Shogun: Total War - The Mongol Invasion
by Electronic Arts
Shogun: Total War took the gaming world by storm. In a genre as rigid as strategy, where the boundaries are clearly drawn with turn based on one side and real time on the other, Shogun came along and mixed the two different styles with great success. The main part of the game was turn based until it came to a battle and it then it switched to 3D real time strategy. This appealed to fans of both turn based strategy and real time strategy as this combination of styles only included the best parts from each one and did away with the poorer parts. The Mongol Invasion is the first expansion pack for Shogun and it comes with a cluster of new features that, believe it or not, make improvements to the game.
The game contains a good amount of new features. When playing the campaign mode (where you have the strategy map and the battles) you used to have just one set campaign in which you picked one of the clans and begun your mission to become Shogun. Although the campaign mode was limited it was still very enjoyable to play. In this expansion, however you are give four different campaigns to play and they all offer a unique experience. You can either play Sengoku Jidai (the original campaign), start at 1530, start at 1550, start at 1580 or, most importantly, you can play out the Mongol invasion as either the attacking Mongols or Clan Hojo. All of the campaigns are very different from one another and require a very different approach from the original campaign. The historical battle mode, where you just fight the battles with no strategy map, has also been expanded and now includes battles with the Mongol invaders. A completely new mode is the historical campaigns mode. This mode is similar to the historical battles with the exception that it allows for greater strategy because you return to the strategy map in between the battles. Should all these options not be enough for you there is even a superb editor included that enables you to make your own locations to battle on.
There are various new units and buildings in the game. The new units are mostly Mongol units such as Korean Spearmen or Mongol Light Cavalry but there are new units for the original clans such as the Kensai (highly skilled 'sword saints') and the Battlefield Ninja who is remarkably good at surprise attack, as abilities to hide are superior to other units. New buildings include the Drill Dojo and the Battlefield Ninja Dojo. On the whole the new units seem fine but there is one exception. The Kensai is far too strong. Take a look at the screenshot below.
This screenshot is taken after a custom battle. The one Kensai took fifty five heads all on his own. As you can see the Kensai hasn't been balanced at all well with the other units and he is simply a character that can't be handled by the other units.
The graphics have been slightly improved from the original game and the units seem to have more definition during the battles. The new art used in the Mongol invasion campaign is very good and adds to the sixteenth century Japanese feel of the game in a most authentic way. I reviewed the game using a Kyro II graphics card and the graphics were very clear and scrolling was very smooth. The original Shogun game was pretty poor on this graphics card and the scrolling was very choppy so obviously something here has been improved also.
Several tweaks have been made to the gameplay. Ninjas can now be used on a castle during a siege to attempt to open the gates from the inside thus giving the Ninja even more importance during the game. The emissary can now attempt to bribe a rival army. A greater range of weather effects have also been added. Perhaps the best alteration that has been made in the game, as far as I am concerned anyway, is that if you decide to use the 'automatically resolve a conflict' you don't always lose. In the original game you almost always lost the battle even if your army was far greater than that of the enemy. In the Mongol Invasion expansion pack the outcomes are far more logical and if you should win a battle you almost always do.
Shogun: Total War - The Mongol Invasion is an incredible expansion pack. Every scrap of information is provided in text. Click off dialogue boxes provide all the in game information and subtitles can be enabled in the options menu for the cutscenes. It must also be noted that although this package comes in at £14.99 it does not skimp in any way. You receive a decent manual that highlights the new additions, a key command card and a very pleasing technology tree. This is a shining example of what an expansion pack should be and I can honestly say that it has rekindled my interest in the game.
Overall Game Rating: 9/10 The most unique strategy game you will find. This expansion pack has guaranteed Shogun: Total war will be remembered as the classic it truly is.
Quality of text: 9/10 Great text feedback with the option to subtitle the cutscenes.
Graphics: 8.5/10 The strategy map and the battle graphics are very good.
Visual Presentation: 9/10 Very authentic and pleasing on the eye.
Interface:8.5/10 A very good interface that makes tactical decisions easy to carry out.
Gameplay:10/10 The brilliant mix of real time strategy and turn based strategy make the gameplay irresistible.