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Shogun: Total War

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Shogun Total War

Shogun: Total War (STW) is the first of Creative Assembly's Total War series. It is a history-based grand strategy computer game that combines turn-based provincial development with real-time battles. The player assumes the role of one of seven daimyo (Uesugi, Shimazu, Oda, Mori, Imagawa, Takeda, Hōjō) attempting to unite feudal Japan during the Sengoku Jidai ("The Age of the Country at War") and become Shogun. It's success led to the creation of Medieval and Rome: Total War which were well recieved by fans of strategy games. Set in Japan during the Sengoku jidai—the "Warring States" period from the mid-15th century to the beginning of the 17th century—the game has players adopt the role of a contemporary Japanese clan, attempt to conquer the nation and claim the position of shogun. The turn-based aspect of the game focuses on a map of Japan where military force, religion, diplomacy, espionage and economics all influence the player's actions, whilst battles are fought in a real-time mode. Sun Tzu's The Art of War is central to the game; its precepts are quoted often and its strategies recommended. Announced in early 1999, Shogun: Total War was The Creative Assembly's first high business risk product; previous products had involved creating video games for the EA Sports brand. The game was initially conceived as a real-time strategy "B-title" powered by 2D computer graphics following the popularisation of the genre through titles such as Command & Conquer. However, proliferation of 3D video cards amongst consumers led to a transition to 3D graphics. Through the course of development, Shogun: Total War evolved into a real-time tactics game with a focus on historical authenticity; military historian Stephen Turnbull advised The Creative Assembly in this regard. The turn-based campaign map was added to include context for the real-time battles. Shogun: Total War was well received critically, though complaints surfaced regarding glitches in the game. The game holds scores of 84% and 87% on the review aggregator sites Metacritic and GameRankings respectively. It was followed by The Mongol Invasion expansion pack which adds the Mongol invasions of Japan to the game. The game's success paved the way for the development of new Total War releases, a series of games which today are highly regarded in the real time tactical genre.


Shogun: Total War is focused on samurai warfare in the Sengoku period of Japanese history, which lasted as from the mid-15th century to the beginning of the 17th century. The game puts the player in the position of a Japanese daimyo with the objective of conquering Japan through military might, diplomacy, espionage, trade and religion, thereby taking the position of shogun. Shogun incorporates two main areas of play. The turn-based campaign map, is where player moves their armies, conducts diplomacy, builds the infrastructure of their provinces and performs various other tasks necessary to run their faction. The real-time element of the game allows the player to assume command of one of their armies and personally direct the course of any battles that take place.

The game consists of seven factions which the player can choose to play as, each one of Japan's historical clans. The island of Kyūshū and the southwest end of Honshū incorporates the Shimazu, Mōri and Takeda clans, while the Oda and Imagawa clans control the central parts of Honshū. The northern parts of Honshū are home to the Uesugi and Hōjō clans. While each clan has access to the same broad units and technology and begins the game with roughly the same amount of land, each clan has a specific advantage in a particular area. For instance, the Imagawa clan trains more efficient espionage agents, while the Takeda clan can produce higher quality cavalry. Smaller, independent factions are represented as rebel clans and ronin.


The main campaign of Shogun: Total War involves a player choosing a clan and moving to eliminate their enemies and become shogun of feudal Japan. Each faction controls various historical provinces. Each province allows for the cultivation of farmland, and the construction of border watchtowers and a castle. Certain provinces possess natural resources that require a mine to be constructed to tap into. Coastal provinces may also construct ports to increase trade. Each castle has space to expand with a variety of military buildings and dojos, which allow for specific army units and agents to be produced. However, each castle can only support a certain number of auxiliary buildings. Castles can be upgraded to increase their defences and resilience to a siege. The production of units and construction of buildings is limited by the amount of koku the player has; koku is generated depending on the strength of the faction's economy and harvest. Units and buildings take time to produce; each turn represents one season.

During each turn, the player is able to move units about the map. Units come as either armies or agents and can only be moved to a province that borders the one in which they reside. However, both agents and armies can travel longer distances using ports, allowing them to move from one coastal province to another with a port in a single turn. Armies consist of military units such as spearmen, cavalry and archers. Should an army enter a battle, these units will be reproduced for the game's real-time tactics mode. Each army is led by a general that possesses an honour rating that rises and falls with the general's success or failure; if a general repeatedly endures defeat, they may commit seppuku. The faction daimyo and his heirs are also represented as generals—if a daimyo is killed and has no available heirs, the faction is eliminated from the game.

When an army is moved into an enemy or neutral province, it will engage in battle with whatever hostile armies already reside in the province, or it will clear out. An army may also lay siege to a province's castle; after a determined amount of time, a castle's supplies will run out and the garrison will be forced to surrender if it does not break the siege or receive relief. A siege may cause damage to the castle's buildings, requiring repairs to be sought.

