Is Total War Shogun 2 Good?

Daimyo Takeda Shingen art
A daimyo must be as steady as a bamboo, but strikes like a tiger on the prowl.

Step into the world of feudal Japan, where honor, treachery, and epic battles await in Shogun 2: Total War. Developed by Creative Assembly, this 2011 masterpiece offers a captivating experience that combines deep strategy, amazing visuals, and a rich historical backdrop that creates a highly engaging gameplay. Considered to be the pinnacle of Total War by some fans, let's take a deep dive into the 10 reasons why it is so. And is it really that good?

Gameplay: A Strategic Dance of Blades and Diplomacy

Shogun 2: Total War is one of the most beloved Total War games and really excels in its gameplay, offering a perfect blend of turn-based strategy and real-time field battles. 

Whether you're raising armies, building alliances, or plotting political intrigues, the game keeps you on edge with its intricate mechanics. Make crucial strategic decisions in the turn-based gameplay; deploy agents to gain an advantage; engage in shrewd diplomacy and intimidation to win.

The game is packed with a lot of content and mechanics, including a tech tree that is separated into the economy-focused Way of Chi and the military-focused Bushido, character progression for agents and generals that makes them matter more, a family tree to track your clan’s lineage, religion that unlocks new weapons but at the cost of relations with other clans, and engaging in trade and diplomacy that can secure your alliance with other clans and bring wealth to your domain without the risk of war.

The real-time battles are, of course, the main caviar of this game, allowing you to fight manual battles against other armies in the field and enabling you to lead your armies to victory with careful maneuvering, flanking tactics, and supporting special abilities. This is what Total War is known for.


Balance and Difficulty: Master the Art of War

Balancing a game of this caliber is no easy feat, but Creative Assembly nails it. With unit rock, paper, and scissors mechanics, this game feels like real-time chess. The difficulty curve provides a satisfying challenge, allowing newcomers to learn the ropes while offering seasoned players enough depth to keep them engaged. The AI presents a worthy opponent; although it's not perfect, it’s still capable of adapting to your strategies and forcing you to think backhandedly. 

It's a delicate balance that keeps you invested in every decision you make, ensuring that victory never comes easily. In battle, everything matters: the terrain, the location, the weather, and even your general’s reputation. Use different factors to win, because in this game, even when outnumbered, you can still win a decisive victory. 

A testament to winning is the ability of the player to adapt and use certain factors to victory; this is the Art of War. The game is a prime example of the Art of War in practice; as the difficulty gets higher, so do the AI and circumstances, to which seasoned players are more challenged, as beating the game at legendary difficulty is a pinnacle of skill for other Total War players who crave more challenge. 

The game’s campaign offers a punishing challenge to aggressive players presented by the mechanics of "Realm Divide", in which the Shogun will rally and unite other clans against the player; they will be betrayed, back-stabbed, and cornered. This is the part that most players give up on in this game, but with careful planning, strategy, and perseverance, any player can achieve victory at the end.


Multiplayer: Forge Alliances and Crush Enemies

The multiplayer aspect of Shogun 2: Total War adds a whole new layer of excitement. Test your tactical prowess against other players in intense online battles where you can unlock new units and perks for your custom Avatar and unit composition. 

Form alliances, fight with an ally, or engage in epic clashes for supremacy in the Avatar Conquest, a progressive online campaign that resembles the first Shogun campaign. The multiplayer community, although small by this time, is still active and thriving, offering endless opportunities for both friendly competition and heated clan rivalries.

Did I also mention that this game offers a two-player online coop game? You can play with your buddy in a dynamic campaign where you play a regular campaign, fight other clans together, and unify Japan under a single banner. Start as allies at the beginning of the game and work together to achieve victory.


Graphics: A Visual Feast for the Eyes

Prepare to be amazed by the visually stunning landscapes and meticulously designed units of Shogun 2: Total War. From lush Japanese forests to snow-capped mountains, the game's environments and design are a treat to explore. 

