Win or Die in Old Japan
A beautifully-designed addition to the "Total War" game series, the Mac version of the "Shogun 2" game package stands out for its graphics (extraordinarily detailed and very lifelike warriors, horses, castles and landscapes) and streamlined gameplay. The map and landscapes (in battle scenes) change to reflect the passing seasons.
Like the other "Total War" games, "Shogun 2" is a turn-based, military/political strategy game which allows you to play against the computer or (online) against human opponents. Each game offers "long" and "short" versions, and a game may take days or weeks to complete.
The package currently available for the Mac has two of the three games ("Campaigns") offered within the PC package, listed below in historical order:
Rise of the Samurai
Beginning in 1175 AD, just before the "Genpei War" (1180-1185), you take control as leader of one of six families during the great struggle of the Taira and Minamoto clans for dominance in Japan. To win, you must hold your family's heartland provinces and capture a required minimum number of additional provinces. Don't dawdle!—Failure to win by the last quarter of the specified year means the total destruction of your family!
You play as leader of one of 12 clans clawing their way up the pyramid to dominance during the "Period of Warring States" (1467-1573). To win as "Shogun" (roughly equivalent to Rome's "Caesar"), you must take the minimum number of provinces required, including your clan's heartland and the capital, Kyoto, by the cutoff date.
Fall of the Samurai (not included in the Mac version)
This campaign is set in the 19th century, around the time of the "Boshin War" (1868-1869), between supporters of the Tokugawa Shogunate and the imperial court. On the campaign-selection page of the Mac version of "Shogun 2," this option is present but disabled; it will presumably be offered as an add-on expansion (for an extra charge!), eventually.
Aside from the fine visuals, "Shogun 2" stands out in the "Total War" series for its "Difficulty Spike:" as you approach victory, it gets harder to win. Your enemies join against you; your provinces revolt; the current Shogun becomes alarmed and brands you an enemy of the state, causing even your allies to turn against you, and so on. Winning is not easy!
If you enjoyed playing other games in the "Total War" series, you'll probably enjoy "Shogun 2:"
A fascinating introduction to Japanese history and culture
Complicated and intriguing strategy
Exciting, lifelike battles
Endless provincial revolts are a major drag
Diplomacy functions are weak, unimaginative, and frustrating
Gameplay (battle after battle after battle) gets repetitive
Endgame can be a grinding slog.
Biggest complaint: not only are there far too many provincial revolts (which add nothing to the joy of the game, and put a significant drag on your progress), but, while the human player labors for years to develop an army, these illiterate peasants can pop out companies of trained samurai with fancy armor and advanced weapons, overnight!—Unfair, unfair! And typical of "Total War."
However, no game is perfect, and "Shogun 2" is certainly the best of the "Total War" series.