Follow TV Tropes


Video Game / Shogun: Total War

Go To

Shogun: Total War is the first game in the Creative Assembly'sTotal War strategy franchise. The player takes control of a Japanese clan during the Sengoku Period attempting to conquer the nation and claim the position of shogun. Despite being quite rudimentry game from modern perspective, the unique tactical battles combined with Risk-style map proved to be a game-changer for the entire industry, affecting strategy games ever since.

An Expansion Pack called Mongol Invasion was released in 2001 which allowed players to control either side of the Mongol invasions of Japan.

Comes with an equally well-received sequel, Total War: Shogun 2.


Shogun: Total War provides examples of:

  • Alternate History The whole premise of Mongol Invasion is that the storm that destroyed the real-life invasion fleet never happened.
  • Annoying Arrows: Archers main role isn't about killing units, but to soften them up a bit before reaching your troops, so they by default deal miniscule damage, further compounded by the fact they have limited arrows in their quivers. Once armour starts being a factor, arrows go from "sometimes lethal" to "barely scratching".
  • Anti-Frustration Features: The AI will never create Geisha houses outside of glitches and bugs. Note the word "House".
  • Armor Is Useless: Nope. Armour makes a massive difference when it comes to survivability of units and certain troops can't even be trained without Armourer.
  • Armor-Piercing Attack: The main reason why to bother with firearms is the fact they deal damage regardless of armour.
  • Artistic License – History: Multiple. Fixed in Shogun 2.
    • Clans often recruit notable generals they have in history with increased rank, such as Honda Tadakatsu, note  who appears for the Imagawa/Tokugawa. They sometime recruit notable generals they never recruited in history, such as Asakura Yoshikagenote  for the Oda.
    • Oda, Imagawa, and Uesugi clans having Toyotomi, Tokugawa, and Date in their heir list. Technically their clan was supposed to replace their names, but the trigger sometimes may or may not run.
    • Some clans having heirs who isn't related to them in the first place!note 
    • There are no samurai units with guns (all are ashigaru), which is not historically accurate.
    • The Takeda clan seems to control the Aki area in the 1530 scenario and the base scenario. Technically, it's a different Takeda branch that has little to no relations with the Main Takeda branch that belongs to Takeda Shingen.
    • The Ashikaga Shogunate is nowhere to be seen. Instead, you would see the Hosokawa clan in Kyoto. The only appearance of the Ashikaga clan would be a rebel clan/force in Mutsu Province.
    • Mutsu and Dewa Provinces uses one castle to control the whole provinces, when in actually, it's ruled by multiple clans (likes the Date Clan)
    • Several provincesnote  aren't seen. They are instead assimilated into other prominent provinces.
  • Artistic License – Religion: In one geisha assassination cutscene, a Catholic priest seems to be wearing a rosary as a necklace. Even today, most Catholics consider that a very inappropriate use for one, as doing so would give the impression that it is a mere beauty-piece.
  • Awesome, but Impractical: Before you will get to Kensai and Geisha, the game might be over. Also, in case of Geisha, it means sacrificing buildings that could produce units for a late-game assassin gimmick, while you can simply use ninjas instead.
  • Battle in the Rain: The bane of Arquebus Ashigaru, as it renders their weapon useless. Musketeers are thankfully immune to this.
  • Battle Thralls: The Mongols' basic, cheap infantry units from the Mongol Invasion expansion are Korean captives/vassals pressed into service.
  • Boring, but Practical: Yari units, be it ashigaru, samurai or cavalry. They are nothing fancy, but will be easily the mainstay of your armies regardless of which clan you're playing as. They are cheap, reliable, can fend off cavalry and all you need to train the infantry variant is most basic yari dojo.
  • Bow and Sword, in Accord: Archer samurai, the only bow infantry in the game, are pretty capable in melee and can easily fight off against ashigaru units, assuming they will charge them.
