Shogun: Total War - The Mongol Invasion
So there you are, Shogun of all Japan. After years of feuding with other clans, you've managed to unite the whole country under your rulership, and as well as feeling incredibly smug, you're once again free to enjoy the simple pleasures in life. Such as sinking a few pints of sake, going to the sumo with the lads and writing pretentious seventeen-syllable-long poems about nature, and its divine connection to the human soul.
Your world and your country are peaceful and tranquil. But just when you think your fighting days are behind you, it all goes horribly wrong - the Mongols invade, faaaaahsands of 'em. Which kind of puts your plans for a life of slothful self-indulgence on the backburner for a bit, as you must once again pull out your trusty katana and go to war. These 13th-century Mongols may be an all-conquering race of blood-loving Neanderthals who know no fear and live only to kill, rape, pillage and eat raw pigs, but you're buggered if you're going to let them push you around. Right? Right. Prepare yourself then, for some more total war.
Once More Unto The Breach
If you hadn't already guessed, Shogun: The Mongol Invasion is the expansion to last year's award-winning Shogun: Total War. As well as offering the chance to play as or against said invaders, the pack also allows you to try your hand at several other campaigns, revolving around the power struggle in 16th-century feudal Japan. Both time periods provide you with different tactical possibilities, as they each have a slight variation of units. However, rather than merely offering you straightforward campaigns in the mould of the original, you can also try your hand at four mission-based scenarios. This allows you to do away with resource management, and lets you concentrate purely on battlefield tactics. A typical mission objective may include driving the enemy off the field while making sure that a certain percentage of your troops survive. So if you can't be bothered with all that improving of farmlands and building of teahouses malarky that was unavoidable in Shogun: Total War, you can completely do away with it here.
Supermen And Supertwats
As you'd expect from any RTS expansion pack, there are plenty of new units. Unfortunately, it seems like the team at Creative Assembly were feeling somewhat uninspired when they came up with them. Apart from the Battlefield Ninjas, who are perfect for assassinating opposition commanders during a ruck, there's a pretty poor selection. In fact, the choices that you do get, are lamer than a one-legged horse. The Japanese crossbowmen are quite possibly the most inept group ol idiots ever to curse a strategy game. Not only can they not aim, their arrows have about as much range as spat mucus in a headwind and they reload slower than an impotent pensioner. Couple this with the fact that they usually end up killing more of your men than the opposition because they're incapable ot shooting straight, and I think you start to get the idea. The Naginata cavalry aren't too bad, but the idea is hardly born of genius.
However, the worst of the lot is the Kensai warrior. Get this. For more than the price of 100 psychotic warrior monks, you can buy one of these guys. The Kensai warrior simply ploughs his way through the enemy taking out entire squads of the opposition's troops. While it's a nice idea, it simply doesn't work, especially in a game as realistic as this. You can't help but feel that he should be wearing his underpants on top of a pair of blue tights and have a big S stitched onto his chest, and wonder whether he lives a strange double life, in which he pretends to be a bungling, bespectacled, clumsy simpleton, who hides his superhero alter ego away from the rest of the world. I digress, but basically, the Kensai's ridiculously unrealistic and has no place in an add-on pack of this quality.
Mongol Warriors And Warrior Mongs
Of course you don't have to play as the Japanese in Warlords. If you decide to take on the role of the Kublai Khan - the all-conquering Mongol leader with the most ridiculous haircut in history - then you're presented with a selection of six highly versatile Mongol units. It's a shame that there aren't more of these, but this shortcoming is rectified somewhat by their versatility. Take the light cavalry for example, who are more lethal than a bout of Ebola. Not only are they the fastest unit in the game, they can fire arrows and put up a respectable fight when it gets up close and personal. Other units include heavy cavalry, Korean skirmishers, spearmen, guardsmen and thunder bombers, who fire explosive porcelain bombs at the enemy, and tend to be every bit as incompetent as the Japanese crossbowmen.
Looks Good, Sounds Good, Tastes Like War
Another major improvement in this pack is the ability to change the weapon and armour quality of your troops in the Custom Battle mode. Whereas before you could only allocate 'Honour' points, you can now customise the quality of their equipment as well.
There are nine new well-thought-out historical battles for you to try out, and you'll need to have learnt Sun Tzu's The Art Of War to anally retentive proportions if you're going to defeat the improved computer AJ, which on the hardest skill setting has become worryingly intelligent, adapting to your every move and out-thinking you like a grand champion chess master would a class idiot. And if you get r bored of these maps, you can now make your own with the level editor provided.
