Sunday, 26 June 2011

Part 16, in which my work here is done

At last we come to the end of the series, and despite some troubles along the way, we seem to have won too. Well, not quite yet - there's still this post to go, but I guess the map kinda spoils it all: Challenge #3 got completed, last of the mandatory provinces recaptured, and there's even some overkill on the province count. So here's how it all ended.

The biggest bump in an otherwise straight path to the end announced itself in the form of a mission:

In other words, more enemy dudes coming our way.

An army of over 2000, led by this supposedly indomitable four-star daimyo of Sogo (nice to meet yet another clan for the first time) landed in Urakami territory. Considering it had to be ferried across the sea, it might have been better for them to plan ahead and go straight to all those unprotected towns on the western coast, but I'm not complaining. These borders have a better chance of defeating the attackers, although there's no single army to stand against them just yet - that calls for another round of scrambling for all leftovers in the vicinity. In the meantime, a single ninja keeps the whole army pinned to one spot.

They have some nerve putting that on their banner.

This forced standstill continues for more than a year of in-game time, sabotages costing almost half of our income each season. When I finally get ready for a fight and order my ninja to stop having fun, the enemy army decides to avoid the town I'd stuffed full of troops and try to find a way around, and so we get to fight a battle in the open for a change.

Unfortunately, I have no screenshots to show for this battle either. It had a brilliant example of hilariously broken AI: I managed to hide my entire army in a pretty large forest to one side of the enemies and sent a single unit of bow cavalry outside and around their flank. Apparently the AI operates on the principle "out of sight, out of mind" - it responded to the movement of that single unit like it would've responded to a whole army - by turning their entire formation to face it (as opposed to sending a cavalry unit of their own which would've more than sufficed). Basically, it looked like like a dog herding a flock of sheep. Soon enough, the enemies turned their flank towards our hidden army, and I had a chance to destroy half of it before they could regroup, and then finish off the rest with relative ease.

After the battle, our army didn't have enough movement points to get back to any friendly town, so it captured and took shelter in one of Urakami's.

At this point, the single army that Hojo had left came to meet the one of ours that was was sent to deal with it.

The final stand.

At first I spent a while maneuvering around the battlefield to get a good approach, but then decided to screw it, ordered the whole army to charge straight ahead and hope for the best. In the end, I won, and that's all that matters - I wasn't going to need the troops for long. The last two Hojo towns fell without any further drama.

All that's left now is tying a couple of loose ends. Echigo is captured by a small band of random units scooped up from the other coastal provinces - thankfully, Hatakeyama were kind enough to leave the town undefended. Then it's time to finish off Urakami because their two provinces were making my map ugly, and...

They didn't even bother filling the whole textbox.

Well, for some definitions of "unchallenged"... The remaining 8 clans keep on relentlessly testing our defenses. Even the last man defending the last town considers any attempt to discuss peace an insult. Public order in our territory hangs on a hair, and so much as trying to collect regular taxes in some of the provinces would inevitably start a revolt. None of our towns have seen new constructions or upgrades in years, only repairs. The entire budget of the country is spent supporting the increasingly expensive war effort. Nothing short of complete annihilation of either side will bring peace to Japan.

But if the game says we won, it means we won.

It took just over 18 years (or 75 turns), we had to destroy nine other clans by ourselves and inherited even more in the process. Takeda now controls 30 provinces - three times as many as the closest rival, Mori. Here's a bunch of other end-game stats and figures, if you're into that sort of thing (click for ginormous size):

I guess I can take a moment now to talk about the game itself. I can't do that without comparing it to previous Total War games. The first Shogun would be an obvious choice for a "how far we've come" retrospective, but I haven't played that one, while the most recent installations Empire and Napoleon simply differ too much in terms of content, so Medieval 2 seems to be the best point of reference.

The thing that bugged me most about the game was diplomacy, or rather lack thereof, especially after realm divide. Now, TW games never had much use for diplomacy - most issues are settled in battles and not negotiations, but this time it's really more crippled than it needs to be. Options that gave some variety to previous games are gone: no more exchanging researched technologies, no more giving up provinces as part of peace settlement, no more demanding ransom for generals captured in battle, and instead a rather weird new hostage mechanic where one clan has to give a family member to be held hostage by the other clan as part of negotiations. I understand that the last two may be justified through historical accuracy, but the others seem to have been taken out without any reason.

I mentioned earlier that in my first attempt at playing after realm divide the other clans failed to form any decent alliance - there were a couple, but they looked pretty small and random. This time, Hojo immediately became allied to most clans after breaking alliance with us (they don't always betray, but when they do, they betray completely), becoming a sort of linchpin of the whole opposition. Aside from being very convenient for me, it also highlighted a new form of brokenness in the system: the new allies had very negative relations to each other, below -200 in some cases. I'm certain that a player-controlled clan would struggle to keep a war from breaking out in those conditions, and maintaining an alliance would be out of the question. Whatever is the supposed explanation for realm divide, it's definitely not good enough to justify that sort of cheating on behalf of the game.

Now, I still found the game enjoyable for the most part, and it may get even more enjoyable in subsequent playthroughs when I know what to expect, but it's really annoying to see how some previously successfully implemented game mechanics got thrown out while the big new addition is simply broken by design.

Other complaints I have for the game are nothing more little annoyances. There aren't many types of units to choose from, or the upgrades require too many steps and just look like too much hassle, although I guess there wasn't that much variety in real Japan either. Also, I miss fighting in the streets of a large town - all castles in Shogun 2 are mostly empty and without any civilian life in or around them (so - no recreations of "Seven Samurai", unfortunately).

Though come to think of it, I can't really name any solid new improvements over previous games. Some parts resemble Medieval 2 more, some are taken from Empire, but hardly anything seems new. Well, there's the no-siege-engine siege, aka "everybody is spiderman", and it does remove needless hassle in some cases, but with AI that is simply incapable of doing anything right it isn't much fun. Aside from that, it's mostly just a theme change - not a bad one, but it wouldn't hurt to have more.

So yeah, that was Shogun 2. Info about the next Let's Play coming very soon - stay tuned.

1 comment:

  1. No comments for the end of this thrilling, death defying to what could be called a campaign. Shamefur Display!