Total War: Shogun 2

Developer: The Creative Assembly
International Publisher: SEGA
Russian Publisher: 1C-SoftClub
Official Website: English
Genres: Strategy / TBS / Real-Time Tactics
Platforms: PC
MultiPlayer: Internet
Release Date: 15.03.2011
Russian Release: 15.03.2011
PEGI Rating: 16+
System Requirements: Dual Core 2.0, 2 GB RAM, 256 MB 3D Card, 20 GB HDD
Our Score:

Total War: Shogun 2. Interview with Kieran Brigden, Creative Assembly

The famous Total War (2000-2011) game series has reached universal worldwide acclaim and respect. Its developers are very careful with the history of various eras, and they do always listen to the wishes of their community. The British studio behind the line-up, The Creative Assembly, makes games that are interesting to play even years after their initial releases. The closest upcoming project of the team is Total War: Shogun 2. It looks as a noticeable evolution of the original concept in many areas mixed up with some intriguing revolutionary features for the whole series.

Our media, GameScope, has selected Shogun 2 not only as «The Best Game of the Show» (at the IgroMir 2010 Russian Games Expo), but also as «The Most Anticipated Game of 2011» for us. We really enjoyed discussing this title with Kieran Brigden, the Studio Communications Manager at The Creative Assembly. It allowed us to learn many new interesting facts of the project, which we can’t wait to start playing!

- Hello! Please, introduce yourself to our readers.

Kieran Brigden (The Creative Assembly) – Hello, readers! My name is Kieran Brigden, and I’m the Communications Manager for The Creative Assembly, the studio behind the Total War series. Some time ago we visited Moscow to show Total War: Shogun 2.

- How did your trip go this time in comparison with the one happened in 2009?

- Yeah, my trip in 2009 was filled with various events, but the last visit to Moscow in 2010 was good. Every time I come to Russia, I’m amazed by how things are moving forward. Your country is developing so fast. When I come back, I always see something has changed. It felt at the time, when I arrived to the IgroMir 2010 in Moscow. The show last year was much more professional in a good way.

All of the equipment of it, the size, its scale, number of the games shown prove that many key world developers and publishers start to wake up to Russia as a market. You can see  many more triple A titles and really big companies here. It is a really cool thing, and I like this tendency!

- Who accompanied you during your visit to the IgroMir 2010?

- The last time it was Laurence Tully. He works as a Cinematic Artist at The Creative Assembly with me as well. He makes all the trailers and videos you can see in the game.

- Where else did you have a chance to show the upcoming game during your tour in 2010?

- Let me think… Australia, France, Germany, Greece, Holland, Italy, New Zealand, Portugal, Spain, Turkey and such US places as California, New-York, Seattle. It was pretty much worldwide, although it gets specific, when we come to Russia. Every time it happens I try to show the people here something completely new about the game. For example, till the IgroMir 2010 occurred we had never shown a campaign map, never presented its live code to the public ever. We premiered that feature in Russia at that big game show.

The Russian gaming community is fantastic. Here a lot of people have PCs, and this platform serves as a main form for gaming, but also your users are very much educated about history. They are very into it, and they understand it very well. This combination of strong PC gaming position and a really good knowledge of history makes your country one of my favorite places to visit, because audience here really understands, what we are trying to do. They really enjoy playing our games giving us a very big boost to the morale, what is really good. It is a specific Russian feature. I visited many countries of the world with Shogun 2, and I can say that confidently.

- What historical research have you conducted for the game?

- Lots of it. Firstly, we have done some for the original Shogun (2000) game, and we used all of this original research and the documentation available. On top of that, of course, the developers visited the museum exhibits and various other events featuring Japan. There was a very good museum exhibit in London actually. British Museum presented eastern armor, swords and weapons of this era, what was a fantastic source for our reference.

We also have some historians among our staff. We are especially grateful for the services of Stephen Turnbull, who is actually a respected academic in the field of feudal Japan. He has written around 40 books on Japan, and he is like a western scholar on the Japanese history. This man is greatly respected in Japan for his historical findings and research. He has helped us giving his hand, where we needed, when developing the game.

