Total War Battles: Shogun [$1.99] is not perfect. Anyone who tells you differently is either lying or particularly forgiving in regards to an absence of visual cues. Nonetheless, while Creative Assembly and Sega's first attempt to bring their award-winning franchise to the iOS platform is one pockmarked with problems, it doesn't change the fact that this real-time strategy game remains an excellent addition to the App Store.

Set somewhere in late 16th century Japan, Total War Battles opens to a familiar tune: an overcast sky, one army torching another army's infrastructure to the ground, a father passing on his final instructions to his son. As the earnest heir, it is your responsibility to seek out those who are responsible for the tragedy that befell your clan and to exterminate them with extreme prejudice.

While hardly the most inspired premise out there, the story works well enough as an excuse to visit slow, well thought-out havoc onto opposing factions. Of course, it kind of helps that the game is also lovely to behold. Though not on par with games like Infinity Blade II, Total War Battles: Shogun still boasts of well-animated military men, excellent weather effects, decent voice acting and a suitably epic soundtrack.

Gameplay in Total War Battles: Shogun consists of you first picking one of the campaign-based missions currently available to you or an EXP stage from the world map. Depending on the nature of the level you've selected, you can either expect to be called upon to beat down on a number of units, defeats a certain type of enemy or to participate in a round of city planning.

Yes, you heard me. Should you choose to accept the responsibility, you'll find yourself taking a break from the rampant warfare to work on stuff like figuring out how to jam eight shrines into a less-than-spacious map. It's not as easy as it sounds. Buildings here come with their own set of requirements and restrictions. For example, shrines will not permit themselves to be constructed next to the vice-den that is your average trading post but will require the proximity of a lumber mill in order to exist. (No, I have no idea why either).

As for the rest of the game, it's a little more straightforward. In between assembling the correct assortment of unit-producing buildings and ensuring that they remain in serviceable condition (enemies will do their best to burn them down), you're going to have to send your army at your foes. Simple, right? There's a small twist. While you're capable of manipulating their frontal charge, you will not be able to tell your units to move back. Retreat is impossible for them as they apparently subscribe to the laws of Bushido. Additionally, you're also going to have to take the fact that your battalions are incapable of turning on a dime and the fact that there's a cooldown associated with your navigation-related commands into consideration.

Needless to say, this isn't your average hair-trigger, '300 actions-per-minute or bust' sort of RTS. Forethought is mandatory here. To make matters more interesting, you'll be able to utilize a certain amount of units at a time, something that can spell life or death. If you throw everything you own into a frontal assault, you may find your home base decimated even as you watch on helplessly. Mistakes aren't easily forgiven here.

There's a fairly decent variety of units and buildings, by the way, one augmented by a considerable amount of available upgrades. With more than 10 hours of expected game time, gorgeous aesthetics and half-decent voice acting, Total War Battles: Shogun should represent one of the pinnacles of the iOS-based real-time strategy genre, right? Maybe.

As I've mentioned early on, Total War Battles: Shogun is not without its flaws. To be fair, they aren't big flaws but they're certainly the sort that can niggle. Units don't come with health bars and buildings will not provide information about their structural integrity in an easy accessible fashion. There is nary a number to be found; you won't ever get to figure out precisely how much of a defense boost your monks provide. These issues aren't exactly game changers but if you're the sort who likes their statistics, you might find yourself bristling at your inability to accurately calculate the likelihood of a win.

As for the multiplayer, I haven't had the chance to get someone to sit down to poke at it with me. Unsurprisingly, Total War Battles: Shogun only supports 1vs1 same-device multiplayer, something that is generally best played on the iPad as opposed to its more diminutive cousins.

Still, if you're willing to overlook the aforementioned issues, Total War Battles: Shogun is a refreshing change from the App Store's barrage of angry avians, physics-based puzzler and match-3 games.

TouchArcade Rating

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  • Corey Bowman

    Just because there is no health bar, that doesn't mean you do know. Units are produced 4 per hex as they fight they die one at a time. So if you only have one guy left you know they are low health. Same for the buildings, first they smoke then they are on fire. I wonder if you did more then the first two levels before you wrote this review as your negative posts don't are bogus. This game would look terrible with health bars. I'm glad the devs figure out a new way instead of ugly green lines above everyone head. I can't believe that's a negative point in your view.

    • http://twitter.com/nrathaus Noam Rathaus

      I agree with your comments, the feel of the game is very much influenced by things that only appear but not show, such as health bar, houses status (how much they were damaged) etc

    • casskhaw

      You definitely have your points, sir! And I can see why this is a point of contention for you. However, I'm personally most comfortable with games that show exactly what's going on, regardless of how ugly an onslaught of numbers can make something.

      To use your example, instead of just making an estimate based on the fact that there's only guy is left, I tend to prefer knowing exactly how much HP he has. That one guy may have anywhere from 25% health to 5% health - I have this thing about needing to know exactly where that falls. :) 

      • http://twitter.com/omicron123 Christopher M

        If you notice, the same units vs. the same enemies may have different results. It's less "sapping health until one guy falls over dead" and more "random chance of killing one guy." So in effect, a unit with 1/4 of its population left alive will always have 25% health, up until it has 0%.

      • casskhaw

        Heh. :) Thanks for clarifying that. To be honest, I actually didn't. I've spent most of my time in this game peering intently at my units, trying to figure out if I missed a hidden formula somewhere.

      • Flare_TM

         Thanks for the review, good read

    • Ako Vendetta

      My thoughts exactly. If you look closely at buildings, its easy to notice that they gradually turn to cinders as they burn, from top to bottom. When the cinders touch the ground, the building comes down.

      It doesn't take much to figure out that one lone samurai isnt going to have much of a chance against 4. If you need a health bar as well to figure that out, well, i dont know what to say.

      The game is far from perfect, but it is leagues better than a majority of the strats available for iOS.

  • Gemutlichkeit

    I've been waiting so long for a good Hex turn based strategy game. I hope this one pulls it off.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=690747678 Paul Johnson

      Did you miss Great Little War Game ?

  • http://twitter.com/ColombCoca Sander

    Meh. It is not what i like S:TW2 for.

  • http://twitter.com/nicolinux nicolinux

    Cool - the game is made with Unity3D. Nice to see such quality titles.

  • http://www.tastythailand.com Reeves

    Don't know why anyone would play something like a Total War game on a midget screen. This game really is simplistic and just plain bad. Wouldn't even waste 7 bucks on it.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jonathan.breslin.9 Jonathan Breslin

    This game is frustratingly difficult, I won the first skirmish and haven't been able to win since. Seems like the computer opponent has an infinite supply of advanced troops to keep throwing at me while I desperately put out weak guys to stay alive. I just can't seem to figure out how to even the playing field.

Total War Battles Reviewed by Cassandra Khaw on . Rating: 4