iPad Game Review: Total War Battles: Shogun (Universal) Review
Reviewed by Tom Slayton
Total War Battles: Shogun is a solid, yet unusual real-time strategy title for iOS. While it has a great deal of polish, and the gameplay is balanced and engaging, some of the interface and design decisions may put off those looking for a traditional RTS.
Total War Battles: Shogun (TWBS) is, as you may have guessed, based on 16th century feudal Japan. Like traditional RTS games, you will build your infrastructure and harvest resources in order finance your war machine of samurai, archers, ninja, cavalry, etc; all of which can be customized through a well-designed upgrade process. Additionally, new legendary units have just been added in a patch, including Black Devils, Crimson Feathers, and Stone Temple Monks.
Building your infrastructure is actually a puzzle game unto itself because most structures have requirements regarding where they can be built in relation to other structures so if you're one of those fast and loose RTS players, you're going to need to change your style a bit with TWBS or fail miserably. Once you start cranking out the units, it really becomes obvious that this is not a typical RTS game. For instance, you can't give continuous orders to your armies so plan ahead and be careful where you send them or you may find yourself halfway through a cooldown at a bad moment. Also, the battle map is hex-grid based, which means you can't just put your armies where you like (no stopping halfway).
The most interesting feature, however, (and one that I particularly liked) is the incorporation of Bushido philosophy, which means that your units can only move forward and never retreat. This twist, combined with the grid-based maps, makes TWBS feel more like a castle defense game than a RTS. Being an avid fan of Plants vs. Zombies, I really enjoyed this mash-up, although your mileage may vary. One design decision that I didn't particularly enjoy, however, is the complete and inexplicable absence of unit and building health bars. I can't think of a rational reason to leave these off, yet could find no way to enable them. Hopefully, this will be addressed in a future patch.
TWBS features an exhaustive 10-hour campaign, a skirmish mode, and a multiplayer mode. The latter felt like a completely different game because it can only be played on the same device, and features a streamlined interface, smaller maps (no scrolling), and no buildings. Total War Battles: Shogun also supports leaderboards and achievements via Game Center.
Total War Battles: Shogun is a thing of beauty. While there is no shortage of Asian-themed strategy games, TWBS does a great job of making theirs particularly pleasing to the eye. Even though the engine is clearly 3D, the units are rendered with enough detail to make it look great. Zooming and panning is silky smooth, the interface is clean and intuitive, and the maps are colorful. I especially enjoyed watching the armies battle because they don't just mindless hack and swing at each other Flintstones boxing style. Units block, dodge, thrust, slice, and parry in a very realistic fashion. This really adds to the immersion factor so that you may even find yourself rooting for your troops while you watch them give the enemy what-for.
Very nice battle sounds and a pleasing soundtrack round out TWBS, and really give it a sense of high polish.
In-App Purchases (IAPs)
Experience can be purchased within the game to make it easier. However, I never got the feeling that the game was balanced toward their use so don't let their presence put you off.
Total War Battles: Shogun is a solid if quirky real-time strategy game. Personally, I found the quirks to make the game unique and highly enjoyable. However, if you're looking for a medieval Japan themed Starcraft, this is not your game.
Ratings (scale of 1 to 5):
Graphics: - 5 - A truly beautiful strategy game, featuring great artwork and smooth animation. Sound: - 4 - The sound effects were nicely varied, and the soundtrack first-rate. However, it didn't possess that rare quality that makes me fumble for my headphones. Controls: - 4 - A unique control scheme that has been thoughtfully designed. The lack of health bars on the units was a big pain, however. Gameplay: - 5 - With a great campaign, a skirmish mode, and same device multiplayer, there is lots of fun to be had here.
Playing Hints and Tips:
Think before you move! You can't retreat, and bad orders can't be overridden until the cooldown is up. Upgrades are important. Don't neglect them. Playing a multiplayer game against yourself is a good way to learn the strengths/weaknesses of different units.