Of course, we also involved the guys, who worked on the original game. So they helped us with the research as well. We were very keen to provide the authentic feel of this historical period in the project. To give you an idea of how accurate it is, I can give you the following example: we had the honor to show the game to one of the Tokugawa’s heirs!

That is the man, whose relative was the Shogun of Japan hundreds of years ago. He actually came and saw the game personally. I presented it to him in San Francisco. He was really impressed with our historical accuracy. Surely, he writes books about his own family, since it is an important part of the Japanese history. That was a really good thing, since we had done everything right even to impress this kind of person. We are always very careful with the real history in our games.

- What is the timeline for Shogun 2?

- Total War: Shogun 2 is focused on the Sengoku period of Japan. We start the game in 1545 approximately. You have got roughly about 60 years of historical gameplay. Importantly, for Shogun 2 each turn is presented as a season. We went a little towards that with Napoleon (2010), where, if you remember, we had the seasons cycle changing each other. With Shogun 2 each turn is now one season: spring, summer, autumn and winter. It gives you 4 turns a year and 240 game turns in total in the actual game.

Total War: Shogun 2Total War: Shogun 2

Taking from about 1545 to the start of 1600s, when the actual Sengoku period ended, and in real history the establishment of Tokugawa Ieyasu (1543-1616) brought a hundred years of peace and stability into the country. Of course, now it is up to you to change this story and do as you like trying to become the shogun of Japan in the game. You need to complete your objectives till the time runs out to create your Shogunate. Certainly, you can play beyond that point like in many of our previous games, but you still have to reach the goals in time to win.

- What are the playable sides?

- We have nine clans in the game that are playable. In total, there are around 40 of them. Smaller and minor ones are scattered over the maps. Starting conditions can very greatly depending on certain circumstances. The one and the most obvious is the geographic location.

I do appreciate you looking at me, when asking questions, but you can see the presentation screen up there right now and find out that when a clan like Hōjō starts out, you have got just a small province in the country. Early on, you are very safe. You hold just a small territory, and all the rest is unknown to you. You don’t know, what is there.

On the other hand, if you start in the Takeda clan, you are landlocked. These guys have enemies of another clans all around them. Their position is extremely different from the first example, and their start would be very different. So you could start in the west, or at a remote Japanese island, and the threats you will face, the strategies you will have to think over would vary a lot, depending on where you choose to begin.

In addition, the clans themselves have the number of unique abilities and other differences. You will find that some are extremely good with cavalry, others – with archers, others – diplomatically. They all have different honor values and diplomatic relationships with the neighbors. It will lead you to the chance to play out your strengths There is a lot of variety at the landscape at present if comparing this to the usual Total War factions.

- How does the economics model look like in the new game?

- That is an interesting question! There is a separate system in Total War: Shogun 2 for this now. We obviously have money. Koku is a kind of coin in rice. Basically, we treat it as an in-game currency. Everything costs money, and you raise it through levies by taxing your people, via trading with other countries and by exploiting resources like gold. This time food and agriculture play a much more important role as a resource. The rice supplies are vital for Japanese villages and fish, of course, as well.

Total War: Shogun 2Total War: Shogun 2

In Shogun 2 we allow you to upgrade your provincial Fortresses up to 5 times each. Then they become very large. Not only you have to pay for them with available currency, you have to feed them, since they require food. Certainly, for that you will need to develop all your farms and clan’s agriculture, to trade a lot as well to make sure you could feed all those castles. It means now that attacking an enemy’s farms will restrict his food supply, so this portion of the game is much more tactical this time.

We began that with Napoleon, where you needed supply depots to feed your army and to resupply. Though now we go even farther, since whole cities are fed by your rice supply. This can be disrupted, and the people will revolt. It can help you to start a revolution in an enemy’s country by lessening the amount of food they have available. It is a new game mechanic to play with.

