When I saw that a bite sized version of Total War was launching on PC, I became very excited. I am an avid fan of the series, but find it hard these days to put the time I would like into completing full Total War campaigns. This version seemed lighter, in a way that would allow me to get my fix in a quick fashion. The premise seemed very sound. Unfortunately, Total War Battles: Shogun is an awkward and, sadly, boring title that left me pining after the much better games on which is it based.
In the game, you command your troops on a small RTS field of battle. The field consists of a hex grid between two bases, your own territory and your opponent’s. In your possessed field of play, you can construct buildings. Oddly, while the buildings only take up one hex themselves, they take up four additional spaces when you build them. In addition, each different sort of building (lumber camp, monasteries, etc) takes up a different shape and must be adjacent to another building of one particular type. The grids are pretty small, and sometimes it can be a struggle fitting the buildings properly into an area.
Buildings generate resources of various types, and also construct units. The units portrayed tend to be from the Shogun 2: Fall of the Samurai era. That is, you’ll see the standard ronin, archers, monks and samurai, but you’ll also encounter musketeers and long range cannon. Success in the game rides on creating the proper mix of units and using them correctly. Musketeers, for example, are deadly, but vulnerable to melee attack. Monks increase the stats of adjacent friendly units, and so forth.
Actual control of these units is, sadly, quite dull. Units only move in one direction along the hex grid. You can order them to slide up or down one level, or to march or halt. Sliding orders, for some reason, start a cooldown timer, so you can’t march units on the diagonal (unless you want to keep marching one space and halting). Ordering units around is pretty simple. It’s so simple, in fact, that you’ll spend a lot of your time with nothing to do. There’s a unit cap, and it’s not very high, so you won’t have much to build. So a lot of your time will be spent watching your units march about while you do very little.
The game has a campaign, following the story of a son whose father is murdered by a rival clan. He then begins a war on the path to revenge. The campaign also serves as a tutorial for skirmish mode, as it slowly introduces new units and their functions. I was surprised to see that the game included actual voice work for the campaign (though the in-between-missions letter format grew stale pretty quickly). The campaign also includes various tactical puzzles, for those of you who like to focus on seeing how many monasteries you can fit into a designated area.
This game is an iOS port, and it shows. There’s not a ton of depth here, and putting the game on the PC next to its excellent Total War brethren makes it look very small. It’s not particularly entertaining at a tactical level, and those expecting a quick playing, mini-Total War experience are going to be very disappointed. There are many, many great Total War experiences. This is not among them.