The attention to detail in character models and, especially battle animations is commendable, creating a truly immersive experience. Each battle is a spectacle, with thousands of troops clashing on the battlefield, and it's hard not to be in awe of the grandeur on display. 

Even with a limited unit and faction variation, Shogun 2 outshines other Total War games in terms of unit design and attention to details, with fascinating color selections and beautiful visuals of castles and the Japanese countryside, it is a simplistic delight that will immerse the player in the Sengoku era.

The UI and theme are visually appealing, simple to use, and do not stray away from the theme of the game. A simple but well-crafted UI that is easy to navigate and less cluttered, really brings a feeling of “Zen” to the player. With few simple ‘clickables’ and variables, the saying "less is more" resonates well in this game.


Music and Ambiance: An Enchanting Samurai Symphony

Shogun 2: Total War soundtrack and ambiance elevate the game to new heights. Brought to you by the BAFTA award-winning composer Jeff Van Dyck, composer of the original Rome 1, Medieval II, and Shogun 1 Total War, The beautiful and traditional Japanese tunes create a captivating atmosphere that transports you straight into Sengoku-era Japan. 

The sound design, from the clashing of swords to the thunderous war cry in battle, adds an extra layer of intensity and immersion. Masterfully composed and brings up intense emotions in the heat of the battle.

The legendary lines and quotes delivered by actor Togo Igawa in his numerous voice-lines in the game are memorable, shouting the iconic lines "The men are running from the battlefield! What a shameful display!" that became a popular online meme, and not to mention the beautiful and poetic cinematic intro line "Beauty and harmony governed by one eternal law, all that begin must end...", his Japanese and English voice-lines are delivered well, and it makes the player feel engaged and in action.


PC requirements: A Sword Worthy of the Samurai

While Shogun 2: Total War was released in 2011, its PC requirements are still reasonable by today's standards. A mid-range gaming rig should be able to handle the game smoothly, ensuring you can enjoy the experience without any technical hiccups. It could even run on 2 GB of RAM and an Intel HD 5000 graphics card. 

Minimum System Requirements:

  • OS: Windows 7 / Vista / XP
  • Processor: 2 GHz Intel Dual Core processor / 2.6 GHz Intel Single Core processor, or AMD equivalent (with SSE2)
  • Processor: 2 GHz Intel Dual Core processor / 2.6 GHz Intel Single Core processor, or AMD equivalent (with SSE2)
  • Memory: 1GB RAM (XP), 2GB RAM (Vista / Windows7)
  • Graphics: 256 MB DirectX 9.0c compatible card (shader model 3)
  • DirectX®: DirectX 9.0c
  • Hard Drive: 32GB free hard disk space
  • Screen Resolution: 1024×768 minimum

Recommended System Requirements:

  • OS: Windows 7 / Vista / XP
  • Processor: 2nd Generation Intel Core i5 processor (or greater), or AMD equivalent
  • Memory: 2GB RAM (XP), 4GB RAM (Vista / Windows7)
  • Graphics: AMD Radeon HD 5000 and 6000 series graphics card or equivalent DirectX 11 compatible card
  • DirectX®: DirectX 9.0c
  • Hard Drive: 32GB free hard disk space
  • Screen Resolution: 1280x1024 minimum


Downloadable contents: Expanding the Samurai Saga

Shogun 2: Total War offers one of the best DLCs that extends the game's longevity. The base game features unit DLCs like the Sengoku Jidai Unit Pack, which includes new units for each faction, and the Saints and Heroes Unit Pack, which adds unique and powerful hero units to be unlocked in higher-level Dojos.

Additional faction packs like the Hattori, Ikko-Ikki, and Otomo Clan are also needed to be purchased in order to play these unique factions. The Hattori are masters of stealth, the Ikko-Ikki is a religious sect of commoners, monks, and ronins, and the Otomo is the only Christian faction in the game. plus the Blood Pack DLC, which adds gore and carnage visuals to the unit battles. In my opinion, these DLCs should be in the base game. 