  • Cannon Fodder: Ashigaru are fairly capable as cannon fodder goes. While weaker than the samurai and best used in overwhelming numbers, they are still definitely worth recruiting, especially since samurai units tend to be much more expensive and harder to recruit. Good tactics can also allow them to beat samurai units with relatively few casualties.
  • Church Militant: The militant Buddhist, and later Christian, samurai, who would rise up if upset at your daimyo's religious policy, be it conversion to Christianity or refusal to give up Shintoism if said daimyo conquers a territory that has been converted to Christianity.
  • Combat Pragmatist: Winning provinces by simply waiting sieges, in the process killing besieged army without facing it in the battlefield. Holding bridges with token forces against overwhelming odds that would otherwise just stamp over your units in an open field. Using large number of cheap and disposable aquebus ashigaru to murder with ease Elite Army of your enemy before it can even get close. Simply letting the clock tick in defensive battles, rather than being proactive, since you win once the timer hits zero.
  • The Computer Is a Cheating Bastard: Various rules that player is under do not apply to AI, including such "minor" things like Buddhist monks not losing their edge when facing Christian armies of the human player.
  • Crack Defeat: Attacking provinces with rivers can easily turn into this. All the defenders really need is unit of yari (can be even ashigaru) + bowmen combo for each bridge and simply Hold the Line. Taken into absurdity if a kensai is deployed in such battle, since a single guy is going to cut into ribbons hundreds of people charging that bridge.
  • Cyberpunk with a Chance of Rain: There is one such near-future Japan in the game's victory cinematic.
  • Decapitated Army: Kill the general and all ashigaru troops will rout instantly, likely followed by samurai infantry if enough of them starts running away. Doesn't work so well against monks, who have far higher morale and can completely ignore death of their general.
  • Disc-One Nuke: Anyone starting with a province with iron and thus capable of getting armourer going faster will gain considerable edge early on.
  • Distant Finale:
    • After your clan achieves victory, the final cutscene jumps forward into the far future. It shows your daimyo's statue being displayed in a public square in high-tec, Cyberpunk style Tokyo, with the narrator saying how legends of your courage and cunning still lives on to this very day.
    • In the Mongol Invasion expansion pack, if you fail to defeat the Mongolian invasion of Japan, the ending skips forward to the future. It shows the same cutscene as mentioned above with the modern day Tokyo in the future, seemingly suggesting that history goes on same as before... except then narrator reveals that you are looking at the province of Japan, which is now part of Mongolia, with its cultural heritage and legends of the samurai being long since forgotten by history. The final shot of the ending is a giant statue of Kubla Khan standing proudly in a public park at the city center.
  • The Dreaded: Gunpowder units cause morale drop to units they attack, due to combination of heavy casualties, armour-piercing attack and most importantly, all the smoke and noise the gunfire makes.
  • Dungeon Bypass: You can invade any given province with a port in it, provided your own army is in port, too. Enemy clan having all its armies parked right next to border? Just land in their back.
  • Early Game Hell:
    • Imagawa clan starts with one of it's provinces in Kyushu, and the only way they can access it is via port. They have to split their forces to maintain their possessions and defend at two different fronts. Neglect either their Kyushu or Honsiu holdings and you can end up being booted out entirely.
    • Being the Samurai during Mongol Invasion. You are given almost all of Japan, but with piss poor units, only the basic Yari and ranged Ashigaru and Samurai units, and the the Yari and Bow cavalry units, which do piss poor damage to the Mongol units that isn't their thunder bombers.
  • Elite Mooks: Yari samurai. They are minimally better than ashigaru variant, but rather than being armed peasants, they represent a higher social class.
  • "Facing the Bullets" One-Liner: Or close to it, anyway. When a major clan is destroyed (and thus the daimyo dies), he recites a historical "death poem", written by samurai before they either committed seppuku or went off to a Last Stand.
