Shogun 2: Total War preview - The master returns

Which is another thing Shogun 2 aims to represent: night battles. It's called a “stretch goal,” by Kieran, meaning it's something they're pushing themselves to do, but aren't yet convinced by. “It absolutely has to earn its place in the design,” he says.

These anecdotes also highlight the extremely memorable characters that led armies. The Hojo clan are just another example of that. “There was a pretty inspiring speech given by the leader of the clan,” says Jamie. “Which was basically 'Don't look to your armour, don't look to huddle together.” “Don't stop to take heads,” adds Mike. “Which is something they used to do at the time,” laughs Jamie. The heads would be used to count each warrior's kills, and to add to the soldier's honour.

They're determined that Shogun 2 should represent these characters with more personal generals. The same was said about Napoleon's leaders as well, but they're pushing it further this time. “You only need to do a quick scan of our forums to see the amount of backstory a player puts into the generals he controls. We wanted that to be something they could realise, and not just something they made up for themselves.”

That means you'll be able to choose the skills your generals develop, unlike in Napoleon where traits developed automatically based on your play style.

But Creative Assembly want to go a step beyond even the generals, and represent the legends of the Japanese battlefield as well. Samurai are famous for their skills with a blade, and their abilities with a bow, but there are characters legendary for their ability to turn a battle on their own. If you can construct the buildings necessary to create them (and if you can find them), maybe you can hire... the hero units.

“In the Sengoku period,” says Jamie, “something they would frequently do at the start of a battle is step out from the crowd and actually shout out their lineage, shout insults at the enemy, and say basically, 'If you think you know how to deal with me, come on, try it.'” These are what the new hero units represent. Each will have different weapons and different skills. One might be particularly good at taking down cavalry, while another could be best against swordfighters. Either way, the presence of these warriors on the battlefield should be spectacular.

[MPU]These characters will also have special abilities. That guy who cut off his own head on the way into battle? “You can imagine it: one-shot, it kills your character, but it buffs the whole army, and they all go, “Wow!” and frenzy for a while,” says Mike. Unfortunately, this is only an example of the kind of special abilities we'll see. “We probably won't put that in, because it was one guy who did that, and even then it might be apocryphal. He might have fallen over and cut himself.” Which would be a less special ability.

As we talk over the sieges, James mentions the AI. He pauses almost as if he knows what he's getting into. Total War's enemy AI has long been the bane of both Creative Assembly and its most ardent fans. In his review of Napoleon (PCG 211), Tim Stone explained how the AI struggled to 'produce plausible play,' and how he was able to capture Moscow with 'relative ease.'