They say it's called a revolution because over time it always comes full circle. And that saying applies perfectly the Total War series.
In 2000, Shogun: Total War came marching over the hill to change the way we look at real-time strategy gaming forever. Now, a decade on, the masterminds behind the franchise hope Shogun 2 will represent another groundbreaking milestone. Only this time, Creative Assembly is targeting a multiplayer revolution.
"In Napoleon we had a multiplayer campaign and drop-in battles for the first time," explains Ian Roxburgh, multiplayer design lead on Total War: Shogun 2.
"We've kept those and now the multiplayer campaign also includes a fully co-operative mode. You can share field of view and victory conditions with your team mate.
"We've also added a feature called Unit Sharing, so when you're attacked by the AI your ally can enter the battle with you and control some of your troops. It means both players can remain involved at all times."
While this feature is a welcome addition, it's far from being Shogun 2's most standout multiplayer innovation. That accolade goes to the revamped skirmish multiplayer mode which, unlike the modes featured in previous Total War games, attempts to inject context into brutal online bloodbaths.
"What we want to do is make multiplayer feel more like the essence of Total War," Roxburgh reveals. "We want each multiplayer battle to mean something. You still choose an army and then fight someone but now there's a context to it.
"We're calling it the Avatar system. You now get to create and level-up a general unit who will stay with you for the duration of your multiplayer escapades and lead your troops into battle."
Extensive aesthetic customisation options will allow you to create a visually unique commander, and your Avatar's abilities will also be upgradable via a skill tree. Fighting battles will earn you experience that can be channelled into a number of specialist areas, including your general's ability to rally his troops or wield bows with increasing skill.
"We really want to give players a feeling of ownership over a leader character that can be customised and upgraded," says Roxburgh.
While the tried and tested way of playing multiplayer from previous Total War titles will be retained in Shogun 2, this sequel aims to transform our battles against opponents in mysterious faraway lands like Scunthorpe or Stroud into more purposeful encounters.
Along with taking advantage of avatar upgrades you'll be able to bolster your troops' abilities, making them faster, stronger, deadlier and able to go longer between toilet breaks in wintry conditions. Clearly, the opportunity to mould your armies to suit your playing style has the potential to exponentially broaden the series' multiplayer appeal and longevity.
These new multiplayer battles will be orchestrated from a traditional turn-based campaign map similar to the ones we've grown to love during the series' single player experiences. It features 65 provinces and 12 naval regions across which players will form clans and fight for ownership of Japan.
Each of the provinces possesses its own tactical, economical and military advantages. Some contain specific dojos that allow you to recruit higher level troops, ensuring your army options will ultimately be decided by your battlefield prowess.
"As a member of a clan, when you capture a region, you earn points for your clan for that particular province," explains Roxburgh. "The clan with the most points owns the region and gains the benefits from it.
"We have a dynamic system that creates new gaming worlds depending on how many clans are entering. About 30 clans will fight in any one gaming world. Each 'season' will last two weeks, after which the top clans will be promoted and the bottom ones relegated."
During your journey of conquest, your general will acquire retainers: objects or individuals linked to your avatar. "As you capture certain regions you'll attain more retainers," reveals Roxburgh.
"You can also take them into a battle with you to gain an extra edge. You have a certain number of retainer slots ranging from one to five - depending on what level your avatar is - that you can take into a battle.
"One option is to send a spy to check on the enemy during the deployment stage to see where they've positioned their troops. Or maybe you use a retainer to increase the strength of your spearmen because you know the opposition will be susceptible to spear attacks. There are around 70 retainers in total."
As well as pushing Shogun's multiplayer nuances, Roxburgh was keen for me to get to grips a single-player campaign siege battle against an AI opponent. This took place on a mountainside sleek with freshly driven snow, and saw me facing off with a superior-sized aggressor attempting to take the multi-layered fortress I was defending. While bazooka-toting samurai (apparently they really did exist) pummelled my fortifications, I picked them off with arrow fire in a desperate bid to prevent them from breaking through.
The sweeping majesty of the setting made for a visually stunning encounter as the two sides exchanged missiles, though unfortunately those now all too familiar AI bugbears that have blighted the Total War series in recent years again reared their heads. The AI often seemed overly static, predictable and unresponsive. Hopefully this will be rectified before release.
The multiplayer battle I tried out was another fittingly titanic encounter as two armies faced off on opposite sides of a valley. Sitting between the two sides were a number of strategic buildings, a new feature that Roxburgh believes will make players more proactive and less defensively minded.
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"Within the multiplayer battles we've introduced the concept of key buildings. There are now key buildings on the map which if captured give you a bonus to some of your units depending on the type of units they are," he says.
"We've added this primarily to stop people from sitting on hills during battles. Now if one player sits on a hill, the other player can capture the buildings in order to counter the terrain advantage enjoyed by the player holding the high ground."
As any Total War buff knows, it's a controversial move to add such a 'gamey' feature to a strategy series that prides itself on authenticity. However, Creative Assembly's reasoning behind this new addition does make some sense.
Anyone who's spent their nights trying to outstare 5000 men on the opposite side of a level to see who'll blink first will understand the frustration that can accompany a Total War multiplayer game. Conversely, though, it's this endless cat-and-mouse-style psychological warfare which often contributes to making these skirmishes so memorable.
The addition of these key buildings certainly seemed to speed up the action as both sides attempted to gain the edge provided by capturing them. But it was impossible to tell from just one battle whether this new approach will ultimately improve the multiplayer experience or dilute it. Perhaps an option to turn bonus buildings off could be one way to safeguard against a purist backlash.
While it's hard to make any definitive judgements on the single-player campaign, or the yet-to-be-seen naval battles, it's clear that Shogun 2's revamped multiplayer features have huge potential to engage players like never before. The need to form clans in order to compete might just put some gamers off, however.
Here's hoping Creative Assembly has more to reveal by the time we've wiped the blood from our katanas, washed the sinews of our hewn enemies from our hair, mediated on our victories and had a nice cup of tea.