  • Faction-Specific Endings: The ending cutscene changes slightly depending on what clan you played as.
  • Femme Fatale: Geishas, working as super-assassins.
  • Frontline General: At the game start, your general's guard unit will be the best thing in your army and the game openly encourages you to use them in combat, especially against ineffectual rebels.
  • Game Mod: It's possible to mod custom positions and setups in the campaign map. Want Mongol units in the other scenarios? You can. You just can't replenish them. Or earn new ones.
  • Game-Breaking Bug: Until it was patched, The Mongol Invasion expansion caused the original campaign to treat the "Rebels and Ronin" garrisons that control the majority of the map at the beginning to act like a full hostile faction. The resulting tsunami of rebel armies would quickly overwhelm all the playable sides in the first few turns. Amusingly enough it did not count as a faction for victory conditions, meaning the last side standing wins by default.
  • Gang Up on the Human: The AI is by default scripted to go against human player first and foremost. The only thing preventing certain clans from being hostile right from the start is lack of direct border and/or presence of rebel provinces.
  • Guide Dang It!:
    • Unit losses can only be recovered through a manual process which requires the damaged unit to be sent to a province that is capable of training units, has the correct recruitment building (example: Yari Samurai requires a Yari Dojo), and then put directly into the training queue to be retrained to full strength. Needless to say, this is user-unfriendly and not explained (unlike unit merging).
  • Guns Are Useless: If you don't know how to deploy them or it's raining, aquebus and musketeer ashigaru are the worst units in the game- despite they are being absolute terror on the battlefield in real life.
  • Guns vs. Swords: If you don't have cavarly, your best bet dealing with enemy gunners is charging them with nodachi samurai, who are particularly effective in close quarters against unarmoured units.
  • Highly Visible Ninja: Ninja, shinobi and geisha tokens are visible on the map to everyone. You can see exactly who and in what quantity is sending shinobis to destabilise your frontier, but it also means AI "sees" when you send an assassin to kill them. There is however a difference between just moving an agent and being caught on assassination attempt.
  • Hold the Line: Any battle that involves river crossing will consists of the defending side doing exactly that, with units simply standing and waiting in crucial points, fending off any attackers funneled into them.
  • Implausible Deniability: Directly related with above. Rebellion going in a province? No, that's totally not because there were 20 shinobis parked in it. A general or even daimyo being assassinated? Clearly that wasn't the ninja standing in that province. And it's taken Up to Eleven with geishas, because they can fail their assassination, but they can't be punished for it, meaning you literally can't do anything, even if you catch one red-handed.
  • Instrument of Murder: There is a brief cutscene that shows a ninja assassinating his target with a poison dart blown out of a flute. The Geishas also have several fairly brutal instrumental kills. Special mention goes to the assassination scene where a Geisha kills a room full of enemies, armed only with a violin-type instrument.
  • Island Base: Done early enough, it is possible to turn both Kyushu and Shikoku into those, as other clans will simply lack ports to even try invading your home.
  • Jidaigeki: Comes naturally from the setting itself, to the point later re-releases used scenes from Ran as intro.
  • Losing the Team Spirit: The big, revolutionary change introduced by the game was the extent to which morale mechanics affect battles and how it is possible to win them by other means than simply killing everyone from the other side. It is perfectly normal and even expected to rout army few times bigger than your own, while only causing minimal casualties to the enemy - but make sure among them there is the general and any killing happens rapidly, rather than gradually.
  • Luck-Based Mission:
    • Ninja assassinations are purely up to chance; having a higher rank gives the Ninja better odds.
    • Winning the first battle in the Mongol scenario on harder difficulties can lead to this. Your units routing because of the RNG hates you? Good luck winning. Considering this can be true in reality...
  • Made of Iron: Almost literally. To even train Naginata samurai, you must have Armoury in that province, which means it has access to iron deposits. Naginata samurai have the highest armour rating of all units in the game and can shrug off anything that isn't a bullet (and sometimes even those aren't enough).