The Rise of the Samurai, takes the player 400 years prior to the main time period of the game, from the Sengoku-era to the Gempei War, a costly war between the Taira, Minamoto, and Fujiwara families that gave birth to the first Shogunate and the eventual rise of the Samurai class. 

While in The Fall of the Samurai, players will be transported 250 years after the Sengoku-era to the Boshin War, a bloody civil war between the Pro-Shogunate and Pro-Imperial factions that transformed Japan into a truly modern nation, a clash of tradition and modernity, the introduction of modern naval warfare, and the tale of the downfall of the Samurai class. 

These expansions are definitely worth-a-buy. It introduces new factions, units, agents, and unique gameplay mechanics, providing fresh challenges and experiences for those hungry for more samurai warfare. 


Bugs and Glitches: A Samurai's Code of Honor

While no game is entirely bug-free, Shogun 2 stands strong in this regard. Creative Assembly has released numerous patches and updates to address any lingering issues, ensuring a smooth and enjoyable experience for players. Overall, this is one of the Total War games with better battle fluidity and campaign map performance; it is the product and culmination of the previous Total War games before the eventual release of Rome 2.

There are still lingering bugs that Creative Assembly just didn't bother to fix. An example of this is the faction-specific Kisho Ninja units for the Hattori and the Tokugawa. Despite being described as their "Best" units, they are still far worse than their normal Kisho Ninja variation due to unfixed stat bugs. 

Another known bug is the gunshot sound effects sometimes heard, whenever the bow cavalry units fire off their arrows, making an annoying and less immersive experience among players. Also sometimes naval battles could be buggy as some enemy ships would wander off the corner of the map, for some unknown reasons, requiring the player to give chase, making naval battles longer than usual.

With some of the unaddressed bugs, the community decided to take matters into their own hands and released the Shogun 2 Unofficial Patch, which fixes most issues CA just left on the shelf. These are only minor inconveniences and do not really break the game.


Price: A Samurai's Worth

Considering the wealth of content and the sheer depth of gameplay, the base game and its expansions provide countless hours of strategic enjoyment, making it a worthwhile investment for any fan of the genre and buying the base game DLCs is a must to complete the Shogun 2 experience.

As a fellow gamer though, I would recommend that interested buyers should purchase the complete package of the game including all the DLCs as buying the Saga-turned expansion The Fall of the Samurai only would cost the same as the base game, but prior to CA  turning it into a Saga Title, it costs a little less than the base game, but due to some particular reasons, CA decided to make it a stand-alone game which sparked a controversy among Total War fans.

Shogun 2: Total War offers exceptional value for its price; you can fetch the game at around $30 retail, but you can also get the complete edition with all the DLCs for up to $15 in off-shoot stores or during sale, to which this would be a personal recommendation.


Overall Fun Factor:  95/100

It’s old, but it’s just so good, and you’ll know a great game when you just always come back to it from time to time, and with the community that is still alive and thriving all these years, there are tons of mods that will always keep the game fresh and fun, plus this is one of those games that you can leave on the shelf and you can always come back to once in a while for nostalgia and just casual play.

Despite being not “grand” in scale in comparison with other Total War games, this title still provides a refreshing gaming experience that provides a lot of replayability. Immersing the player in the struggle for feudal Japan, where you'll lead armies, forge alliances, and witness the rise and fall of samurai clans. Unleash your inner Shogun and prepare for an adventure that will keep you hooked from start to finish. 

Shogun 2: Total War is an absolute blast to play, delivering an enthralling blend of strategic depth, intense battles, and immersive visuals. Whether you're a history buff, a fan of epic warfare, or simply seeking a thrilling gaming experience, this game has it all. So to answer the question, is Shogun 2 good? no, but it’s great!


Jack of all trades, master of one, constantly evolving and seeking knowledge. On a quest to discover the Elixir of Life, the quencher of unquenchable thirst, but for now, a writer that writes.
Gamer Since: 2007
Favorite Genre: RTS
Currently Playing: Deep Rock Galactic
Top 3 Favorite Games:Sid Meier's Civilization V: Brave New World, XCOM 2, Total War: Rome II

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