Last thursday saw the release of the first ever Shogun 2 DLC, the Ikko-Ikki clan pack. One of the first things I typically ask myself upon seeing a new release for a game I enjoy is, of course, is that DLC worth the asking price? At a modest $5 USD, CA would have to fumble the ball pretty hard to not give you your money's worth, but stranger things have happened. Like the invention of cheese for instance!
But enough about tales of culinary discovery, lets take a look at Shogun's first DLC pack. I spent a couple days running through a campaign with the Ikko for the purposes of testing and general experimentation. Here's my thoughts, I hope they are of use to some of you.
The Ikko-Ikki Clan Pack
What you'll get:
The Ikko Ikki “warrior monk” Clan:
- A new clan for use in single or multiplayer Campaign modes and Custom and Multiplayer Battles
- 8 new unit-variants specific to the Ikko Ikki clan
- New skill trees
- New Ikko Ikki Monk Agent with his own specific skill tree
The Ikko Ikki Clan Pack also includes:
- The Warrior Nun unit – can be trained by any clan except the Ikko Ikki
- New Naginata Warrior Monk hero
- New Historical Battle: Nagashima (Ikko Ikki VS Oda)
- Ikko Ikki armour set for Avatar - includes hood, robes and barefoot leg-pieces.
- New Retainers for use in the Avatar Conquest mode
How it plays:
The changes to the campaign are not sweeping nor are they something you will be kicking yourself if you decided to pass on, what the pack does offer however is a dash of spice to an already interesting single-player experience.
The Ikko religion now behaves much more like the other religions. It spreads thanks to the use of agents, religious buildings and even devout generals. You can look forward to combating the spread of Ikko if you play the Uesugi particularly, as the Ikko start off with a temple near one of the minors the Uesugi are tasked with knocking out in the early game.
When playing as the new Ikko faction conquest is much slower than you may be used to in eastern Honshu, but is not as bad as if you were playing a Christian daimyo. Thanks to the Ikko's unique skill tree for generals, its possible to get boosts to the conversion rate of your provinces that they are in. Your conquering pace won't be brisk, but it won't be slow either.
The faction itself is what you'd expect, a warrior monk faction who's primary strength is the morale of their units.
Two afternoons of playing around with the faction has led me to the conclusion that they are, without a doubt, one of the more interesting factions in the game. While most other factions revolve around a certain style of warfare (Takeda cavalry, Chokosabe bowmen, ect) the Ikko are more about exploiting their powerful morale. The new general skill tree, unique to the Ikko, hammers this point home incredibly well, increasing the power of your rally and inspire abilities by as much as 30%. Now that's a hefty bonus!
Other notable features of the Ikko are their unique ashigaru units, who while having penalties to attack and defense, get bonuses to their overall morale and unit size. I think of them like Austrian Line Infantry from ETW, who had a very similiar handicap. If you play to the obvious strengths of your faction, building your generals to provide huge boosts to your morale and add monks to most of your standing armies? You'll watch as Ashigaru commit acts you never expected a samurai to do in their place.
Difficulty Playing as the Ikko
Even though I played on Hard campaign difficulty, I never experienced much of a "dog-pile" that I expected. The religious differences penalty does not go so far as to have people declaring war from the first turn, which is a good thing. However, it is more than enough to keep people at "indifferent" or "unfriendly" for a majority of the time you're in contact. What results is a very tense (if not exactly difficult) game where you're never sure who to trust.
Overall I'd rate them Medium in difficulty. Even though no one is their religion and no one particularly trusts you enough for an alliance, you've got the tools and the ability to expand quickly to make your home secure enough to take on all commers. A great faction for your second play-through once you've learned the ropes.
All in all the campaign boasts gameplay largely the same as vanilla, just with a different feel to it than if you were playing with one of the other clans. Perhaps thats my personal bias talking, but I'm big on the immersion and flavor factor when it comes to Shogun 2, and the Ikko are without question the most "flavorful" of them all.
The Ikko-Ikki are an interesting DLC experiment from CA. So far they are without a doubt my favorite campaign experience, but are they worth your time and money to download? It depends on the question honestly.
Are they a must have addition to the game, one you're cheating yourself of experiencing by not buying them? No, of course not.
But: Are they a fun, fulfilling addition to an already (imho) great game? Absolutely. If you're looking to add a dash of spice to your S2 experience, then you really shouldn't miss out on this clan pack.
The Ikko-Ikki DLC is available on Steam, for $5 USD. Once purchased it will download and unlock automatically.
Be on the lookout for: For the Ikko! A campaign AAR based on my gameplay experiences with this brand new faction, coming soon to the TreasAARy and Tea House here at the Org.