Sengoku Jidai: Shadow of the Shogun
As far as history goes, I love studying it. Especially wars. There’s just something fascinating about them for me – reading about feats of heroic achievement, of brave charges into no-man’s-land, or of bloody battles that caused unimaginable losses of life. It’s the overarching plots and feats that I adore, not the fine details. Therein lies the problem for me with Sengoku Jidai.
Sengoku Jidai: Shadow of the Shogun is a strategy game set around the warring periods of Japan (characterised with daimyo like Nobunaga, Takeda and Uesugi constantly butting heads, you know – the stuff KOEI loves to make games about). It also expands out to cover the wars with Korea and China, so there’s lots of interesting ground to cover.
Though the game calls itself a strategy game, I think it’s more fair to call Sengoku Jidai a historical simulator. You see, after the initial deployment and first few turns all semblance of strategy goes out the window. Here’s how a typical battle went for me:
Do you see the problem here? Once a troop has engaged an enemy troop, they fight in melee until one side breaks and flees. Then the victorious troop pursues the enemy off the map (or charges to a nearby enemy if it has the chance, starting another uncontrollable melee). In any given battle, before long you’re watching the game play itself and hoping your numbers are bigger than the enemy’s numbers.
The developers justify this method of combat by stating that before the invention of the radio, it was almost impossibly difficult for a commander to issue commands to his troops once they had been deployed and were in a fight already. I completely understand that reasoning, but it really does feel like the decision gets in the way of making the game fun.
On the plus side, the art is incredible. It’s beautifully stylised to look like the scrolls and paintings you see coming out of that period of Japan. The music is a real high point as well – it has a mix of oriental strings combined with strong, triumphant backing that really pumps you up for the coming battles. I’d highly recommend you get the sound track.
All in all then, I have to say this game is a bit of a disappointment. I know there is a niche market out there that will absolutely love this game, but it’s just not for me, and I can’t see it appealing to the majority of strategy gamers. Buy it if you’re a big fan of miniature war games and love the minute details, otherwise there’s better offerings out there.
4 uncontrollable melee units out of 10