  • Magikarp Power: Trying to use Ninjas early on with no rank seems like a waste of Koku as they can die more often than not. And it's only when you've upgraded their recruitment building to the maximum level that they can start to live long enough to enjoy a successful career full of numerous assassinations.
  • Master of None: Yari samurai. For yari troops, either ashigaru or cavalry are better. For direct melee combat, nodachi samurai are superior. For defending, you want the heavily armoured naginata samurai. For protracted combat, superior morale and combat skills of monks units are better. Their main saving grace is the fact how early and easily they can be trained and having slightly better stats than ashigaru variant.
  • Mutual Kill: What happens when two enemy geisha meet. The geisha have a tea ceremony. Then one geisha uses her hair stick to kill the other geisha, who retaliates with a fatal kodachi strike. The strikes are offscreen, but the player sees the really bloody aftermath.
  • Ninja: The game notably divides them on two different agent types: shinobi, who simply create unrest in a province (put enough of those in any given place and it will cause a non-stop revolt) and ninja, who are doing all the assassinations. On top of that, there are battlefield ninja, which can hide even in an open terrain, are formidable in combat and can easily close to the enemy general unnoticed. All of those units are wearing costumes that would make them highly visible.
  • Nintendo Hard: Being the Samurai faction during the Mongol Scenario, if you're not cheesing it using an exploitnote 
    • You are given all of Japan to fend off the Mongol forces, who has better attack and charge ratings.
    • You are given Yari units, The Archer unitsnote , and the two basic Yari Cavalry and Cavalry Archers. Good luck building your army and hopefully don't get overwhelmed before you can make better units!
    • The Warrior Monks are unavailable, except by the rebels.
    • The Gun Ashigaru units are obviously unavailable Except if you somehow stall the game into going into the main scenario time.
    • You STILL need to trigger the Legendary Swordsman event to build Nodachi Samurai.
  • Non-Standard Game Over: Even if you are one province away from taking over all of Japan, if you die childless, it's an instant game-over and your clan cease to exist.
  • One-Hit Kill: Each unit that isn't general and his bodyguards has exactly 1 hit point. This means that if they aren't provided with armour upgrades at certain point, your troops will start dying by the dozen when facing higher tier units. On top of that, everyone gets access to attack upgrades, but only handful of provinces provide armour.
  • One-Man Army: The Kensai unit, a master swordsman capable of tearing through entire units or holding a choke point all by his lonesome.
  • Only in It for the Money: The Portugese traders instantly set up Christian missions in your domain and will only trade better gear and set up further trade posts if you convert to Christianity. The Dutch, meanwhile, just want to earn some money, and couldn't care any less about religious affairs, allowing to recruit musketeer ashigaru right from the start and their trading port generates slightly more koku.
  • Press Start to Game Over: Possibly in the Mongol Invasion as the mongols in harder difficulties. You don't have a province to start. You have to win, or lose before you can even move at the campaign map.
  • Quantity vs. Quality: Both sides of the axis can be played effectively, even against each other. A handful of high-tier, fully upgraded units can tear apart an army of ashigaru without even slowing down. An endless wave of freshly recruited yari ashigaru can simply Zerg Rush some elite army due to size disparity.
  • Scary Impractical Armor: This is what your armour without Armourer upgrades really is: a display piece to look fearsome on the battlefield, but it's predominately paper, leather straps and lacquer.
  • Shoot the Messenger: If the rival faction you're sending an emissary to really hates your guts, your emissary may come back to you missing everything from the neck down.
  • Shown Their Work: Zig-Zagged. While nothing spectacular from modern perspective, when the game came out, it was considerably well-researched and based various gameplay elements on historical outcomes or traditional customs. However, there are several discrepancies and errors, see Artistic License – History above.