The final thing about the resources on the campaign map is that we have a balanced resource system, so things like stone, gold, marble and such can be traded with other factions. You need them to get to the higher levels of buildings. If you don’t own them and can’t produce them locally, you will have to find a way to buy them from your neighbors. It means that we paid quite a lot of attention to resource management this time. We wanted to make sure that it would have proper impacts on your game.

- What will the technology tree offer?

- The way the technology works in Total War: Shogun 2 is slightly different. Basically, you will advance along the technology tree much like you did in Empire or Napoleon. However, essentially, it is much more balanced this time around. In Napoleon you had to use schools and employ gentlemen for conducting research, but you won’t find them in the upcoming game. Now you literally just go ahead and research a new technology

The tree has two distinctive paths providing the necessary balance. The social half of the technology tree (Way of Chi) affects such things as your taxes output, the peacefulness of your people, the loyalty of your governors, and the development of your cities. The other half (Way of Bushido) is the way of the warrior. Its advancements unlock new military buildings, units and technologies.

The military part is very interesting in Shogun 2. We have done quite a lot here. The first thing we did was downsizing the number of units dramatically. We have got nearly 300 units in Napoleon, while in Shogun 2 you’ll find around 30+ types, what is ten times less! Though now it allowed us to introduce very big differences between the available types of units including archers, cavalry or spearmen.

Total War: Shogun 2Total War: Shogun 2

We use a “rock-paper-scissors” system of relationships to make one thing effectively counter another to encourage you to use it against specific other units. You can much clearly create your big armies and manage huge forces. Those units themselves also become war veterans the more they fight. You also can unlock special abilities for all of these units. Besides the standard formations they can do, with the technology tree you can reach the brand new tactical options to use on the battlefield.

Also you have hero units. They are the elite examples of martial artists. If you build a legendary Dojo or legendary sword fighting school you will get access to one master of martial art. There are 12 disciplines, and on the battlefield you can control the heroes using their extremely good skills in certain specialties. The sword master is great in hand-to-hand combat, he is nearly unbeatable curving his way through the enemy. However, in long range combat this person is very weak and can be killed by archers from a long distance.

You have to use your heroes properly, since they are not invincible, though they remain extremely strong units on the battlefield. There is also generals’ staff. We have changed it a great deal. Shogun 2 features a new RPG-like system for all of our characters. Let’s look at one of the generals on the map. We can study his skills’ tree.

All of the characters now have a full skills tree. You level them up by getting new experience points and then spend them to improve the appropriate skills for that type of character. The Ninjas have different skills, the Geishas have others, the Monks and the Generals have their unique skills as well.

The generals have the widest skill tree in the whole game. You will notice that just like with the technology tree there are two areas, where the general can show his performance. We have like a governorship’s strength (public leadership) and the military strength (armies leadership). The samurais tend to proudly grow into complete men wishing to become either great warriors on the battlefield or wise academics, poets at peaceful times.

If you invest into a poetry or academic route, they can become great governors of cities. You can appoint them to the cities afterwards getting a lot of bonuses for that, especially if they are effective in their jobs. On the other hand, your characters can become great commanders of armies. You can lead them through many different routes as well letting them rise up to a cavalry, infantry or a naval commander.

Total War: Shogun 2Total War: Shogun 2

It is a really good system taking us one step further in the series. Earlier you were just awarded with a Command point eventually, but now you have a very distinct hierarchy to level your characters, and you will choose, what their specialities are. It means that you will create these distinct characters yourself. The choices are permanent, what means that that if you choose the warrior’s path, you can no longer take the administrative route, the governor’s route for this particular general. You will have to take another character to develop him in another way to make him a good governor.

You will craft those individuals now, and you’ll become associated with them. Now when they die or you use them recklessly, you will really regret it saying: “Oh, I didn’t want to lose that guy, he was really good!”. It brings you very close to your characters emotionally, and our new RPG-system helps that happen.

- How have the diplomacy options changed?

