Total War Battles: Shogun offers a small but epic taste of Feudal Japan's clan battles.
Just saying the words Total War immediately brings to mind images of hundreds of troops clashing in glorious battle on the PC. Bringing the series to iOS brings up obvious questions of available real estate, so SEGA and The Creative Assembly have dreamed up a creative compromise in the form of Total War Battles: Shogun, which makes real-time strategy just the right size for your mobile device.
Transported to 16th Century Japan, your job is to assume leadership of your clan from your dying father and take the fight to your enemies. That means coordinating several different kinds of infantry, cavalry, archers and ninjas, all while managing resources like wood, stone and gold.
Since iPad and iPhone screens aren't ideal for huge military clashes, Total War Battles uses a hex-based system for moving units around the battlefield. You'll be commanding a few dozen troops instead of a thousand, but since you still need to use the right combination of forces to find success, the game is still true in spirit to its PC brethren. A uniquely Shogun twist is that your armies follow the Bushido code, meaning that they can only move forward once deployed – something you may find challenging or annoying.
Another departure from the usual Total War formula is that your buildings are right on the battlefield, managing resources as you fight. That makes gameplay a little more frantic than it is in the full blown Shogun games, where resource management is done in turn-based fashion and only the battles are in real time. Fortunately, the interface makes things easier, with just two taps needed to recruit a unit and a simple drag-and-drop to deploy it.
Winning battles in the Campaign mode unlocks further chapters in your clan's story and also grants Experience Points that can be spent to boost resource production, building speed or the effectiveness of archers. Additional Experience can be purchased for real money to make your forces progress even faster, but since the game costs $6.99 to begin with, things could get expensive if you aren't careful.
Believe it or not, there's even a Multiplayer mode that allows head-to-head battles on the same iPad. Players sit on opposite sides of the screen with all of the necessary icons facing them, and the furious tapping and dragging proceeds from there. There are multiple maps to use, making this a fun way for the developers to add some additional replay value – provided everyone agrees to keep their fingers to themselves.
Total War Battles is a visual treat thanks to the use of highly stylized art that looks like it jumped right off an actual medieval Japanese artifact. The animation is fluid, and zooming in on the battles reveals that the tiny samurai are actually swinging and stabbing away. It also makes no difference if you play on an iPad or iPhone since the game automatically adjusts itself to the device in use. As the story in Campaign mode unfolds, there's also some voice acting work that relates the dangers your clan faces and how they can be overcome.
Scaled down out of necessity, Total War Battles: Shogun isn't quite the grand spectacle that the name might suggest. That's easily forgiven, though, since the compelling tactical battles, rich setting and high production values all shine on their own accord. It's not the cheapest iOS app, but it's well worth the dough for anyone looking for high quality RTS gaming on the go.
- Simple but challenging RTS gameplay that makes effective use of smaller mobile screens. Intuitive interface designed specifically for iOS devices. Gorgeous graphics and excellent animation bring feudal Japan to life. Head-to-head multiplayer mode adds depth.
- Real time resource management may deviate too far from the Total War ethos for some. Up-front price plus in-game purchases make this a potentially expensive pastime.