  • The Siege: Generally advisable way of taking down enemy provinces. The alternative is a frontal attack on the fortress, which depending on how advanced it is, may simply rid you of your army without achieving anything.
  • So Last Season: Once you have access to guns, archers are completely useless, since arquebuse ashigaru are far superior and can easily slaughter units that archers can't even dream about scratching. And you can further upgrade to muskets.
  • Stealth Expert: Battlefield ninja are for all means and purposes invisible until an unit stumbles on them or they engage in combat. When they are detected, they are usually already within the range of their thrown weapons.
  • Stock Footage: Kind of, in that the opening cinematic of the Warlord Edition is an actual scene from Ran.
  • Surprisingly Elite Cannon Fodder: Yari samurai are virtually identical to ashigaru variant and playing the same role - the main difference being their morale.
  • Tactical Rock–Paper–Scissors: Cavalry beats archers, archers beat ashigaru, ashigaru can overwhelm cavalry. Swords beat yari, yari beat cavalry, cavalry beats swords. Guns kill melee units at range, melee units slaughter aquebus and musketeer ashigaru in close quarters.
  • Take It to the Bridge: The easiest province to defend is one that has river in it, as that means battle over the bridges. A skeleton force of few units can effectively repel and army consisting of three stacks of units, simply by holding out for long enough to make the invasion fail.
  • Timed Mission:
    • In general, you must conquer Japan before 1600.
    • Battles have their timers. Depending if you are attacking or defending, once the clock hits zero, it's an automatic defeat or victory.
  • Tutorial Failure:
    • The optional tutorial has one scenario where you get a unit of archers perched on a hillside and are tasked with taking out a unit of spearmen marching up the hill. Supposedly, this was to demonstrate the importance of high ground... except the spearmen WILL reach your archers with minimal casualties. What you are actually supposed to do is to retreat to the nearby hilltop, shoot from there until the spearmen get close, then assume wedge formation and counter-charge them.
    • Later, the tutorial makes you the attackers and tasks you with driving arquebusiers off a hill. Thing is, the enemy is completely unable to shoot due to the rain, making the whole thing a zero-risk endeavor.
  • Unintentionally Unwinnable: You can wait out for the last turn without completing your objectives, or have your daimyo with no heir fight a battle with no chance to escape.
  • Unwinnable by Design: You can make units have unlimited ammo in the options. Combine this with an AI who uses Cavalry Archers and you have no Yari Cavalry and you will be slowly grinded down, while being virtually unable to kill the horse archersnote .
  • Useless Useful Spell:
    • Cathedrals. They provide the owner income from all churches, not just yours- but the AI will never make churches enough to make a sizable profit. While it provides the creation of Musketeers, a Gun Factory is much more efficient, but...
    • To a lesser extent, Christianity. While they provide gunpowder units earlier than the Dutch, the AI who doesn't like anyone who is a Christian, even if the Daimyo in question is a Christian himself. You also have to deal with Buddhist rebellions, which may spawn Warrior Monks.
  • Video Game Delegation Penalty: You really don't want to automatically resolve battles. Due to few loops in the script and general issues with evaluating various units (and not evaluating certain ones at all), you can get a total defeat out of something that should be a trivial victory.
  • Violence Is the Only Option: You can only win the game by being the last clan surviving in Japan and the only way this can happen is either straight-up conquest or deliberately inciting rebellions to other clans.
  • Wouldn't Hit a Girl: Ninja being caught on a failed assassination? Instant execution. Geisha being caught? Nothing happens; Geisha don't actually get caught, they just back away after failing to get close enough. And aside from deliberately sending a counter-assassin to deal with one, there is no way to remove a geisha from the game.
  • Zerg Rush: Yari ashigaru main role after first 10-15 turns is to simply build large number of them and charge directly at enemy lines, occupying the other side with something, while rest of your troops flak them or attack their rear. The Oda clan specializes in Ashigaru, making them particularly suitable for this tactic.