The impressive thing about Total War Battles:
Shogun is the way that Creative Assembly has taken the Total War franchise, stripped away
layers of fiddly complexity, and still managed to deliver a sophisticated real-time strategy
game. There are still plenty of units to hire, each
with its own benefits and drawbacks. But there are no stats to calculate, and no health bars
to fret over. You can glean all that information simply by looking at your samurai. Skirmishes are shorter, and much more focused.
In this game strategy is about making the most efficient use of the cramped battleground.
Buildings, for example, have huge footprints and are terribly particular about where they
can and can’t be placed. Enemies march forward in distinct lanes, can
only sidestep into adjacent tiles every so often, and can never turn back. It means that Total War Battles: Shogun is
mostly about shifting things around the battlefield with your finger, rather than getting bogged
down in pages of stats, minutiae, and tiresome micro-management. In some ways, the game’s
closest relative is actually Plants vs Zombies, rather than Shogun 2. But that’s not to say it lacks tactical depth.
You’ll need to place buildings carefully, cunningly use lanes to sneak up on enemies,
attack from afar, and exploit bottlenecks. Strategic smarts still apply, but the game’s
focus is just better suited to the touchscreen. Not all of this accessibility is so successful.
For example, not being able to spy the exact range of an archer or a cannon means you can
inadvertently walk into danger. But for the most part the streamlining works well to give
you strategy stand-offs that you can actually win during a ten minute bus ride. Elsewhere, the tutorial is excellent, and
new units arrive throughout the campaign so you’re not overwhelmed at the start. There
are also optional missions that are more puzzle-focused, surreptitiously teaching you the basics and
giving you EXP that to make the game easier. The main missions are linked together by a
detailed story (delivered in text, and read out by voice actors), and the campaign should
take about ten hours to finish. There’s single-device multiplayer on iPad, which offers a very basic
take on the game. It’s fun, but not a major selling point. The real draw of Total War Battles: Shogun
is the way that Creative Assembly has managed to make an RTS that’s eminently suited to
the way we consume mobile games, but without losing the sophistication that makes this
series so revered.