Some buildings, such as Dojos and Inns, lower modernisation, meaning you're in a constant balancing act between what you want to build to strengthen your position, and what shiny new technology you could get if you carry on levelling up your Clan Development, which is fed by modernisation and unlocks more advanced technologies to be researched.
The expansion is focused around the Boshin conflict, a civil war that occurred between 1868 and 1869, fought between the Shogunite and the Imperial forces. The Imperials wanted the foreigners cast out of Japan, and the Shogunite considered a future with the world involved would lead to a stronger Japan. Oddly, it was the Imperials who were more technologically advanced at the time, with the Shogunite leaning stronger on traditional values.
Which makes it a shame that none of those ideologies are reflected in the game itself. The modernisation mechanic is the same for both, and both can quite happily create international trading ports that welcome the French, British or Americans into Japan. Instead it becomes a war based purely on geology, and while it does build into an exciting climax where, by the end of that seventh decade, you're forced to pick a side, and engage in all out war against the other.
The other problem is that somehow, despite the incredibly volatile period and the vast ambition of merging such diametrically opposed technologies and peoples, Fall of the Samurai feels safe. Creative Assembly can do line infantry. They can do trading ports. Empire worked, on the small scale, and Japan is a much smaller scale than almost anything Empire attempted. The few genuinely new mechanics that Fall of the Samurai introduces, especially railways, feel clumsy. In theory trains should be the perfect troop transports, zipping your men from one end of your territory to the other, but in reality if you don't have a perfectly connected rail system, you can't go anywhere. And when you can't dictate where those railway stations are, it gets a little frustrating.
The same problems that plagued Shogun 2 are present here, too, with insufferable load times, wonky pathfinding and an ever so slightly idiotic AI on the campaign map. This is all a roundabout way of saying that if you were happy to put up with those issues in Shogun 2, there's no reason that they should annoy you here. Shogun 2 was a massive, beautiful game, and Fall of the Samurai is that same massive, beautiful game, except now it's got guns and trains, and a much stronger theme that plays into the mechanics.
So it's not hard to ignore those niggles, especially when you've got an excitable eight year old in your head jumping around and making gun noises as he pretends to swing a sword about. There's a magic in that weird juxtaposition of old and new. You want to know who would win, because while there's an awesome power in the barrel of a gun, there's a romanticised grandeur to the blade of a sword. And you know who won, because our policemen don't walk around with katanas strapped to their backs.
Now there's a thought.
Version Tested: PC
VideoGamer.com Score8 Score out of 10
- Guns and swords
- No Tom Cruise
- Railways are a bit rubbish
- Loading times