- They have changed, because we have kind of unique, Japanese kind of deals you can make. The first thing to speak about here is that we have been intensively working to include the visual diplomacy system into the game. I hope it will integrate well. When you are talking to someone in the game, they will be leaning forward, when listening to you, they can look offended by your words or angry. This kind of stuff will teach the player visually when trying to organize a required treaty. Hopefully, it’ll add another intriguing layer into the game.

Diplomacy options in Shogun 2 will vary a lot in times of feudal Japan. There are some interesting ideas about the hostages and the way they work. For example, one family can say to another family: “I guarantee that I will not attack you, and to prove that I give you one of my children. Give us something in return”.

There would be a foreign middle son behind bars as a guarantee for safety. It isn’t kidnapping, you can give your family members away voluntarily. However, it also means that if you do attack, they can kill him. It lets you put an honor of your family at stake to guarantee your actions. The game includes many different and unique options like that. So you can use the wide arrangement of Japanese specific diplomacy deals to your advantage.

- What about the agents types that are available?

- Shogun 2 features a smaller number of agents available, but they are more balanced. You will recruit Geishas, Ninjas, Metsuke (secret policemen), Monks and Generals. All of them can interact with pretty much everything: each other, and other objects on the campaign map. So they can do something to an enemy’s army or city, to a friendly city or agent.

The agents also have their own skill tree that we introduced earlier. You can go down an assassination branch or espionage route. These skill trees make your agents unique letting you customize them in a variety of ways. Three ninjas will not be the same here. You will make one of them very good in this, another one – very good in that and so on. It will make them three distinct characters

Kieran Brigden's Autograph (The Creative Assembly)Finally, the agents have been very carefully balanced. There is always an opposite for every agent type. The ninjas are very good assassins and stealth operatives, but their opposites are the Metsuke, who serve as secret policemen. Their job is to discover those ninjas and expose them to arrest these agents. Metsuke have nice bonuses in these areas. So it doesn’t matter how skilled the ninja is, he still has to be very careful when going on missions. You have to use them wisely avoiding too much danger.

Geishas represent the other fine example. They can become very high level assassins. The Monks are used to spread religion, whether it is Christianity or Buddhism depending on your faction. All of these guys have different uses as well. You will find very interesting tactical opportunities on the campaign map related to your agents.

- We know that you heavily reworked the sieges gameplay. Can you tell us more about it?

- Yes. We reworked them massively. A siege battle in Shogun 2 plays out very differently in comparison with previous games. I’ll show you one to you as I speak. Sieges were very different in this time of history from what the Europeans did at the same era protecting the castle in the middle with a big wall, and if you could break in through that wall, you would get in leaving defenders just two options: to rush and meet you at the breach or to wait till your forces come closer. Attacker there had just two options: to make a hole in the wall or to go over the wall. That’s it.

Whereas in Japanese war science, the Fortresses were built like death traps, mazes organized in layers having the first courtyard, the second one and so on. Within that space they placed defensive structures, creates ways to move backward and forward between the two armies. We wanted to reflect that in our new game.

With the sieges you have three different types of castles in the game: built on mountains, on land and by the ocean. Depending on the type of your province, the castle gets appropriate surroundings. Then you can upgrade your castle up to 5 times, what we mentioned before. This gives you the possibility to make 15 different types of castles. All of them will be very really different from each other possessing various structures, geography and everything else.

A huge amount of time we devoted to improving the siege AI to make sure it will provide you with a real challenge being very unpredictable, attacking you from different directions and so on. It is really a big achievement for Shogun 2. Right now we’re showing you a quick fly around the map. That is a castle built on the hill side.

Here you can see that European designs with a city’s square in the center have completely gone. Literally, there is a mountain going all the way down and the ocean behind it. There is no danger coming from this part of the area, but if you study it in more details, you will notice a path going to the bridge, so the AI can decide to send his troops all the way behind your castle to attack you from the rear.

Then we see the first layer, the first part of the castle the enemy will try to storm. There are some gates and fences, and the attackers can try to crush the gates, or climb up the walls. Surely, we would want to defend those points. Then we go up to the second part of the keep. It is the second layer of the castle, where you see features like Fortress Towers. They will automatically engage any attackers by firing arrows out of the windows. Though you might need to put units inside to organize that since they are defensive structures.