Several agents are available to each faction. The basic agent is the emissary (diplomat), which can be used to negotiate alliances and ceasefires, as well as attempt to bribe enemy or neutral armies to join the player's faction. As factions build up their infrastructure, other agents become available, such as ninja and shinobi, the former assassinates enemy generals and agents, while the latter can spy on enemy provinces or perform counter-insurgency in home provinces. Each agent has an honour rating that determines how successful they may be at any particular mission. As the game progresses, the player will come into contact with European traders; first the Portuguese Jesuits, who will exchange firearms for money and the adoption of Catholicism by the clan, and later the Dutch, who will sell guns without requiring a conversion. If a faction changes from Buddhism to Catholicism, it is given the ability to produce Jesuit priests, who in addition to acting as emissaries, convert the population, therefore making rebellions due to religion less likely.


The battle system forms the second area of gameplay. Unlike the campaign part of the game, players control battles in real-time. However, should the player choose, the game can automatically resolve battles on the campaign map, taking into account factors such as strength of numbers, weapons and terrain. Outside of the main campaign mode, players can participate in recreations of the historical battles that comprised the Sengoku period. In each battle, players are given access to an army consisting of a variety of units. Units come in the form of samurai and ashigaru, and fall into the categories of archers, spearmen, cavalry and heavy infantry. Each unit has its own intrinsic advantages, disadvantages, cost and overall level of effectiveness.

Players must use contemporary tactics and formations with the units they have available to defeat their enemies; the teachings of Sun Tzu's The Art of War are integral to the tactics used by the game artificial intelligence and for the player to succeed. The terrain of the battlefield and the weather impact on how a battle is fought. Each unit has morale, which can increase if the battle goes well for their clan, or decrease in cases such as heavy casualties or the death of the general. If a unit's morale is broken, they will rout; in certain circumstances, however, routing units may be rallied by the general. When an enemy unit routs, they can be captured by friendly units, for use in ransoms in the campaign mode. Victory in battle is achieved by causing every enemy unit to rout, or by killing or capturing the opposing army. Armies can lay siege to castles, replacing open land battles with close-quarters combat within the confines of the castle walls.


Originally, Electronic Arts hosted the multiplayer for Shogun Total War. There were two separate servers; one for Shogun Total War, and one for Warlord Edition. In the foyer, players had their points next to their names. These points were called honor. A player started with 100 honor. Based on winning or losing, the player gained or lost honor. In order to prevent an expert from playing a lot of beginners and gaining a lot of honor, an expert who had 49 more honor points than the beginner would lose points even if he beat that beginner. The honor system was implemented to make the multiplayer more fun and challenging. If players wanted to play without a change in honor points, then the host could simply set the game to 'friendly' mode. The Shogun servers had many players when EA hosted them. Role-playing was very popular and this period is considered by many fans as the best and most nostalgic. The battles themselves were very fast-paced, unforgiving to mistakes and highly reliant on individual skill both in army selection and, above all, army control. In Shogun, any army could win over another using clever, fast and precise strategies. In later Total War games, army selection was given more importance. This is the reason why many fans still refer to Shogun as the purest and most skillful of the Total War games.

Before Rome: Total War was launched by Activision, EA shut down both the Shogun Total War and the Warlord Edition servers. The players turned to the other Total War series, while the new players avoided the Shogun series. Some players wanted to return to Shogun Total War. They hosted their own servers where players could join without registering.


Shogun: Total War was announced in early 1999, developed by the Creative Assembly under Electronic Arts. However, the game was not considered to be substantive enough simply with the real-time battles; Simpson recalls that "the problem [was] that the battles themselves were very short, and we needed something to tie it together and make people care about the battles". The result was the introduction of the campaign map, intended to provide the player with a broader strategic perspective and context for the battles. A feudal Japanese setting was chosen; in addition to being thought of as "cool", the Sengoku period was selected as it allowed for several different factions who could have potentially won the conflict, and due to the introduction of gunpowder to Japan, also allowed for rapid change for the game's technology tree.

To attempt to make the setting as authentic as possible, the Creative Assembly enlisted the aid of Stephen Turnbull, a military historian who specializes with samurai warfare, although the jidaigeki films by Akira Kurosawa also provided a source of inspiration - excerpts of the famous Mt. Fuji castle scene from his 1985 film Ran even feature in the opening credits to the Warlord edition of the game. Elements of Sun Tzu's The Art of War were integrated into the game's artificial intelligence to provide more authentic decisions by computer-controlled factions in the real-time aspects of the game.

Versions and sequelsEdit

It was followed by the Mongol Invasion expansion pack which added a Mongols campaign, played as either the invaders or as Japan. The Warlord Edition was also released, containing both the original game and the expansion. The Total War series has been continued with Medieval: Total War, Rome: Total War, Medieval II: Total War, Empire: Total War, Napoleon: Total War, and its direct sequel, Shogun II: Total War.

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