting in the series for a long time.

By setting Fall Of The Samurai through the end of the Shogunate period, this new expansion pack not only brings with it new units, an additional landmass, extra agents and a bounty of tweaks and updates but also a sense of objective.

No other Total War game before has had such a specific setting and goal to it. Rather than being tasked with conquering as much of the map as you can – as is usually the case – Fall Of The Samurai pits supporters of the Emperor or the Shogunate against one another.

You'll start by picking one of six clans – three on either side of the civil war – with an overarching objective of persuading as many clans of the country to your chosen faction.

Initially starting Fall Of The Samurai will feel familiar to anyone who has played Total War: Shogun 2 before, but as technology quickly improves you'll soon need to learn to cope with new changes charging through Japan.

It's strange to feel pride in killing this many men...

At its base level this means the introduction of new units such as artillery, the powerful Gatling gun or rifled units, the latter in particular making previously powerful Japanese bowmen practically redundant almost the instant you start a new game.

This is Fall Of The Samurai's biggest achievement, encapsulating all that defines the tumultuous period for Japan. It's a battle between old and new as sword and spear units take on line infantry and artillery fire.

Long-range sharpshooters and marines pose the biggest threat to ranks of approaching traditional units like spearmen, but they're still vulnerable from a cavalry charge – which makes protective sword wielding samurai just as valuable as ever. A perfect blend between changing technologies.

Fall Of The Samurai is a fantastic addition to the series, bringing a whole new element of strategy that enforces the classic rock/paper/scissors nature of Total War combat. 

Then there's artillery. Gain access to this early on and you'll find yourself able to obliterate a larger enemy force before they've even picked up their banners. 

The opposite is true as well, of course, meaning those precious cavalry units of yours will need careful guidance if you hope to destroy enemy artillery before it picks apart your ranks.

There is a first-person view for certain weapons, but it's largely ignorable.

It's this advancement of technology that underpins the entirety of Fall Of The Samurai unlike any Total War game before. The tech tree, for example, requires a certain amount of clan development to proceed. This is achieved by unlocking certain technologies or by constructing upgraded buildings.

While the benefits are obvious – in most cases increased money or supplies – you'll need to counter the disapproval of modernisation from your citizens. Too much modernisation will create dissent among your populace, meaning you'll need to watch just how quickly you advance if you lack the additional units to act as garrisons.

The biggest disappointment is in the limited variations between clans. Regardless of whether you’re a forward-looking Imperialist or a traditional Shogunate, there's no avoiding the march of metal. It's true of the era, of course, but there seems to be no attempt to benefit a Shogunate supporter with more traditional units.

Other tweaks appear in the form of naval units, which can now bombard buildings and units both in the tactical map and in any battles that their long-range cannons are in range of. A powerful addition that makes ships far more useful than simply babysitting trade routes.

Sea battles themselves have been tweaked as well, and though it's still as plodding as ever the tactics involved – combined with the numerous upgrades available throughout the era – make for some particularly hard-won and rewarding combat sections.

Having access to cannons early on will make some tough battles easily won.

Creative Assembly claims to have improved the AI greatly and, especially with regards to naval battles, this much is true. Land battles still suffer from missteps, unfortunately, while confusions of exactly what your artillery can or cannot fire on can make it even more frustrating.

More agents are available too: the foreign veteran, the ishin shishi and its Shoganate counterpart the shinsengumi. While the latter two can assist in controlling an unruly populace, they still lack the importance that Shogun 2's agent characters are so clearly meant to invoke. If you used agents previously you'll like the new additions, otherwise you won't feel compelled to use them here either.

Fall Of The Samurai is a shorter campaign than most other Total War games, spanning a much more condensed period of time than the games are used to. To counteract this the seasons last longer, with six turns per season. 

This has a greater impact on the winter months where attrition can be the biggest killer of your army, requiring you to plan your wars carefully. It's not worth marching on to the next region if autumn is winding down.

As the campaign heads towards its conclusion, the Boshin War occurs where every clan is required to pledge loyalty to either faction. Here it's all out war between the Imperialists and the Shogunate; allegiances are made and broken while surprising betrayals may mix things up.

Castle sieges are just as exciting as ever, but you'll need real strategy to survive.

This makes for the most interesting campaign unlike any Total War previously. There's an endgame to proceedings that, alongside the necessary persuasions needed for your chosen faction, requires a lot of forethought and planning.

This is ultimately the best element of Fall Of The Samurai as it encompasses a span of history that is very intriguing to take part in. But is it a mandatory purchase? Well, not quite. 

In an effort to keep everything about the game balanced, Total War fans may consider Fall Of The Samurai's new features implemented a little too comfortably. That doesn't stop this expansion being a great deal of fun, and it still manages to retain a level of strategy even when facing insurmountable odds.

 

Score Breakdown
Graphics
9.3 / 10
Sound
9.1 / 10
Gameplay
9.0 / 10
Longevity
8.5 / 10
Multiplayer
TBC / 10
Overall
8.5 / 10
Final Verdict
While Total War: Shogun 2 - Fall Of The Samurai has enough updates and additions to make it a fantastic and worthwhile purchase, it's most interesting feature is the way it handles such an important turning point in Japanese history. One for Total War fans and history buffs.
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Game Details
Format:
PC
Release Date:
23/3/2012
Price:
£24.99
Publisher:
Sega
Developer:
Creative Assembly
Genre:
Strategy
No. of players:
1-8
Verdict
8.5 /10
An interesting look at an important point in Japanese history, with swathes of new features for those who only care about cutting down cavalry.
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