In the second half of the 1800s the Emperor of Japan enlisted the help of the Americans to train his forces in the use of gunpowder, firearms and other industrial era warring techniques that made use of steel, iron, and other metal machines. This is both the setting for the full Total War: Shogun 2 expansion ‘Fall of the Samurai’ as well a pretty great 2003 film and starring vehicle for the thetan-powered actor Tom Cruise, called The Last Samurai. Just like that movie players will be given the choice to honour the samurai code much like Tom Cruise chose to do, or to side with the changing ways of the west which Tom Cruise chose not to do.
Being an expansion as opposed to DLC means that Fall of the Samurai is exactly what players would have expected to get in the pre-broadband era. That, of course, being a same engine quasi-sequel that brings numerous changes to the game, with as much content as the original that usually fleshes out the initial experience for the better.
Being set 300 years after the events of Shogun 2 means this is definitely the case here as the introduction of firearms, gunpowder and even steam engines changes the overall battle aspects seen in the original as well as the diplomacy and Civilization-style gameplay of the world-map maneuverings. This means that throughout the course of the campaign railway lines and other industrial landmarks will evolve across the map adding new possibilities to the previously feudal-only Shogun 2.
Perhaps the biggest change to the battle aspects of the game comes with the overall reduction to the effectiveness of using samurai troops with more emphasis placed on ranged combat that starts with arrows and progresses to bullets and even siege weaponry. So even though Tom Cruise chose to side with the samurai, where honour, respect, and blah blah blah was the order of the day, they eventually became The Last Samurai (coming this Christmas to theatres near you – cue dramatic music). Setting the game a few hundred years after the events of Shogun 2 was a wise choice as for fans of the series it opens the doors to countless new ways in which to tackle the campaign as well as bring in the added excitements of firearms without copying and pasting elements from previous Total War games. In fact the setting here makes this the most modern Total War entry to-date.
As with any good expansion, opening up the playing field with more unit variety and diplomatic options, leads to a rekindled interest and new ways to play a beloved game. Incremental improvements to the graphics engine used for the world-map and battle engine, also make this the most visually impressive Total War to-date that will no doubt put many rigs through their paces. Fall of the Samurai also takes things just that one step further by doubling the number of units deployable in a particular battle, which takes already epic encounters into territory that would make Peter Jackson’s computer-generated orc armies run for the hills like they did at the end of Two Towers.
But in the end the overall appeal, like with any expansion, lies with fans of the original, and does very little to try and win new players into the fold. But with Shogun 2 scoring top marks across the board from both critics and fans alike, this is not necessarily a bad thing, so ‘Fall of the Samurai’ comes highly recommended. With arguably more gameplay content than the original, expanded diplomatic and battle strategies, and moving the series forward to the industrial age, developer Creative Assembly have released another stellar entry into this long-running series.