Now look at that flag out of the front that could be captured by the attackers. If they do that, they can use our defensive positions against our own forces. So you can seize the points located inside the castle too, and not just garrison the buildings as before. You can also storm the gates, and your forces won’t have to climb up the wall, and will be able to walk right through the main entrance, if it is own by your army.

There is a final layer of the castle, which is the major part in the middle with the keep standing right here. Certainly, the ultimate goal and the main victory condition is to capture this keep and hold it. Enemies know how to do that too. You can even burn your own structures. If you don’t want the enemy to take them, just set them on fire.

You can do a lot depending on your play style and the army you have got. You can place archers on the walls, you can rush outside with your main forces to meet the enemy. There are siege weapons as well, which are designed authentically to this historical era. The environment is destructible too, so you can destroy the walls, burn down the huts and the defenses. It already shows a lot of tactical options available in-game allowing to get a much quicker access to the inner area.

- We are really impressed with your story and the game itself. The Total War series is a great addition to the PC market. We can play its games for hours…

- What is your favorite game in the line-up?

- Medieval II: Total War (2006) and yours?

Laurence Tully & Kieran Brigden (The Creative Assembly) – For Laurence it is Rome (2004). As for me that would be a tough choice. I really liked the first Medieval: Total War (2002) game. That was the game I got lost in the most, where I spent the most time in. Although, honestly I’ll add that the concept of Shogun 2. (2011) appeals to me the a lot. I really like its theme. Empire (2009) on the other hand was just so big, it gave you the world to rule, and I loved that idea of colonization going all over the world. It was really fun giving kind of imperial sense to play!

So that’s a mixture for me. The game I played the most was Medieval, the game I enjoyed the most from the mechanics perspective was Empire, it was really big in scale, but Rome also has a special place in my heart. Mostly, Rome is the best game because of the battlefield announcer. The guy who provided all the voices for the battles in Rome. We love how he sounds. Like when you win a battle, he shouted: “The day is ours!”. That guy provided the best voice we ever recorded.  Remember that “Your general thrown his life away…”? There was a lot to enjoy in the series. [Smiles].

- What do you think about the current position of PC as a game platform?

- Some people say that PC is doomed. Every year someone will tell you that PC is dead or that it is dying. Well, then just look at the most played games in the world: it is Farmville (2009) on Facebook, what makes it a PC-game. What’s the game generating the most revenue monthly reaching millions of dollars a month? It is World of Warcraft (2004) having its biggest world install base and being the PC-exclusive title. Take one of the most successful game series of all time – it is The Sims. Where did start? On PC! It sold the most of its units on PC, and it’s still on top of various sales charts, because it was made for PC.

The PC isn’t dead or dying. Absolutely not at all. The great thing about the PC-market is that the console games market stands still for 3 to 5 years. When a new console comes out, it looks as a best thing every time, providing amazing graphics in amazing games. Within the first two years, it is possible to reach a technical limit for this platform. On the other hand, with every year of operating PCs its technology advances with new CPUs and graphics cards being introduced for PCs. Then suddenly the PC outstrips the consoles again.

It is like an endless cycle of an arms race. The PC is on a constant gradual incline, where the consoles come out, and then it is nothing, then the next console comes out with the same result. I just think that all of these factors combine making PC an amazing platform for games development. Why are there companies like BioWare, Blizzard, The Creative Assembly, Firaxis? All of us are making great PC titles for you like Diablo, StarCraft, Civilization franchises. It means there are good PC games on the market, and they do sell. When people predict an economic doom to the PC games market, it sounds rubbish.

– Thank you for the great Interview, Kieran!

- You are welcome!

See also: Total War History.

