For the start of my reviews I tend to write something a little bit witty about how I’ve been wanting to play this game for so long, or I’ve been in the mood for that game for a while now and I tend to ramble on about my sad and pathetic life. For this review I won’t bother with any of that, but I will state that the game name (NOBUNAGA’S AMBITION: Souzou SengokuRisshiden, which in English is Sphere of Influence, Review) will now be known as Nobunaga’s Ambition, because writing that is an absolute nightmare, not just for me but for my spell check too!
Nobunaga’s Ambition is the new release on steam developed by Koei and published by Koei Tecmo. Some of you hardcore gamers that pay attention to things way too much probably already know that the game was actually released a while back in 2013 on a couple of consoles, and even more hardcore gamers with serious attention to detail will know that the Nobunaga’s Ambition series has been going long and steady since 1983.
So what is Nobunaga’s Ambition exactly? Well if you don’t already know then it’s a turn based, strategy based simulation set in feudal Japan during the Sengoku period. It’s kind of similar to games such as SIM City and Tropico, but where as they allow you to bend time to your will, Nobunaga’s Ambition doesn’t. Time stands still whilst you are making your choices on what to build and what to do with your people and then when you’ve made all your decisions you click on the go button and a Month passes right before your very eyes.
For me it was a bit of a strange way of playing, as I prefer to keep stopping and starting and I like the idea of being able to wait until I have exactly the right amount of resource and then build something. The only downside to this is that I always end up losing a ton of resource afterwards because one of my villagers has accidentally set fire to the forest, so maybe it’s not a bad thing after all.
When you first start out you’ll get a choice of 4 different scenarios that you can pick. Naturally, most of you male gamers will pick the cute Japanese girl on the far left hand side, if you didn’t then shame on you, really! At the start of the game you’re given Lord’s Orders to complete which are in essence a series of tasks. Doing these will raise your ranks, giving you more honor and ultimately increasing your reputation with the lords.
One of the things that really does strike me about this game is that whilst you do get rewarded occassionally, there isn’t really a reward for completing what you’re supposed to do. That being said though, there is a real sense of self accomplishment when you get things right. Maybe that’s because it’s not quite like other games where someone is saying to you “If you don’t build that, everyone’s going to die horribly” so you’re pretty much left to your own devices. Sure you do have people suggesting things, but at the same time not always, so when you do get things right it really does make you feel happy.
When you start creating your ultimate empire you will need to keep an eye on lots of different things. Like with any game in order to create new buildings, you will need to have resources such as money, food, iron, but on top of that you also have a set amount of energy to use up each month in the form of ‘Labour’ which means you can’t go making thousands upon thousands of strip clubs, only two at a time.
Furthermore, there’s loads of things to build and lots of things to keep your eyes on whilst your becoming the best dictator of all time! If you’re lacking things to keep building then you can research more buildings and profitable ventures by spending time and money on simulating a new concept. This will can allow you some really nice advantages like new buildings, being able to trade with merchants, cheaper prices or just bringing in more population to your new world. There’s loads to do.
It goes without saying that as you progress, you’ll be able to unlock more land and in doing so become bigger and better. As your community grows, so do the problems that come with having lots of subjects at your feet. So be prepared to take on some of the tasks that they have to offer. Sometimes all they will want is a new tea room, other times they’ll be asking for money (greedy beggars) and other times you’ve already built what they wanted you too because your just downright awesome. Doing these will provide you with higher friendship, and in return they might just help you complete some of your more annoying tasks for you, so it pays to be a good ruler.
If you get bored of the generic build, destroy, build, destroy, whilst waiting for resources in between then you can have a crack at quests. Quests allow you to take on different scenarios where by you will be of a different character type and have different objectives other than trying to please your lord. They provide a fun little break in between but also allow you to understand more of what’s really happening within the game, plus it’s always nice to take a little break and go destroy something for a while, so it’s a welcome change to any situation.
Although I typically hate judging a game by it’s graphics, I really have to when it comes to simulation games, because it’s one of the key aspects of the game. Fortunately though, Nobunaga’s Ambition stands tall. The opening cutscene was absolutely beautiful and really pulled me into the game. As for the environment, I can only say that whilst it would be nicer to take a closer look at my village, it does what it’s supposed to and looks nice in the process. Everything about the game transitions well, from the monthly cutscene, to zooming in and out of your land, even the people don’t look half bad, they’re a little hard to distinguish, but hey, you don’t want to get too attached to your warriors?!
The sound is pretty nice as well and compliments the general tone of the game. It’s a pretty light and overall happy tone which doesn’t pull from the overall gameplay but adds to the time period that it’s set in. The sound effects provided are pretty nice too, lots of different noises happening for lots of different things.
My only downside to the game is that it can be quite confusing when you first enter. The game does a great job of explaining what’s happening, but in all honesty some of the explanations are 3-4 pages long and can be summed up as simple as ‘If you build farms next to rivers, your crops will grow better’. It can be a little difficult to get your bearings when you first begin, but after a little you do start to get a grasp of what’s happening and it becomes quite fun.
Overall the game is good, there’s a couple of things such as the overly long explanations which can be a little frustrating at first, but once you get into it you’ll have a great time. I have to admit that I’m not a massive fan of simulation based games, but I did actually enjoy playing this for several hours. It not only got me thinking, but did give me a good sense of accomplishment when my beautiful rural Japanese village started to flourish into a happy place, which really doesn’t happen to me in games.
Personally I’d say if you’re a fan of the simulation genre then go for it, pick yourself a copy up and have a great time because it really is a great experience. If not, then I probably wouldn’t bother. Whilst the game is historically accurate and the graphics are nice, it’s just another simulation game in a sea of simulation games, so if that’s not for you then move onto something else.
Quote: There’s tea rooms aplenty to build in feudal Japan with Nobunaga’s Ambition