Graphically, things have been made crisper and more detailed, meaning huge melees are far easier to watch, and no longer look like a mass of coloured blobs bobbing around while shouting incoherent battle cries at one another. But that's not all, because the all-new soundtrack adds further to the game's incredible atmosphere, with a unique score for each side swelling the mood to bloodcurdling proportions. It's a shame then that the Mongol commentator sounds like he's been suffering from chronic constipation for the best part of a month, but I suppose if you've been on the warpath for as long as the Mongols were, you're bound to exhaust your supply of All-Bran eventually.
New Converts And Old Hacks Unite
With a whole load of new multiplayer options to boot, such as King Of The Hill and Assassinate The Enemy General, Shogun lovers everywhere will find endless hours of enjoyment to be had, despite the disappointing selection of new units. What's more, now that you can do away with resource management and set your own victory conditions, this pack will make Shogun ids more accessible to a wider range of strategy fans, and with a game as incredible as this, that can only be a good thing.
Download Shogun: Total War - The Mongol Invasion
When it first came out Shogun: Total War's online game was a bit of a mess. Much as we enjoyed - and still do-the single-player campaign, the multiplayer Net code was in disarray: laggy, bugged and worst of all, open to rampant cheating on the part of the game's dishonourable few. Much has changed over the last year. Fixed well before the release of the recent Mongol Invasion add-on, we find now a stable, finely balanced and involving strategy game, where to a far greater degree than other RTS titles, success depends on a player's tactical planning. There are loopholes of course, but like Counter-Strike's 'bunny-hoppers', such strategies can be countered. While Mongol Invasion had its teething problems, with the recent patch the general consensus here is that Shogun Ml is quite an improvement.
What we have then is the same mix of epic real-time strategy and tactical manoeuvring across the lands of feudal Japan, now of course with Mongol units. New features include a few CTF-style multiplayer game types, eight-player battles and a number of minor tweaks that perhaps only the hardcore will notice. Effectively then, what we're saying is that if you gave up on Shoguits online game, it's certainly worth going back to. The computer may put up a good fight, but as is always the case, there's no better feeling in gaming today than to see your human opponent flee from the field of battle, a handful of decimated troops scurrying behind. Brilliant.
The Mongol Invasion is an add-on pack for the critically acclaimed Shogun, which earned 93 per cent when we reviewed it last year. Play as either the Japanese protecting their country or the Mongols trying to invade it. A map and scenario editor, new terrains, multiplayer modes and units wrap things up nicely.
What's The Big Deal?
Creative Assembly has obviously made a real effort to create a worthy addition to their award-winning strategy game. When something Is as near-perfect as Shogunms. any suggestions of bettering things like graphics and AI are enough to qualify as a big deal. Richie Shoemaker was seen frothing at the mouth when the new screenshots arrived in the office.
Shogun: Total War completely blew us away with its colossal battles, huge armies slaughtering each other over 3D landscapes and wealth of tactical and strategic choices that put every other RTS up to that date to shame. Fortunately, the game was also a success with the buying public, and now British developer Creative Assembly is working on the first add-on pack.
With a title like The Mongol Invasion, there's little left to explain in terms of the historical background. Instead of devising plots to overthrow rival Shoguns, fighting over territory and sending thousands of Japanese soldiers to die by the sword of other Japanese soldiers, you must defend the country against Mongol hordes, lead by Kublai Khan, grandson of the ruthless Genghis. But, of course, you can also control the invaders and have even more fun wrecking the Land of the Rising Sun and smashing their rigid codes of honour into small pieces with great armies of unwashed barbarians.
If you choose to stay on the Japanese side, you take the role of a 16th-century Daimyo, leading real-life clans to victory. Another mode of play to be included is the Campaigns Of The Three Unifiers, where you get to act out the historical battles of three of the greatest Daimyos in Japanese history (Oda Nobunaga, Toyotomi Hideyoshi and Tokugawa Ieyasu, if you must know).
For once, this sounds like an expansion that offers a completely new style of gameplay rather than the lazy collection of new maps and units we've been treated to with past games. Not that there aren't plenty of new units on offer to back the whole thing up. Six to be exact, among which are the Kensai (sword saints), Battlefield Ninja, Korean Auxiliary Infantry and the Mongol Cavalry. There are also new region upgrades and buildings, like the Strategy School where generals are tutored in the teachings of Sun Tzu -author of The Art Of War, which has so greatly influenced the game - and new terrains where the battles actually take place (coastal and rocky, to name two).
If you prefer your games on the Internet, you'll find some new multiplayer maps and modes, including Capture The Flag and lold Castle. Not only that, you can create your very own maps with the editors included in the pack and weave them together in scenarios to share with other people via the game's website. Quite frankly, there couldn't have been many more features included if we'd sat down and written a wish list of all we'd like to see and do. If this isn't one of the strongest add-on packs ever we'll commit seppuku. And eat our own legs.