Greetings from Kieran Brigden

Back to top
09.03.2011 | Features | Alex "Jace" Ivanchenko

Total War: Shogun 2

Total War: Shogun 2

Master the art of war to become the undisputed ruler of medieval Japan. In 2000, the Creative Assembly re-invented the strategy genre with Shogun: Total War, an unprecedented blend of 3D real-time battles and turn-based management game and the first offering in the multi-award winning series. With over 7 million units sold and universal acclaim from the press and community, Total War has consistently been at the cutting edge of the genre and is today one of the most successful PC franchises of all time.

In 2011, the makers of Rome and Empire: Total War will release the sequel to the game that started it all. Total War: Shogun 2 will take long-time veterans and newcomers alike to the next level of strategy gaming on PC. Based on 10 years of experience in making Total War, Shogun 2 is the perfection of the series with a new Artificial Intelligence (AI), revolutionary multiplayer modes, brand new campaign map options and epic 3D real-time battles.

It is the middle of the 16th century in Medieval Japan. The country, once ruled by a unified government, is now split into many warring clans. The player takes on the role of one Daimyo – the clan leader – and will use military engagements, economics and diplomacy to achieve the ultimate goal: re-unite Japan under his supreme command and become the new Shogun – the undisputed ruler of Japan. Set during the golden age of Samurai warfare, Shogun 2 brings to life the most turbulent period of Japanese history.

  • New Generation AI system. Developed according to Sun Tzu’s principles in the Art of War, the Artificial Intelligence constantly analyzes its situation and reacts to your every move with greater precision and variety;
  • New character progression. Choose from 9 different clans and compete on and offline for the undisputed supremacy of Medieval Japan. Gain experience to level up your own character-warlord as well as your generals and agents;
  • Total War redefined. Shogun 2 is the ultimate refinement of the original formula with a new, cutting-edge AI, more polish and online functionality than ever before. The result is the perfect mix of real-time and turn-based strategy gaming that invites both veterans of Total War and new players to experience the enjoyment and depth of the series;
  • Accessible and in-depth empire-building gameplay. A streamlined User Interface makes management of your kingdom much easier. Build and govern cities, recruit and train troops, conduct diplomacy and manage your agents – each feature is now introduced with comprehensive tutorials, gradually revealing the depth of the Shogun 2 campaign map – the heart and soul of the Total War experience;
  • A complete single and multiplayer offering. Play through the Main Campaign in single player or invite a friend online to play competitively or cooperatively in Campaign Multiplayer mode. Join 8-player multiplayer battles with your own upgradable avatar and climb the online Leaderboard to show the world who reigns supreme. Also including exciting new modes of team play for clans, a first in the Total War series;
  • Improved land and naval battle gameplay. Land battles never felt so realistic with new multi-staged castle sieges and terrain features changing according to the weather and time of the day – turning each engagement into a tactical challenge. Set buildings on fire to force garrisoned troops out and use your units’ special abilities to turn the tide of the battle. Naval combat also offers more variety with the addition of coastal battles. Islands can work as effective cover for your ships, while sand bars and reefs can be used as traps against an enemy fleet.
Back to top

Write a Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Review » 1

Total War: Shogun 2
The sequel shows improvements in all areas. When you spend some time with the game, you will surely note, how carefully the developers were treating not only the ideas of the original title, but also everything that was introduced to the series later on. More »
| Reviews

Features » 1

Laurence Tully & Kieran Brigden (The Creative Assembly)
We really enjoyed discussing the upcoming Total War: Shogun 2 with Kieran Brigden, the Studio Communications Manager at The Creative Assembly. It allowed us to learn many new interesting features of the project, which we can't wait to start playing! More »
| Features

Videos » 1

Kieran Brigden (The Creative Assembly)
Kieran Brigden, the Studio Communications Manager at The Creative Assembly (the development studio behind Total War) makes a great presentation about the history of the Total War series to the Russian press and retailers at the IgroMir 2010 games expo. Length: 7 minutes and 12 seconds. More »
| Videos
GameScope * News * Previews * Reviews * Interviews * Features * Movies * Premieres * Games * PC * Xbox 360 * PlayStation 3
Top of the Week: Back to top