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Vengeance is sweet. As you cut a path through the battlefield towards your rival’s fortifications, there’s something primal and satisfying about charging through their last line of troop defenses, setting fire to their buildings along the way, and finally running your blade through the treacherous shogun responsible for your father’s death. Though the path to victory follows a familiar trajectory, Sega and The Creative Assembly’s long-running Total War real-time strategy series takes an interesting new direction with its iOS debut.
Waging war across Feudal Japan in Total War Battles: Shogun pares down the grand spectacle to fit into more manageable 2D hex-marked battlefields. With small groups of units at your command, including a mix of samurai, archers, horsemen, and siege weapons, your attention is freed up to simultaneously track resources and continue to build out your forces in mid-battle. This is particularly important, since you must deploy your units following the Bushido code. Once your warriors are placed on the map, they can only push forward or switch to adjacent hexes. True samurai don’t surrender, so there’s no turning back. This tricky-yet-authentic twist forces you to stay focused, since a simple slip up can cost you and lead to frustrating restarts.
Many missions begin with you plunking down your buildings right on the battlefield. Laying them out has a neat puzzle-like feel to it, since they generate more resources when placed strategically and can’t be situated next to other certain structures. But again, haphazard building can sink a match too, and there’s a lot of pressure to fit the pieces together and start moving forces into play before the enemy draws too near.
Once you get accustomed to the flow of combat, Total War Battles’ strategic encounters can be a lot of fun, though they do get repetitive over time. Multiplayer matches are a cool way to switch things up if you have a pal handy, though, since they let two players duel head-to-head on opposite sides of the same screen.
The bottom line. Even with a more streamlined format, Total War Battles: Shogun doesn’t skimp on depth or challenge. There’s a bit of a learning curve, but it’s not steep enough to hamper the masterful strategizing.
iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch running iOS 4.2 or later
Lots of strategic depth. Lengthy campaign. Head-to-head multiplayer.
Interface can be tricky. Easy to back yourself into a corner with resources/unit placement.