Part of Creative Assembly's mandate when they came to re-do Shogun was to make the Multiplayer a better environment rather than a side-option. I admit; I was sceptical at first, much more of a single player grand campaign fan than an online warrior. In fact, when I tried to play with some fellow forumers on Empire and Napoleon the game would not let me for some reason, having looked around on the internet many others had the same problem. So I retreated back to my single player comfort zone.
However, with all of the enhancements and additions to the Multiplayer in Shogun 2 I was intrigued. I entered and set up my Avatar. This consisted of several steps.
First I chose my 'Mon', the logo that appears on my flags. I went for a deep reddish-purple that I hoped not many others would use. Next I began to customise the armour on my Avatar. Armour sets are gained through exclusive content, achievements and also random drops after battles. If you unlock or find a full set of matching armour you get access to other bonuses such as Retainers with a specific skill set. Having played the Uesugi Grand Campaign, I had access to the awesome, – but maybe a little frightening – schizophrenic looking Kabuto helmet of their Daimyo. I paired this up with some 'Goldfish Fins' on his back and I was ready to take my custom clan to the battlefield.
At first, you only have access to basic units, the rest are unlocked by conquering provinces on this map. The order in which you go about acquiring these units is entirely up to you. There is another element to this map however; if you are part of a Clan, the matchmaking battles you play also count towards their victories. If a Clan gets a certain number of victories in a province they then own it until another gets more victories and so forth. Clan officers can place markers on the map to point which provinces they'd like you to fight for. I moved to the closest province to my starting point and began the matchmaker.
The game found another player of my skill level and battle begun. It was cool to see the units I chose coloured in the same scheme that I had chosen for my Daimyo. I lost the battle by the skin of my teeth, my general caught up in melee trying to save his archers. Some of my Yari Ashigaru had fought so well that post-battle I was asked if I wanted to have them as a veteran unit. Every player has a set number of slots to store these veteran units who are able to gain experience and level up in battle. If they take too many casualties however, you will need to wait a while before using them again so that their number can replenish. This is a nice touch, and goes hand-in-hand with the Avatar customisation and the sense that you are creating and leading your own Clan. Just like your Avatar, you can spend earned skill points to give these units additional skills or specialisations.
There are numerous other online modes to partake in, so if you fancy taking a break from your Avatar and custom army you're spoilt for choice. We see the return of the 'campaign drop-in' from Napoleon where you can allow a random human opponent to face you during your campaign battles rather than fight the AI. We have multiplayer campaigns, both competitive and cooperative.
As great as these additions and innovations are, it is during my time on the Multiplayer that I experienced 90% of the errors, bugs and crashes throughout my playing time. There were times I was forced to ctrl-alt-del to exit the game because the option to leave a lobby was greyed out or it just plain locked up after a battle. When you click 'ready' to begin, the countdown begins but the game then sets you back to 'unready'. I had one bizarre moment when searching for a 3 v 3 game with some of the Clan members, the match maker put us on a siege map. But after we'd chosen our armies and tried to launch the game told us we couldn't because the map is only designed for a maximum of four players. At this point there is no way to leave the game lobby, you have to forcibly exit the game. All six of us were stuck in limbo, laughing amongst ourselves as to how ridiculous it was.
After playing around six total games – only winning two, much to my shame – I decided to check my standings amongst the Clan, only to find that the game had not recorded 4 of those I had played. According to the Clan page my stats were 0/2. Frustrating to say the least. It turns out this has happened because I left the post-game summary screen before my opponent had loaded into it, causing the game to discount the battle, but also slapped me with the 'Dishonourable Coward' trait on my Avatar.
Other issues include the time it takes to find a match, sometimes when in a team we were waiting for five minutes or more. On occasion when I receive an invite to join a game I get booted to the main menu. And over the course of the weekend the Clan information was completely inaccessible.
Overall, the innovations on the Multiplayer mode promised to be great, and it could still be so long as these errors can be fixed. A patch or two down the line and we'll all be playing with enthusiasm, enjoying every moment of leading our personalised armies and conquering provinces in the name of the Shogun 2 Heaven Clan, but in it's current state, I cannot justify granting it more than a 7 for 'good'.