Review: Shadow Tactics: Blades of the Shogun
Title: Shadow Tactics: Blades of the Shogun
Platform: PS4 (reviewed), Xbox One.
Developer: Mimimi Productions
Publisher: Daedalic Entertainment
Release date: August 1, 2017
TL;DR: – A fantastic top-down, tactical game. I’m just not sure it works well with a controller.
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Originally released on PC back on December 6, 2016, Shadow Tactics: Blades of the Shogun was met with positive reviews (IGN gave it an 8.2). Critics loved its style, stealth, combat mechanics, and its heartfelt story of Edo-era Japan – all of which seem to transfer very well over to its console release.
Sadly, its hindrances transfer over, too; most noticeably, the camera controls. Shadow Tactics is overall a fantastic top-down tactical game, filled with a unique story and interesting cast – I’m just not sure it’s one that works well with a controller.
“Shadow Tactics is overall a fantastic top-down tactical game…”
For those who missed Shadow Tactics last year, you take control of five characters, each with a unique set of skills suited for different tasks. Mugen, the samurai, can take care of a number of enemies with one swing of his katana blade. Hayato, a ninja, uses his shuriken to take out enemies at a distance; he’s also able to lure enemies to their demise. To be successful at traversing the level and moving forward in the game, it’s wise to use all of the characters’ abilities in tandem with one another – which causes you to think two steps ahead, like chess, manipulating the enemies into doing what you want them to. What are you trying to achieve? How can I lure the guard here? Thinking outside the box is crucial.
Like many other strategy-tactical based games, covering your tracks is key. If a guard suspects you or can see a body or part of the environment out of place, then your well-oiled plan isn’t going to work…
… don’t worry, though. A really useful feature I found myself using (far more than I’d like to admit), is the ability to go back to previous saves, which could be from only a few seconds ago to hours. Essentially, mopping up mistakes ;)
That being said, there’s nothing quite as satisfying as when your plan goes like clockwork. Queuing attacks and chaining actions to take out multiple enemies at once became very useful, and made all those petty mistakes worth it.
As mentioned before, Shadow Tactics is set in Japan’s Edo period (around 1603 and 1868) that are often portrayed in popular culture, manga, comics, and anime, depicting the Tokugawa shogunate. It’s within this period that I feel the games’ style and finesse really shines. The world and art style is breathtaking and beautiful. It looks and feels like something straight from a pop-up book, and it’s this artistic direction that really compliments Shadow Tactics’ story -a very typical Japanese tale of honour, family, betrayal and redemption.
This is a story that is brought alive by the performance of the main cast and the wonderful dialogue from the writers. Their complex and in depth personalities appear to chance and develop naturally throughout the story and levels. It felt very authentic and I got the sense that the team really paid attention to the finer details of that period.
“…the team really paid attention to the finer details.”
Okay, let’s address the elephant in the room – playing this game with a controller isn’t fun. While the development team have clearly made a valiant effort into porting over the control scheme, it feels clunky and unnatural. I found myself looking more at what buttons did what and staring at the controller than actually playing the game. Any game that does that gets a minus in my book. Most notably, I found the camera controls being mapped to the dual analogue sticks were cumbersome and the movement around the arena felt slow. As a game that requires the player to use the and landscape as a tool in combat, this became frustrating. All that being said, I’m unable to suggest what needs to change with relation to the mapping. I do still feel the best way to experience this game is (with regret) a keyboard and mouse.
Overall, I really enjoyed my time with Shadow Tactics: Blades of the Shogun. I’m not usually a top-down tactical fan, and I don’t see this change anytime soon, but this has been one of my favourite experiences of the genre; its story and vibe won me over enough to continue playing. While I found the camera and gameplay controls very difficult, I did eventually start to get used to them, but I still feel as though a mouse and keyboard would suit better.
- An awesome top-down tactical experience
- Beautiful worlds, characters, and environments
- A wonderful take on Edo-Era Japan
Bad times :(
- Not as fun when using a controller
- Camera controls and angles can be frustrating
- This isn’t a game that holds your hand
Shadow Tactics: Blades of the Shogun has a Mature rating (17+) in the US and a PEGI 16 in the UK. The game contains blood, gore and fantasy violence. Player discretion is advised.
This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.