When Sega decided to go back to the well in their Total War franchise, they decided to go way back. With Shogun 2: Total War, the starting point of their RTS behemoth becomes the source of their newest in the series; however, this is far from being just another Shogun or just another Total War. During a one-on-one demo, Sega showed Newsarama some of the new toys in this big, new toybox. The first thing people will notice about the game is its distinct style. To try to capture the feel of ancient Japanese artwork, that style is present in all aspects of the game. The map itself (which is huge, covering all of Japan) has a unique look. Rather than the "fog of war" typical to most strategy games, the unexplored areas of the map are depicted in a 2D art style, while the areas of the map you've been to are depicted in highly detailed 3D.
That rendering and style carries over to individual specialty units called "Agents." When you don't want to go into all-out battle, you can use and agent for more subtle and more sinister ways of taking down your enemy. Sega showed us two assassin agents, the Ninja and the Geisha. Dispatching an Agent against another, like a general, sets off a branching cutscene. Each cutscene has about 10 different outcomes. A ninja sneaking through a camp could trip over a sleeping enemy and wake him up, or could get by; he could jump from a tree to attack the general and stab him through, or get stabbed in return. It's a cool and unique way to make those attacks stay fresh throughout the game. Don't think your geisha or ninja can sneak anywhere though, as the Metsuka, the secret police, can detect them, setting off their own lethal cutscene.
Each Agent also brings with them an RPG-style leveling system. Skill trees offer six levels of development, in several different directions. Once you choose one, that Agent is locked in- for example, Ninja can be a spy, saboteur, or assassin, and the supporting unlockable traits are thusly geared to each.
The game, so dependent on history, gives players some extra authenticity through their own history. You can view the history of your entire campaign from start to finish in a play-by-play style report. The team is trying to also allow clips of your game, but they couldn't confirm that as a feature just yet.A couple other teases were given about the overall campaign. If you take over a substantial amount of the map, the Emperor will declare you Shogun, but that doesn't mean you win. When that happens, everyone else turns on you, ramping up the difficulty of the game significantly, as you're suddenly fighting wars on multiple fronts. The campaign map reflects the changing seasons, and battlefields reflect weather and time of day. Campaigns will offer cooperative play as well as 1-on-1 versus, Sega confirmed as well, which further opens up the gameplay. When you're in all-out battle mode, if you are statistically near-assured victory, you can choose to auto-battle; especially useful when you have multiple fronts to manage.
Basically, even early on in this 2011 shipping game, Shogun 2: Total War looks like it will be one of the deepest strategy games ever. From up-close and personal assassinations to massive army-vs-army battles, from country-wide strategy to individuals leveled-up RPG style, this game seems to have it all, and should thrill PC Strategy gamers next year.
Are you ready to be the military leader of Japan?