Shogun2-2011-10-02-10-41-01-83 02 Oct

Rise of the Samurai, one of the most generous DLC packs we’ve seen since Undead Nightmare, adds to one of the year’s best strategy games, Total War: Shogun 2.

They'll kill you twice before you hit the ground.

Recently, Shogun 2 has seen a permanent price drop which makes Rise of the Samurai’s affordable price tag of $10 all the more appealing. But many people are curious what exactly Rise of the Samurai does for Shogun 2. For $10… it does quite a bit.

Shogun 2 is set in Feudal Japan, during the Sengoku Jidai. Rise of the Samurai takes place roughly 400 years beforehand, and players take control of a clan during the Genpei War, and fight to become the first Shogun of Japan.

Rise of the Samurai offers players an entirely new campaign to experience, complete with its own unique units, all new skill trees, and a touched up map of Japan to better suit the time period.

Choosing a Daimyo from one of three clans, the Taira, the Minamoto, and the Fujiwara, players not only need to fight for military control over land, but they need to win over the hearts and minds of the people as well. Religion does not play a role in Rise of the Samurai, instead it is political control that players need to worry about. Provinces swear loyalty to one of the three clans, and simply by destroying a province’s military does not grant you permanent right to rule.

All new buildings, units and skill trees means even Shogun 2 veterans are going into Rise of the Samurai with a relatively clean palette.

Rise of the Samurai relies more heavily on agent use than Shogun 2, and players will need to recruit and master the use of Shirabyoshi to seduce leaders, the Junsatsushi to spread influence, the Sou to incite rebellions, and the Monomi to assassinate enemies and their leaders. For Shogun 2 veterans, this means that religion has been replaced with politics, and the Geisha, the Ninja, the Metsuke, and the Monk have all been replaced and their abilities have been mixed and matched to new special characters.

The military has seen some large changes as well to fit the samurai with the time period. Samurai are harder to come by. Instead, players will control smaller, non-noble warriors known as levies and attendants. New special characters are also available like Onna Bushi Heroine, Samurai heroes, and Tetsubo warrior Monk heroes.

The battles themselves are controlled the same way, but players will find that most units stand in looser formations than Shogun 2. Morale feels lower for all units compared to Shogun 2, so enemies may retreat faster. However, each conflict is also much deadlier. Soldiers will die by the hundreds in even smaller conflicts. And restoring unit strength takes much longer, making each battle feel more pivotal.

Castle towns have also seen some changes. Castle walls, when present, are now made of wood, so enemy fire arrows can quickly chew through garrisoned defenses, which evens the playing field both in the single player campaign and in multiplayer conflicts.

Sadly, the only expository videos in RotS can be found at the beginning and the end of the campaign.

On an oddly sad note, the short videos describing usage of individual units has seen the axe. While in Shogun 2, the short expository videos weren’t of the highest caliber, their descriptions felt necessary. In Rise of the Samurai, players learn about units strengths and weaknesses in a trial and error fashion.

With a heavier emphasis on special agent usage, a wider concern of citizen control, and battles with higher death counts, Rise of the Samurai is a much harder Total War experience than Shogun 2. But it is absolutely beautiful and the challenge is welcome as it makes the game more interesting. It is a slower and more deliberate real time strategy take on the formula, but that is not a bad thing.

For its budget price on a game that is already priced too generously, we can wholeheartedly say that Rise of the Samurai is worth adding onto Shogun 2. For all intents and purposes, it feels like a whole new game. We can only wish that all DLC could be such a bargain.

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Name: Total War: Shogun 2 – Rise of the Samurai

Available on: PC

Developed by: The Creative Assembly

Published by: Sega

Release date: September 27, 2011

EG Score: 5 out of 5 / “Worth Buying”